During the Second World War, the property of many Dutch Jews and other Jewish people in the Netherlands was confiscated. In 1990s there was a resurgence of worldwide interest in the issue of Nazi looting and the restitution of financial and other assets.
The Dutch government eventually made €181.5 million available to compensate the victims and their families.
Investigation and restitution of legal rights
The international debate about the return of Jewish financial assets began in 1996. Various government investigations showed that post-war Dutch society had been insufficiently sensitive to the damage inflicted on the Jewish community during the war. Restitution had been inadequate. Acting on the advice of the investigating committees, the Dutch government decided that the victims should have the right to full restitution of all misappropriated assets.
Restitution of financial assets
In 1999-2000, extensive discussions between the Jewish community and the Dutch government, insurance companies, banks and stock market authorities culminated in a series of agreements on the restitution of financial assets. Under a settlement agreed with the Jewish community, the Dutch state made a sum of €181.5 million available in recognition of failures in the past treatment of the victims of WWII persecution, the shortcomings in post-war restitution, and the impact of this on people’s subsequent lives. The money was to be managed and allocated by the Jewish community under government supervision.
Government supervision of the allocation of these funds ended in 2005 but collective project applications can still be submitted. Three contact addresses for this can be found on the website of the Maror foundation. www.maror.nl
Information on possible Jewish material claims can be found on the website of the Claims Conference.
The website of Knesset, the parliament of Israel includes a list of approximately 9,000 names of Holocaust victims with an Israeli bank account.
Restitution of artworks
Many people lost works of art in the Netherlands during the Second World War. Paintings and other items fell into the hands of the Nazis, either because they were confiscated or because the owners were – to varying degrees – forced to sell them. After the war, some of these artworks found their way back to the Netherlands and a proportion of them were returned to the rightful owners or their heirs.
Even so, a considerable number of works remained in the hands of the state in a public art collection known as the NK Collection. This collection contains around 4,500 items that were brought back to the Netherlands from Germany after the Second World War. They include paintings, drawings, prints, ceramics, silver, furniture, carpets and other objects. Some of these are now on loan to various Dutch museums, embassies and government buildings, while others are stored in the repository of the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. The collection is managed by the Dutch state.
From the 1990s onwards, there was an upsurge of national and international concern about the distress inflicted on the victims of persecution during and after the Second World War and the National Socialist Era. This and other factors led the Dutch government to decide in 2001 to adopt a more generous policy regarding the restitution of looted artworks.
In 2001, the Dutch government appointed an independent advisory committee to assess individual art restitution claims. This Restitutions Commitee advises the government on individual applications for the return of objects of cultural value that disappeared during the Second World War. The original owners or their heirs can claim artworks back by submitting applications for their restitution. To be successful, such applications must relate to works of which the original owners lost possession involuntarily and due to circumstances directly related to the Nations Socialist regime.
Post war reports of lost cultural goods are digitised
It is possible via the website of originsunknown.org to go through the database of around 15.000 Dutch post war reports of cultural goods that were lost during the war and available visual material.