Dutch railway to pay tens of millions to Holocaust survivors, families

Westerbork transit camp monument, Zwiggelte, Drenthe
The National Westerbork Memorial at the site of a transit camp where over 100,000 Jews, Roma, and Sinti were held before they were deported to concentration and extermination camps during World War II. Feb. 16, 2013photo: Mactrunk / DepositPhotos

Dutch national railway NS plans to pay reparations to thousands of Holocaust survivors, their widows, and their children. The decision regards people who were transported by the NS to extermination camps, for which the company earned an estimated 2.5 million euros, adjusted for inflation.

There are approximately 500 people who survived the ordeal that are still alive. Those people will each be eligible to receive 15 thousand euros. Widows of someone transported by the NS will receive 7,500 euros. Surviving children born before May 8, 1945, the day World War II ended in Europe, will also receive 7,500, but those born after VE Day will receive five thousand euros.

Roughly six thousand people will qualify for a payment. The NS expects to pay tens of millions of euros, NS CEO Roger van Boxtel said on Wednesday.

The figures were determined by the Committee on Individual Compensation for Victims of WWII Transport by NS. They used the Act on Compensation for Emotional Losses, a Dutch law that came into force on January 1, to help establish a guideline. The law demands that damages of between 12,500 and 20,000 euros be paid to every widow, child, and parent of a victim killed or permanently injured as the result of a crime, the organization stated.

"The Committee is aware that the Scheme as it is currently set up does not provide for transported Jews, Roma and Sinti who did not survive the war and did not have a partner or children when they died, and for those who did survive the war but are no longer alive and have not had a partner or children or are no longer alive," the organization said in a report presented on Wednesday. "This is a substantial number, including at least the approximately 20,000 children who were put on transport during the war to extermination camps where they were almost immediately gassed."

However, reparations will not be paid to those people on the committee's advice, which instead proposed the NS work with other organizations to determine an appropriate way to recognize "the suffering and fate of the large group of transported prisoners." 

The group was established in January after the railway agreed with an activist who wanted Dutch victims of the Holocaust to receive compensation after French railway SNCF was ordered to pay victims in France. The activist, Salo Muller, and NS agreed on establishing a committee to invest the best way forward.

"We have decided not to legally confront each other, but to set up a committee", Van Boxtel said to Nieuwsuur at the time. "The committee will find out how we can give form to an individual compensation for those affected."

Former Amsterdam mayor and one-time national Labour party leader Job Cohen was appointed to lead the Commission along with human rights activist and attorney Lilian Gonçalves - Ho Kang You, and Ellen van der Waerden, an archivist with expertise in Camp Westerbork, the transit camp in the Netherlands from which over 100 thousand Jews, Roma, and Sinti people were deported to death camps.

The money will come from the normal annual budget of the NS. "We are really paying the amount ourselves," van Boxtel said.

The NS and the Committee expect to implement the advice by August 1. Once ready, survivors and surviving family members will be able to apply for reparations online. It does not only apply to people currently residing in the Netherlands.