NS, the Dutch rail company, has agreed to pay compensation to survivors of the Holocaust and relatives of those that died as a result of being transported to Nazi death camps
By Thomas Ansell
Nederlandse Spoor (NS) is the Dutch state-owned railway company, and was founded in 1938. Throughout the years of occupation within the Netherlands, the corporation was paid in the region of €2.5 million to transport more than 100,000 people to Westerbork, in Drenthe, close to the German border. The investigative television show Brandpunt discovered invoices and ‘reminders’ within the National Archives in Washington DC. Though the discovery was made in 2005, it has taken until now for NS to agree to a compensation scheme.
In 2005, the NS Director (at the time) Aad Veenman offered apologies on behalf of the company. However, since then, partially thanks to the actions of Holocaust survivor Salo Muller, the case for compensation being paid has grown. Now, following several years of pressure, compensation will be paid on a case-by-case basis and decided by a separate committee. Muller had been considering taking legal action against the train company, supported by human rights lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, but it is understood that this will now be put on hold following NS’ decision.
Most of the Jewish people transported by NS towards Nazi-operated work and death camps were processed through Westerbork, which was originally set up by the pre-War Dutch government as a refugee camp for Jewish people. It was taken over by the SS in 1939 and converted to a transit camp.
The Northern Netherlands had a vibrant Jewish population up until the Second World War, with Groningen having had around 2,400 Jewish people in 1941 (only a small proportion survived the Holocaust), and Leeuwarden having had a Jewish population of around 800 prior to the War (again, with few survivors). Most strikingly, Appingedam in the province of Groningen had a Jewish quarter from the 16th Century. Its Jewish population numbered a few hundred in the 1930’s, however only half a dozen Jewish Appingedamers survived the Holocaust.
Thomas Ansell is the Internationalization Coordinator at the International Welcome Centre North and a contributor to The Northern Times.