Dutch railway operator to pay compensation for role in Holocaust

NS commissioned to run trains with Dutch Jews, Roma and Sinti to Westerbork camp

Holocaust survivor Salo Muller, commission chairman Job Cohen  and NS chief executive Roger van Boxtel: “People lost mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters . . . They feel it every day. It is tragic,” says Mr Muller. Photograph: Koen Van Weel

Holocaust survivor Salo Muller, commission chairman Job Cohen and NS chief executive Roger van Boxtel: “People lost mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters . . . They feel it every day. It is tragic,” says Mr Muller. Photograph: Koen Van Weel

 

Dutch state railway operator NS has said it will pay “tens of millions of euro” to Holocaust victims and their families for transporting almost 100,000 people on their way to Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Sobibor during the second World War.

NS was commissioned to run trains packed with Dutch Jews, Roma and Sinti to the infamous Westerbork transit camp – where Anne Frank and her family were taken in August 1944 – and was paid roughly €2.5 million in today’s terms for what it now says was “a black page” in its history.

Among the campaigners for compensation was former Ajax FC physio Salo Muller (83), whose patents were transported via Westerbork to Auschwitz in 1942, when he was five.

He wrote a best-selling memoir entitled, See you Tonight and Promise to be a Good Boy, the last words his mother spoke to him before being taken by the SS.

An emotional Mr Muller said at a press conference on Wednesday evening that he had “mixed feelings” about the agreement. “Yes, I am glad there is to be individual compensation. On the other hand, people lost mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters . . . They feel it every day. It is tragic.”

Act of recognition

Mr Muller’s lawyer revealed that he and his wife, Connie van der Sluijs, would receive €30,000 because both her parents had also been deported. “This is an act of recognition”, said Prof Liesbeth Zegveld, “a small stage in a process that will never end”.

The compensation amounts were set by an independent commission chaired by former Labour mayor of Amsterdam Job Cohen – who admitted the task had been “almost impossible” and should only be seen as “a moral payment”.

Holocaust survivors will be paid €15,000 each. Widows and widowers will receive €7,500 each, and children between €5,000 and €7,500.

There are believed to be some 500 survivors and about 5,500 “nearest next-of-kin”, which would bring the total cost of the package to at least €35 million.

In 2010, France’s state railway company, SNCF, apologised publicly and agreed to pay €45 million in compensation for helping to deport 76,000 Jews to concentration camps in Germany – and this was a major spur to Mr Muller in instigating the Dutch campaign.

Devised timetable

That determination was reinforced by widely reported comments by Dirk Mulder of the National Westerbork Memorial on national TV last year when he maintained that NS’s culpability involved more than simply running trains for the Nazi occupiers.

“The Germans were paying large amounts of money and said NS had to come up with a timetable”, he observed. “The record shows the company went and did that without a single word of objection.”

At Wednesday’s press conference, NS chief executive Roger van Boxtel said the compensation recommended by the commission would be honoured by the company – though they realised that no amount of money could alleviate the human suffering involved.

He added: “How – in the same of peace – could something like this have happened here such a short time ago?”