Vox Tablet

After the Holocaust, the Dutch Tried To Collect Past Due Taxes From Survivors

How one shy, whistle-blowing intern in an Amsterdam archive uncovered a travesty that insulted a decimated community

July 21, 2014
(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photo Bert Kaufmann/Flickr)
(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photo Bert Kaufmann/Flickr)

It was all over the Dutch press this past spring—the revelation that in the years immediately following the Nazi occupation, Amsterdam authorities came after the small trickle of returning Dutch Jews who owned property and told them they owed outstanding leasehold fees from the time they were away – indeed, the authorities demanded that they not only pay those fees, but also fines for late payment.

The person who first discovered this mind-bogglingly absurd requirement was Charlotte van den Berg, a then 21-year-old mild-mannered intern working at the Amsterdam City Archives. Back in 2011, she happened upon letters, written by Jews who had been in concentration camps, or in hiding during the Occupation, and asking that the fees please be dropped, given the circumstances of their non-payment. Amsterdam-based reporter Jonathan Groubert wanted to meet her, to ask how she made the discovery, and what led her to go public with it. He also investigates how the city, and Amsterdam’s Jewish community, are handling the revelations.

Vox Tablet is Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast, hosted by Sara Ivry and produced by Julie Subrin. You can listen to individual episodes here or subscribe on iTunes.

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