In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Holocaust in the Netherlands

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Comparative Studies
  • Reference Works
  • Textbooks and Popular Introductions
  • Anthologies
  • Digital Research Infrastructure
  • Journals and Yearbooks
  • The Camps

Jewish Studies The Holocaust in the Netherlands
Ido de Haan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 August 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0050


The persecution and destruction of the Jews during World War II is part of European history, yet in most historical accounts of these events, a national perspective predominates. Seen from this perspective, it becomes clear that the attack on the Jews in the Netherlands revealed a paradox: while the Netherlands had the reputation of being traditionally a tolerant country, offering a safe haven to Jews as well as to other religious minorities, the number of victims was much higher than in other western European countries. In recent years, the “Dutch paradox” has sparked much debate, yet little of it has reached a wider international audience. This might be because few scholars read Dutch. Yet, it might also result from the fact that after a major output of publications on the Holocaust in the Netherlands in the 1950s and 1960s, little new research was published until the late 1990s. The historical debates that stimulated historians outside the Netherlands to put the Holocaust in a new perspective—the Nuremberg, Eichmann, and Auschwitz trials; the German Historikerstreit; and the Goldhagen controversy—did not evoke much reaction in the Netherlands. This has changed only in the past two decades. Scholars have begun to study various aspects of the Dutch paradox: How far did Dutch tolerance reach? What were the historical dynamics behind the high number of casualties? How have the Dutch been able to keep their tolerant reputation for such a long time, despite indications to the contrary? Much of the literature and almost all of the primary sources on the Holocaust in the Netherlands are in Dutch, which requires that scholars learn the language before entering this field of research. Yet, an increasing number of Dutch scholars have presented an abbreviated version of their research in English. This bibliography refers to the English-language articles and chapters, if available, in which references to the extended Dutch-language version can be generally found.

General Overviews

The history of the Holocaust in the Netherlands was initially written by the “big three”: Abel Herzberg, Jacques Presser, and Louis de Jong. Herzberg 1985 was the first general overview, initially published in 1950 in separate chapters as part of a series of commemorative volumes on the war in the Netherlands, Onderdrukking en Verzet. In 1950, Amsterdam professor of history Jacques Presser received a commission from Louis de Jong, the director of the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD), to write an overview of the Holocaust in the Netherlands. When finally published in 1965, it received much attention, selling more than 100,000 copies in a year, thus becoming the most influential account of the Holocaust in the Netherlands. Between 1969 and 1988, Louis de Jong published a fourteen-volume history of the Netherlands during World War II (de Jong 1969–1991), in which he devoted major chapters to the persecution of the Jews. De Jong 1969–1991 still has a canonical status in Dutch history, although the moral framework, emphasizing that attitudes toward the Germans were either goed (right) or fout (wrong), has been criticized for being overly schematic. Little of de Jong’s work is available in English, yet main themes are discussed in de Jong 1990. Herzberg, Presser, and de Jong were all subject to the history they wrote about: Herzberg, a lawyer, was a prominent member of the Jewish community who survived deportation to Bergen-Belsen; Jacques Presser, a historian, survived in hiding yet lost most of his family, including his wife. De Jong fled to London, where he played an important role in the exile community as a reporter for the Dutch Radio Oranje. In 1945, he established the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation. Even though all three were Jewish survivors, their perspectives, and also the weight they attributed to survivor testimony, varied considerably. After the English translation of Presser 2010, Moore 1997, written by a professor of history in Sheffield with a Dutch mother, is the only other general book-length history of the Holocaust in the Netherlands available in English. Shorter accounts of the Holocaust in the Netherlands in English include Dwork and van Pelt 1996, Dwork and van Pelt 2002, and Romijn 2002.

  • de Jong, Louis. Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog. 14 vols. The Hague: SDU Uitgeverij, 1969–1991.

    While the chronology of the persecution is discussed in various chapters in Volumes 3–7, the thematic two-part Volume 8 of the Koninkrijk on the imprisoned and deported describes their destruction in the camps. Volume 15 contains comments and debates, yet few of these refer to the Holocaust.

  • de Jong, Louis. The Netherlands and Nazi Germany. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990.

    De Jong discussed some aspects of his major work in three lectures he gave at Harvard. In one of these lectures, he focuses on the persecution of the Jews.

  • Dwork, Deborah, and Robert Jan van Pelt. “The Netherlands.” In The World Reacts to the Holocaust. Edited by David S. Wyman, 45–77. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

    In this article, two established Holocaust scholars put the history of the Holocaust in the Netherlands into a longer-term perspective, and they pay attention also to the aftermath of the war.

  • Dwork, Deborah, and Robert J. van Pelt. Holocaust: A History. New York: Norton, 2002.

    In this general account of the Holocaust in Europe, Dwork and van Pelt pay considerable attention to the situation in the Netherlands, focusing on the role of helpers and the position of children.

  • Herzberg, Abel J. Kroniek der Jodenvervolging, 1940–1945. Amsterdam: Querido, 1985.

    In this book, Herzberg depicts the Holocaust as part of Jewish history, including a century-long history of anti-Semitism, which leads him to focus on Jewish victims and German perpetrators, with little attention to the Dutch context.

  • Moore, Bob. Victims and Survivors: The Nazi Persecution of the Jews in the Netherlands, 1940–1945. London: Arnold, 1997.

    In this balanced account, Moore emphasizes both the negative as well as the positive role of bystanders in the persecution of the Jews.

  • Presser, Jacques. Ashes in the Wind: The Destruction of Dutch Jewry. Translated by Arnold Pomerans. London: Souvenir Press, 2010.

    Originally published as Ondergang: De vervolging en verdelging van het Nederlandse Jodendom, 1940–1945 (2 vols., The Hague: Staatsuitgeverij, 1965). Presser’s study was intended to give voice to the dead and was based on a large number of eyewitness accounts, or “ego-documents,” as Presser conceptualized them. His book contains a strong indictment against both the Dutch state and Dutch society for their neglect of, and collaboration with, the persecution of the Jews.

  • Romijn, Peter. “The War, 1940–1945.” In The History of the Jews in the Netherlands. Translated by Arnold Pomerans and Erica Pomerans. Edited by J. C. H. Blom, R. G. Fuks Mansfeld, and I. Schöffer, 296–335. Oxford: Littmann Library of Jewish Civilization, 2002.

    This is a chapter in a general history of the Jews in the Netherlands in which Romijn draws on the large number of local studies of the Holocaust. These studies give insight into the variety of processes that led to the destruction of the Jews as well as to the interaction of the apparatus of persecution with the local authorities.

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