NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies was founded on 8 May 1945 to map the history of the Second World War through independent research. In the following decades the institute has developed itself into a knowledge centre about the effects of war, the Holocaust and other genocides on individuals and society.
During the Second World War there were already plans to set up a war documentation centre after the liberation. Dutch professors, led by the historian Professor Dr. N.W. Posthumus, further developed this idea. Their main focus was collecting and ordering material about the Netherlands during the German occupation.
On the other side of the North Sea the Dutch government in exile in London fully agreed with these professors. In late March 1944, for example, minister Bolkensteyn appeared on Radio Oranje to ask the Dutch population to keep/save their diaries and letters about the war. When the Netherlands was liberated, they would then be collected.
The foundation of the institute
The Netherlands was liberated on 5 May 1945. It did not take long to open a documentation centre; just three days later the National Bureau for War Documentation was a fact. On 1 October 1945 the historian Dr. Loe de Jong, who had worked for Radio Oranje in London during the war, was appointed as director. The name of the National Bureau was also changed into State Institute for War Documentation (RIOD).
Initially, the institute’s main task was to collect material about the Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies during the Second World War. Through radio appeals, newspaper advertisements and posters the Dutch population was asked to donate documentation. Important pieces, such as diaries, correspondences and photo albums were handed over to the institute. Staff of the documentation centre also proactively looked for material. In 1946, for instance, Dr. Loe de Jong and deputy director Dr. A.E. Cohen discovered in Munster a large part of the archive of the Reichskommissariat in den Niederlanden.
In addition to collecting and inventorying all these documents the State Institute also did research. Its most famous work is, without any doubt, Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog by Loe de Jong. The first part was published in 1969 and the final part in 1988. Next to de Jong’s lifetime’s work other researchers of the institute have published various studies which are now considered classic works of the historiography of the Second World War in the Netherlands and the former Dutch East Indies.
The 1990s were marked by significant changes within the documentation centre. In 1997 the institute move from its old address at the Herengracht 474 to its current location at the Herengracht 380. In 1999 the institute became part of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and changed its name into Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD).
The most important change was of a thematic nature. As the new millennium dawned, NIOD, under its then-director Prof. Dr. Hans Blom, embraced a more international approach. The field of research was broadened in terms of time and geography. The run-up, aftermath and processing of the Second World War started to receive more attention in NIOD’s research projects. At the same time there was more room for the events in the former Dutch East Indies and for international comparative research.
In 1996 the Dutch government commissioned NIOD to investigate the fall of the enclave Srebrenica in Bosnia and the Dutch role in the conflict. For the general public it was the first time that NIOD presented itself in a different field of research than the one for which it was renowned. The investigation gave NIOD the possibility to answer social and international questions about ‘Srebrenica’ through intensive research.
The report Srebrenica. A ‘safe’ Area - Reconstruction, Background, Consequences and Analyses of the Fall of a Safe Area was published on 10 April 2002. The report led to the fall of the second government led by Prime Minister Kok. The House of Representatives subsequently commissioned a parliamentary enquiry.
Next to the Srebrenica report, NIOD’s research activities also broadened in another way: the number of academic and civic partners in the Netherlands and abroad increased significantly.
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.
Since its foundation in 2002, CHGS had quickly developed itself into an independent institute. Through academic and civic activities CHGS approached the current problems of genocides as a worldwide phenomenon from a comparative perspective. In 2008, for instance, CHGS organised the international conference ’60 Years Genocide Convention’. And together with the University of Amsterdam it has set up a Masters in Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
Like NIOD, CHGS’ activities touched the borderline between science and society. While NIOD used the Second World War as its starting point, CHGS covered the entire world, using as a benchmark the concept of genocide and discussions about this concept.
The ambition of NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies as a knowledge centre is to make visible links with war violence elsewhere in the world through independent research with a strong civic focus and to show that the long-lasting consequences of violence do not stop at national borders.