In a step that could hasten a reckoning with the Netherlands’ role in the Holocaust, the Dutch government plans to make information about 300,000 people under investigation for collaborating with the Nazis public.
Only academics and the family members of people accused of collaborating with the Nazis have had access to the data maintained by the Dutch archives for the past 70 years. However, a law that protects the data expires in 2025.
The records will be made available online when the privacy law expires, according to a February announcement from The War in Court, a Dutch organization devoted to historic preservation.
This week, a New York Times article examined the hopes and concerns held by people in the Netherlands who know what is contained in the vast repository. This brought additional attention to the effort.
The War in Cort project manager Edwin Klijn told the Times, “It’s a sensitive archive.”
He continued that the idea of teamwork as a whole has long been considered taboo.
We don’t talk about cooperation much, but 80 years have passed, and it’s time to confront this sad chapter of the conflict.
The Netherlands boasts the second-largest number of Jewish rescuers in history, but it also had many collaborators who, with the aid of the country’s topography and proximity to Germany, helped the Nazis accomplish the highest death rate among Jews there of any place in Nazi-occupied Western Europe.
Over 100,000 murders were committed against 140,000 Dutch Jews. Their neighbors and friends abandoned many, just as is thought to have happened with the most well-known Nazi victim in the Netherlands, the teenage diarist Anne Frank.
But it wasn’t until 2020 that the Dutch government apologized for failing to protect Jews during the Holocaust, long after other European leaders and after local Jews had requested an apology; a town square was named for a mayor who handed Jews to the Nazis until last year; the Dutch government investigated 300,000 people for collaborating with the Nazis and more than 65,000 of them stood trial in a particular court system.
The postwar inquiry files, which scholars who have reviewed the archives say are extensive but may also contain false charges made at a turbulent time, will be widely accessible through the library when it opens in 2025.
The 32 million documents in the archive, which spans over 2.5 kilometers, include witness statements, membership cards from the Dutch National Socialist Movement, diaries, pardon petitions, and pictures.
The archive can only accommodate the 5,000–6,000 queries it receives yearly.
The materials will be converted to digital format for keyword or name searches. You can enter a victim’s name to find out who was charged with betraying them, according to Klijn.
The project, where an effective collaboration machine is developed for precise records, will be the second significant digitization of a Holocaust document cache in the Netherlands. The Jewish Council of Amsterdam, a body established by the Nazis to govern the community before its extermination, maintained the nearly 160,000 cards in the Red Cross’ Index Card Archive, given to the National Holocaust Museum in the Netherlands in 2021.
The cards are now available online, though the museum won’t be open to visitors until next year.
Paul Shapiro heads the U.S. Office of International Affairs. The New York Times was informed by the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., that the new Dutch database is uncommon — and essential — because of the planned ease of access.
Shapiro remarked, “Genocidal crimes leave a long legacy behind them.” “For better or worse, the only way to deal with some problems is to look at the past honestly, accept the history, and have wide-open eyes. The paper trail in the archives is one approach to examining that.
In 2020, the Vatican declassified 2,700 files from its World War II archives, providing information on Pope Pius XII’s ties to Nazi Germany.
According to the documents, the Vatican opposed attempts to reunite Jewish orphans with their families and asked the Pope not to object to the deportation of Italian Jews.