NIOD: from the Netherlands Government Bureau for War Documentation to the Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
The Institute was founded on 8 May 1945 to map the history of the Second World War in the Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies through independent research. This is still one of the aims of NIOD, but compared to the early days, the Institute has considerably broadened its field of activity.
Themes such as perpetratorship, memories, and trauma, transitional justice, restoration of rights, regime changes and behaviour and experiences recur in several studies and show the ambition of NIOD: to conduct research in a comparative and multidisciplinary manner into the causes, course, character, and aftermath of diverse forms of mass violence in the 20th and 21st century.
NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies is a national and international knowledge and expertise centre that, with independent and socially-oriented research and an active collection policy, aims to make connections, both temporally and geographically, and to show that the violence of war did not stop in May 1945 or at the borders of the nation.
Since 1 January 1999, the Institute has been part of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
Read here the NIOD annual report 2020.
The history of Herengracht 380
NIOD is located in a historic building on Herengracht in Amsterdam. The building is a monument of the Central Government Real Estate Agency and is rented by the KNAW. The NIOD has been assigned the building because it has large safes for the archives.The building has a rich past, in which the darker side of Dutch history is also widely represented. In fact, the history of the building is – coincidentally – linked to the research areas in which NIOD operates.
In the article If the walls could speak. The History of Herengracht 380-382, NIOD director Frank van Vree describes the former residents and users of Herengracht 380-382.
The origins of NIOD
Already during the Second World War, there were plans to establish a centre for war documentation after the liberation. A group of professors led by historian Professor N.W. Posthumus took this idea further. The key focus for them was the collection and arrangement of material on the Netherlands during the period of the German occupation.
On the other side of the North Sea, the Dutch government in exile in London had the same idea. In late March 1944, for example, Minister Bolkestein called on the Dutch population via Radio Oranje to keep diaries and letters about the war. As soon as the Netherlands was liberated, these documents would be collected.
Establishment of the National Bureau for War Documentation
On 5 May 1945, the Netherlands was liberated. The establishment of a documentation centre followed hot on its heels. Only three days later, the National Bureau for War Documentation came into being. Historian Dr Loe de Jong, who had worked for Radio Oranje in London during the war, was appointed director on 1 October 1945. The name of the National Bureau also changed, and it continued under the name ‘National Institute for War Documentation’.
The main task in the first period of the Institute’s existence was to collect material about the Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies during the Second World War. Radio announcements, newspaper advertisements, and posters were used to call on the population of the Netherlands to send in documentation.
Collecting war documentation and conducting research
Important documents, such as diaries, correspondence and photo albums, were handed over to the Institute. The documentation centre staff actively searched for material themselves as well. In 1946, for example, Dr Loe de Jong and deputy director Dr A.E. Cohen discovered a large part of the archive of the Reichskommissariat in den Niederlanden in Münster.
In addition to collecting and listing all these documents, the National Institute also conducted research. Undoubtedly, the best-known work is Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog (‘The Kingdom of the Netherlands during the Second World War’) by Loe de Jong. The first volume was published in 1969, and the last in 1988.
In addition to this ‘life’s work’, numerous other studies were published by other staff members of the Institute, which are now considered classics in the historiography of the Second World War in the Netherlands and the former Dutch East Indies.
Broadening the scope of research
In the 1990s, major changes took place within the documentation centre. Firstly, the Institute moved in 1997 from its old address at Herengracht 474 to its current premises at Herengracht 380. In 1999, it also became part of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and changed its name to the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD).
The most important change was of a substantive nature. With the approaching millennium, NIOD, under the leadership of then director Prof. Hans Blom, set out on a more international course. Thus, the field of research was widened in time and place. The run-up to, aftermath, and processing of the Second World War were added to the subjects of research and, in addition, there was more room for events in the former Dutch East Indies and for international comparative research. The number of research and social partners at home and abroad increased significantly.
In 1996, NIOD was commissioned by the Dutch government to research the fall of the Srebrenica enclave in Bosnia and the Dutch involvement in the conflict. This was the first time that NIOD entered a field of research other than the one it had become so well known for. The research offered NIOD the opportunity to answer the social and international questions about ‘Srebrenica’ by means of intensive research.
The report Srebrenica. Een ‘veilig’ gebied. Reconstructie, achtergronden, gevolgen en analyses van de val van een Safe Area (‘Srebrenica. A ‘safe’ area. Reconstruction, backgrounds, consequences, and analyses of the fall of a Safe Area’) was published on 10 April 2002. As a result of the report, the second Kok cabinet resigned. The House of Representatives then set up a parliamentary inquiry.
Merger with the Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies
In 2010 NIOD merged with the Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (CHGS) to become NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The CHGS, founded in 2002, had developed into an independent institute in a short time. Through its academic and social activities, the CHGS was able to approach the current issue of genocides as a worldwide phenomenon from a comparative perspective. Together with the University of Amsterdam, CHGS set up the Master’s programme Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
As with NIOD, the activities of CHGS took place at the interface of academia and society. While NIOD took the Second World War as its starting point, the CHGS covered the whole world, using the concept of genocide and the discussions about this concept as its reference point.