Book: Amsterdam Jews treated “unnecessarily harsh” after WWII

Amsterdam treated Jewish leaseholders who were robbed of their property during the Second World War "unnecessarily harsh" after the war, according to the book "Openstaande rekeningen", or Open accounts in English, which was presented on Friday.

The book contains the conclusions of the research study "Open accounts. The Amsterdam municipality and the implications of restitution, 1940 - 1945" done by Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, NU reports. The study was commissioned by the municipality of Amsterdam.

When the municipal archive records from the time were digitized in 2013, it was revealed that Jewish war victims - Jews expelled from their homes, forced into hiding or deported to a concentration camp - were still expected to pay overdue leases and were fined for not paying their ground lease during the war years. While other municipalities, like Leeuwarden and The Hague, implemented a generous policy with respect to these fines, "the municipality of Amsterdam wished to stick to a strict implementation of the laws and regulations", according to the book.

Jewish leaseholders protested against the fines, but were unsuccessful. According to the authors, in their correspondence with Jewish leaseholders, Amsterdam indicated that no alternative policy was possible. "That was a misrepresentation. In official circles there were indeed discussions on whether it was reasonable and fair to impose these fines." As an example, the authors point to the municipality lawyer's rejected proposal to waive the fines. "The only flexibility the municipality showed two years after the war, was the decision to waive half of the fine."

The Jewish homeowners had to pay a total of almost 340 thousand guilders in overdue ground lease and 33 thousand guilders in corresponding fines. Converted to 2014, this amounts to about 4.4 million euros in overdue lease, and 432,500 euros in fines.

The Amsterdam municipality already decided to refund the wrongly imposed fines to leaseholders' survivors and relatives.