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Still van het perron in Kamp Westerbork, Westerborkfilm, 1944.

The Dutch National Railways during the Second World War

On 1 January 2021, the pilot project on the Dutch National Railways during the Second World War started. This research was carried out at the request of the Dutch Railways, in response to the 2019 advice of the Committee on Individual Compensation for the Victims of WW II Transports by the Dutch Railways. The Committee noted that the perspective of ‘wartime transports’ had never been the subject of thorough historical research. The aim of the project is to gain an understanding of the actions and policies of the Dutch Railways, particularly with regard to the transports commissioned by the occupying forces, in the light of the political-administrative relations of those years. The study ran for one year and was meant to answer the question of whether a more extensive research project is sensible and feasible. If this pilot study showed a positive response, the Dutch Railways would commission NIOD to do so.

The exploratory research would examine whether it is possible to find answers to the central question that the Dutch Railways board wants answered with a view to deepening the organisation’s historical understanding: the question regarding the policy of the Dutch Railways during the Second World War and to what extent the company itself can be held responsible for both its policy and the resulting actions. The central focus is on the transports of the hundreds of thousands of Dutch people, starting with the Jews, Roma and Sinti, from which the company acquired its income at the time. These questions are considered in a broader political-administrative and - where necessary - international context.

Areas of focus for the preliminary investigation

The preliminary investigation focuses on an exploration of three areas of interest:

  1. The administrative relations and the interaction between (1) the Dutch authorities; (2) the occupying forces; (3) various authorities in the Reich; (4) the Dutch National Railways, and (5) the Reichsbahn;
  2. The practice of the transports: the logistical and financial organisation, its course;
  3. The different groups of deportees: Jews and people who were considered Jews, Roma and Sinti, political prisoners or resistance fighters, forced labourers, prisoners of war, homosexuals, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

The results of the preliminary study were made public after its completion and can be downloaded here. The report is only available in Dutch.



Funded by: The Dutch National Railways

Team composition

Dr. Lennert Savenije


Scientific Advisory Committee: Hubert Berkhout, Johannes  Houwink ten Cate, Joggli Meihuizen, Jantje Steenhuis, Freek Ypeij, Ellen van der Waerden. 

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