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'Danger to democracy': Netherlands accused of spying on Jews after World War II

A group of Polish Jews are led away for deportation by German SS soldiers during the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto.
A group of Polish Jews are led away for deportation by German SS soldiers during the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto. Copyright AP Photo/Anon
Copyright AP Photo/Anon
By Euronews
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The secret services reportedly monitored members of the Netherlands Auschwitz Committee and infiltrated its meetings.

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Amsterdam's Jewish Holocaust survivors were allegedly monitored and spied on by the Dutch Internal Security Service (BVD) until the 1980s, considering them a threat to democracy.

An analysis of 71,000 declassified files of the former BVD, published by the newspaper Het Parool, claims many Jews who returned after the Second World War were spied on.

The unredacted files, held by the National Archives, have been open to the public since 2022, and their pages reveal the extensive surveillance carried out by the secret services.

The BVD monitored members of the Netherlands Auschwitz Committee, founded by survivors in 1956, and infiltrated its meetings, deeming it extremist.

They had a mole inside the organisation and compiled reports on future Holocaust commemorations and organised trips to visit concentration camps in other countries.

At these meetings, Dutch Jews shared their reflections on the economic damage and medical problems they had suffered as a result of their deportation from the Netherlands to the concentration camps.

Rabbi Israel Singer, Chairman of the World Jewish Congress, looks at a photo showing a corridor in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Rabbi Israel Singer, Chairman of the World Jewish Congress, looks at a photo showing a corridor in the Auschwitz concentration camp.AP Photo/Anon

When questioned by Het Parool journalists about this revelation, one Jewish citizen stated: "What is extremist about a group of old Jews who came out of the camp? These people did a good job of drawing attention to the victims."

"No one knew about it," he added. "And when you read it, it really brings tears to your eyes. All the names you read are people who have been through a lot. Almost all of them have lost their families. And yet they were targeted as enemies of the state."

The customs police were also involved in spying for the secret services. Their job was to report on people going to or coming from Poland, where the largest concentration camp was located.

Euronews has contacted the Dutch Ministry of the Interior for comment.

Dutch media report that the former BVD, now the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD), issued a statement saying that "the investigations had to be seen in the context of the Cold War and the threat of communism".

"Holocaust survivors as such were not considered extremists or a threat to democracy, but an exception was made for people associated with the Auschwitz National Committee, which the BVD considered to be a communist front organisation".

‘Big injustice’

At one of the meetings reported by the BVD, the Auschwitz Committee discussed and protested against the German war criminal Willy Lages, who headed the Nazi secret service SD. 

Lages coordinated the deportation of some 70,000 Jews to concentration camps.

The German was tried in the Netherlands and sentenced to death. This was never carried out as it was commuted to life imprisonment. Claiming to be terminally ill, Lages was released from prison, travelled to Germany and spent the last five years of his life in freedom.

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The release did not sit well with the committee, as the Dutch press notes: "All those present considered the release of a person whose place is prison to be scandalous".

Security services also reportedly infiltrated the life of former Auschwitz Committee chairwoman Annetje Fels-Kupferschmidt, whose husband was arrested by the Nazis and died in a concentration camp.

Her daughter said she was shocked that the BVD did not keep a personal file on Lages, but did keep a file on her mother, describing her as an extremist: "I see this as a very big injustice."

** FILE ** A group of Jews, including a small boy, is escorted from the Warsaw Ghetto by German soldiers on April 19, 1943.
** FILE ** A group of Jews, including a small boy, is escorted from the Warsaw Ghetto by German soldiers on April 19, 1943.AP Photo/Anon

The Dutch Communist Party, with members who were part of the Auschwitz Committee, also aroused suspicion and was spied on.

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The declassified archives contain details of meetings in which the committee discussed seeking compensation for Jews who survived the war.

Twelve years ago, the newspaper Het Parool reported that more than 300 Jewish residents of Amsterdam had to pay taxes on apartments or properties they owned but where no one lived because they had been sent to a concentration camp.

The scandal was uncovered by a Dutch woman working as a trainee in the digitalisation of the city archives.

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