THE Dutch national railway has agreed to pay €50 million compensation for its role in transporting Holocaust victims to Nazi death camps.
NS said in a statement that its role in transporting Jews and other minorities to camps on orders of Nazi occupiers during WWII is a “black page in the history of the company”.
The compensation will be paid to Jews as well as Roma and Sinti, who are another kind of Romani people the Nazis persecuted.
Some 70 per cent of the Dutch Jewish community – 100,000 people – did not survive the war, including Anne Frank, whose famous diary chronicled her family’s time in hiding.
Most were rounded up in cities like Amsterdam and taken by train to camps in the Netherlands before being sent to the border and put on German trains to concentration camps.
The campaign for compensation was spearheaded by Salo Muller, the former physiotherapist for leading Dutch football club Ajax.
In 1941 when he was aged five, his parents were arrested by the Nazis and put to Auschwitz, where they were murdered.
BLACK PAGE IN HISTORY
His mother’s last words to him as she dropped him off at school were: “See you tonight and promise to be a good boy.”
Muller was hidden by a series of eight families for the duration of the war.
Job Cohen, a respected former mayor of Amsterdam who led a commission that proposed the reparations, called the payments a moral gesture.
“It is not possible to name a reasonable and fitting amount of money that can compensate even a bit of the suffering of those involved,” he said.
What role did Dutch railways play in the Holocaust?
The mass murder of Jews began at the outbreak of World War II in 1939 but gathered pace in 1942.
That year Reinhard Heydrich and 14 other top Nazis met at the Wannsee villa near Berlin to plan a policy of genocide.
The Wansee conference decided on a more aggressive policy which called for all Jews under German occupation to be brought to Poland to be worked to death or exterminated in concentration camps.
Jews needed to be transported in large numbers by train to their deaths and so the Nazis often relied the railways of occupied countries.
NS earned €2.5m in today’s money by transporting Jewish families to the Westerbork Nazi transit camp.
Some 107,000 Jews were taken to there and deported, mainly to deaths camps at Auschwitz and Sobibor, and only 5,000 survived.
“The NS complied with the German order to make trains available,” Dirk Mulder from the National Westerbork Memorial told Dutch TV last year.
“The Germans paid for it and said the NS had to come up with a timetable. And the company went and did it without a word of objection.”
The final train left in September 1944, with 279 Jews on board and among those deported from the camp were 245 Sinti and Roma.
The train company apologised in 2005 for its role in the transportations.
NS said an estimated 500 living survivors of the Holocaust who were transported by the company will receive €15,000 each.
Widows and widowers of victims are eligible to receive €7,500 and, if they are no longer alive, the surviving children of victims should receive €5,000
French railway company SNCF also has expressed regret for its role in transporting Jews during WWII, acknowledging that its equipment and staff were used to transport 76,000 Jews to Germany.
France’s government has paid more than $6 billion in reparations to French citizens and certain deportees.
Other companies with Nazi connections include Volkswagen, which was founded in 1937, as part of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s vision to enable German families to own their first car.
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The family that owns well-known consumer brands like Krispy Kreme doughnuts say their Nazi ancestors used slave labour during World War II.
The Bahlsen company that makes some of Germany’s most famous employed 200 forced labourers during World War II.
The German government has paid around €70 billion in compensation for Nazi crimes, mainly to Jewish survivors.
Adolf Hitler admiring a model of a Volkswagen car[/caption]
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