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Holocaust in Holland - Refugee camps

Dutch borders openend briefly after Kristallnacht. 7,000 Jewish refugees entered the Netherlands.

       Hitler's climb to power in 1933 meant bad news for German Jews. Hitler had used strong words, both verbally as well as in his book which he had written earlier while he still was in prison. It was quite clear what he thought about the Jews and the Jewish race in general. He wrote his book "Mein Kampf - My Struggle" in which he described the Jew as his enemy. Now that he was in power in Germany, the Jew also became the enemy of Germany, of the Reich - Empire. Many Jews saw in Hitler and the Nazis a real threat to their freedom and even their lives. Therefore a large number decided that leaving Germany was the only answer they could come up with. Many applied for refugee status in the Netherlands because the Netherlands had shown true colors by maintaining neutrality during WW I, and expected them to also stay neutral during the next conflict in Europe. How wrong they were!

       Before WW2, Refugees simply could not expect to receive citizenship nor could they enjoy the benefits of such citizenship from any state they sought refuge in. Refugees simply were not looked upon as full citizens of their new homeland. That is because sovereign states did not recognize refugees as their own. Hence they felt they did not have to give them the protection and care they owed and showed their own people. In the years following, from 1933 and on, a legal German Jewish refugee was registered exclusively and treated differently in comparison to that of a regular Dutch citizen. It must be noted here that under the Nazis, the persecution of the Jews in Germany not only produced a large number of legal Jewish refugees, an equally large number of illegal Jewish refugees crossed, or tried to cross the borders as well. Moreover, the Dutch government did not treat legal and illegal refugees in the same manner. The latter were not welcomed and when caught at the border or apprehended later on, they simply were returned. Jewish refugees, legal or illegal, were not treated by the Dutch Government as equal with Dutch Jews either. A Dutch Jew was a Dutch citizen first and Jew second. Dutch Jews officially carried Dutch citizenship papers. When war in Europe broke out in 1939, mistrust against these unfortunate refugees only increased.

When caught Jewish refugees were sent back to Germany

       A population census was ordered during 1936. It's purpose was clear: "Each person born in the Netherlands, who continues to live there and calls the Netherlands home, is required to register at the City or Town Hall. He or she must have a personal card filled out with pertinent personal data. It shall include the full name, sex, date of birth and place of birth, home address, marital status, occupation and religion". This new Identity card, once filled out, shall follow the owner of the card from 'the cradle to the grave'. When someone moved, or else left for another country or passed away, the appropriate document must be completed and attached to his or her Personal Identity Card at the local City or Town Hall, thus leaving a perfect paper trail.

       Mr. Lentz, director of the Government Inspection of the Population Registry, designed the Personal Identity Card. The new Card Index System was triumphantly hailed with words such as, "No where in the world is a better, more complete, more accurate index system to be found in comparison to ours." The only ones not required to register for this Housing Registry were the wanderers and vagabonds. They did not dwell in homes although they live within the State's boundary lines. The same could be said for Gypsies and caravan dwellers. Of course, last but not least there were the legal and illegal refugees.

       In the years following WW I these refugees came mostly from Eastern European countries. Polish Jews, but especially stateless Jews. The latter were Jews who had become stateless because their country of birth no longer existed as a result of the war. New countries came into being which did not recognize these stateless individuals. For individuals we must read Jews because anti-Semitism in eastern Europe was rampant. After 1933 Polish and stateless Jews, who were not welcome in Germany, and now also German Jews began to seek refugee status in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, the Netherlands did not have an open-door policy for them. Polish Jews were welcomed less than German Jews because, in general, Polish Jews were poorer. And once within our borders they became a liability. It was extremely difficult for them to find work. Could work be found, it usually meant that a Dutch laborer was out of work. In 1934 a new law became effective specifically aimed at providing work for Dutch citizens rather than for foreigners. This law was called, "Law regulating the performance of labor by foreigners". This law stated that should work become available, Dutch laborers were to have first choice before a foreigner could be hired. No matter how one looked at it, after the Stock-Market crash of the late twenties it had become a serious problem finding work all around, whether one was citizen or refugee. Certainly not having a Personal Identity Card was a serious problem, no permit meant you were illegal. As an illegal one's chances of finding work was minimal.

       The problem of refugees seeking asylum in the Netherlands became even more acute following the now infamous Kristallnacht - Crystal Night or the night of the broken glass which took place on the nights of 8 and 9 November 1938. First there had been a large increase in the exodus of Jews out of Austria. This was realized right after the annexation of Austria by the Nazis in March of 1938. Next an even larger number of Jews fled Germany following Kritallnacht. Therefore the Department of Internal Affairs now issued a decree, on the 19th of December 1938, that all Jewish and non-Aryan refugees had to be registered as well, legal and illegal refugees. According to this brand-new decree issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, these refugees could not be entered into the Population Registry. They would not receive a normal identification card like the rest of the Dutch people, rather a separate Card System and a different Personal Identification Card was introduced for them. All men and women were to receive such a special card, for the men the color was light green and for the women the color was pink. Life for the legal as well as for the illegal refugee certainly did not look rosy at all. To accommodate all these refugees the government opened so-called safe houses which looked more like interment camps because of strict supervision.



