Holocaust survivors taxed, student finds in search of Amsterdam city archives
AMSTERDAM — Charlotte Van den Berg was a 20-year-old college student working part-time in Amsterdam's city archives when she and other interns stumbled on a shocking find: letters from Jewish Holocaust survivors complaining that the city was forcing them to pay back taxes and late payment fines on property seized after they were deported to Nazi death camps.
How, the survivors asked, could they be on the hook for taxes due while Hitler's regime was trying to exterminate them? A typical response was: “The base fees and the fines for late payment must be satisfied, regardless of whether a third party, legally empowered or not, has for some time held the title to the building.”
Following her discovery in 2011, Van den Berg waged a lonely fight against Amsterdam's modern bureaucracy to have the travesty publicly recognized. Now, largely because of her efforts, Amsterdam officials are considering compensating Holocaust survivors for the taxes and possibly other obligations, including gas bills, they were forced to pay for homes that were occupied by Nazis or collaborators while the rightful owners were in hiding or in death camps.
“I didn't expect any of this to happen, though I'm happy it finally did,” Van den Berg said.
An unpublished review of those files by the Netherlands' Institute of War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies found 217 cases in which the city demanded that returning Jews pay taxes and penalties for getting behind in their payments.
Two Dutch newspapers received leaked copies of the report, which found that the city's top lawyer advised politicians of the time not to enforce the fines. But politicians worried that granting one claim might lead to more.
“The city made a conscious decision to reject this advice, which cannot be described otherwise than as a totally needless callousness toward (Jews) who had their property taken during the war,” the report states.
Amsterdam's official ruling of Sept. 12, 1947, a public document, was that “the city has the right to full payment of fees and fines” and that most excuses — including that property had been seized by the Nazis — were invalid.
Ronny Nafthaniel, a leader of the Dutch Jewish community, said many of the homes were sold to Dutch collaborators who left the bills unpaid and fled at war's end.
“Another thing that happened, and this is almost too sad to relate, is that Jews got back from Auschwitz — and then got an invoice for the gas that had been used in their homes,” Nafthaniel said.
During the Nazi occupation from 1940 to 1945, an estimated 110,000 Dutch Jews were killed in the Holocaust, including teenage diarist Anne Frank. As many as 30,000 survived, many of whom immigrated to Israel.
In one of the letters Van den Berg found, a Jewish man asked for an extension in paying the back taxes because his home had been seized by an organization set up by the Nazis in 1941 to despoil Jews of their property. Before deportation, the man was forced to surrender his assets to a bank in Amsterdam, which transferred them to the Third Reich — leaving him with neither the house nor funds to pay for taxes on it.
“In conclusion,” the man wrote, “I'm asking you in handling this matter to be led by moral considerations.”
No response was found in the archives, Van den Berg said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kurds bring fight to Islamic State in contested Iraqi town
- Female bishop a first for Church of England
- Arrests made in Pakistan school massacre
- ‘Early Mona Lisa’ painting traced to English noble
- Bad day for Israel: U.N. criticizes West Bank settlements; Hamas off EU terror list