The Amsterdam city council is making 10 million euros available to the Jewish community as compensation for ground leases they had to pay upon returning to Amsterdam following World War II, the municipality announced on Sunday.
The money will go to community projects and be spent according to Jewish groups’ wishes, Mayor Eberhard van der Laan said at the opening of the city’s new National Holocaust Museum on Sunday. According to the council, it is impossible to compensate all individual victims or their survivors for ground leases they paid unfairly. Not in every case can it be determined exactly how high the ground lease was and whether it was ever paid. Thus, the municipality opted to compensate the entire community.
In 2013, research students discovered that hundreds of Jews were sent the bills for ground rent plus fines for nonpayment when they returned from the concentration camps after the Holocaust. Van der Laan said at the time, that people forced to pay the fines and ground rent would get their money back.
A later study showed that Amsterdam received between five and ten million euros in questionable leases. The municipality decided to compensate the Jewish community the highest amount in an effort to settle the matter well.
The Netherlands is still struggling to come to terms with the way it treated Jews who returned home after the Holocaust and whose property and possessions had been stolen or lost. Only 35,000 of the country’s Jewish population of 140,000 survived the war and 102,000 of the 107,000 who were deported to death camps were killed.
It will be three years before the new Holocaust Museum is completed, but on Monday it opens its doors to host a harrowing exhibition of paintings by actor and artist Jeroen Krabbe.
The location of the museum, a former teachers training school in the heart of Amsterdam’s old Jewish quarter, is a small but hugely significant ray of light in the dark history of Jews in the Dutch capital during World War II.
Some 600 Jewish children were spirited to safety via the school from a neighboring kindergarten where they were being held while awaiting deportation, said curator Annemiek Gringold. On the other side of the street stands the Hollandsche Schouwburg, a hall used by the Nazi occupiers as a gathering point for Jews who were rounded up — often with the help of Dutch collaborators paid a bounty for each person they betrayed — and transported to their deaths.
In all, 104,000 Dutch Jews were among the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. The hall is now home to a memorial to those victims. Nearby are also the Jewish Historical Museum and a 17th-century Portuguese Synagogue.
The Holocaust Museum will stand among other institutions in the Netherlands charting the history of Jews and their killings during World War II, including Amsterdam’s Anne Frank House. That museum, built around the hidden apartment where the famous teenage Jewish diarist hid with her family from the Nazis until being betrayed and dying in the Nazis’ Bergen-Belsen camp, attracted more than 1.2 million visitors last year.
Gringold said the Holocaust Museum will shine a light on other victims.
“There is one Anne Frank, but 104,000 Dutch Jews died and we have to tell their story, too,” she said.