Mansion Cromvliet

Mansion Overvoorde

       These internment camps became reality on the 21st of January 1939 when the Ministry of Internal Affairs came out with Appendix E. to the Law that was introduced in 1934. They made known which camps were to be used for that purpose. The Appendix stated, "the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Justice, with reference to article 22 of the Royal Decree dated 16 August 1918, Statute-Book nr. 521 (Rules pertaining to Foreigners) makes the following changes,

It concludes:

The following internment camps meant for housing foreigners have been allocated. Illegal refugees as defined in (Ed.: the first part of) article 19 of the Royal Decree are excluded:" 

1. Municipal Quarantine Organization on the Zeeburgerdijk in Amsterdam;
2. Harbor Quarantine Station 'Beneden Heyplaat' in Rotterdam;
3. Mansion 'Cromvliet', in Rijswijk, Z.H. (see picture above);
4. Mansion 'Overvoorde', in Rijswijk, Z.H. (see picture above);
5. Mansion 'Ockenburg', in Loosduinen;
6. River House, in De Steeg, (municipality of Velp);
7. Sailor's Home in Bergen aan Zee;
8. 'Elim', on the isle of Schiermonnikoog;
9. Alliance Home of the Netherlands Protestant Alliance, Amersfoortscheweg 91 in Soesterberg;
10. Dommel Home, Jonckbloetlaan 12 in Eindhoven;
11. Colony house 'Sonsbeek', Schelmwescheweg in Arnhem;
12. Vacation Home of the Central Israeli Orphanage Home, Baarnscheweg 58 te Den Dolder;
13. Israeli Health Colony at Ter Heide;
14. Roman Catholic Vacation Colony in Eersel;
15. Mennonite Fraternity House 'Fredeshiem' in Steenwijk;
16. Boarding School St. Antonius in Slagharen;
17. K.L. Smit-Oord in Losser;
18. Jeugdherberg 'De Kleine Haar', in Gorsel (near Deventer);
19. Noorderhuis in Hoogeveen;
20. Emma Kinderhuis, at Wijk aan Zee;
21. Israeli Health Colony, in Leur (N.B.);
22. Israeli Orphanage Home, Mathenesserlaan 208 in Rotterdam;
23. Refugee Camp 'Koninginnehoofd' Wilhelminakade No. 74 in Rotterdam;
24. Lloyd Hotel, Oostelijke Handelskade in Amsterdam east;
25. Mennonite Fraternity Home in Schoorl.
                                                                                           The Hague, 21 January 1939

       Several places, initially allocated as welcoming centers for refugees, were dropped during 1939. These homes were the numbers 6 to 9, 12 en 13, 15 to 21 en 25. Also the Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam needed to be vacated to make room for the military because of mobilization; the refugees were transferred to a building located on the Oostelijke Handelskade nr. 12.

       New centers were used off and on for a shorter or longer period of time. These centers included the rest home Acaciahof and the rest home and vacation center Johanneshof both in the town of Dieren; the Burger Orphanage, the Netherlands Israeli Boys and Girls Orphanage, the youth hostel Vondelhof all in Amsterdam; Huize Kraaybeek in Driebergen; the Orphanage and Chaplain's Home in Gouda; the building Achterklooster in Rotterdam; the Israeli Orphanage and Huize Ten Vijver in the Hague; The Court of Moerkerken in Mijnheerenland; The Pavilion in Loosdrecht; Jozeboko in Hilversum; the Central Israeli Orphanage in Utrecht; the Mennonite Fraternity House in Elspeet; the R.K. and Protestant Refugee Centers in Sluis; and as of October 1939 there was Westerbork.

The Pavilion in Loosdrecht

       A number of these camps were earmarked for 'non-Aryan' Catholic and Protestant (Ed.: Jewish) refugees. (such as Sluis, Johanneshof in Dieren, the Roman Catholic Vacation Colony in Eersel).

       When war broke out on 5 May 1940 the following camps were in use to house Jewish refugees who had entered the Netherlands legally: Westerbork; the building on the Oostelijke Handelskade 12 in Amsterdam, the Burger Orphanage in Amsterdam, the Netherlands Israeli Boys and Girls Orphanage in Amsterdam, the Boys Home on the Westersingel 60 in Rotterdam; the Central Israeli Orphanage in Utrecht; Huize Kraaybeek in Driebergen; The Court of Moerkerken in Mijnheerenland; and The Pavilion in Loosdrecht. On that date, three camps were in use for non-Aryan Catholic and Protestant refugees, in Sluis, Eersel and Dieren.

Acknowledgement: The above information by permission of the National Institute of War Documentation. Photo above of deported Jewish girl, Spaarnestad Photo Archive.