A talk with Raymund Schütz, whose doctorate exposed the role of the notaries who made money from transactions and mortgages of stolen Jewish real estate during the German occupation of the Netherlands..
"Holocaust and restitution issues keep coming up regularly in new Dutch public debates even though it is seventy-five years after the Second World War. The post-war restitution of stolen Jewish real estate during the war is one of several such topics currently in the media. The journalist platform Follow the Money and the TV program Pointer have brought it to the public's attention. Thereafter it has been picked up by local papers.
“The official reason why this issue has not been discussed publicly earlier was that no historic data was available about what happened to Jewish-owned real estate robbed during the German occupation. This was a false argument because the relevant transactions had to be registered in the land register, which is accessible to the public. It was not easy to find the data, but my past research has proven that this was possible years ago."
Dr. Raymund Schütz, born in 1964, is an independent researcher, formerly of the Netherlands Red Cross, where he worked in its war-time archive in The Hague. The title of his doctorate on the role of the notaries during the German occupation is Cold Fog: The Dutch Notaries and the Heritage of the War.
“It took until 2008 when another Dutch historian, Eric Slot, found one of the war time books of these sales of robbed assets (Verkaufsbücher) at the National Archives. The books listed the first transactions of expropriated Jewish real estate. There were 18 volumes with transactions, one of which is missing In 2016, I published my doctorate about the role of the notaries who made money from such transactions and the resulting mortgages.
“My estimate is that there were 10,565 assets involved. In 2013, scholars claimed --on the basis of sampling --that in almost all cases, restitution had taken place. In many cases the original owner was dead. Yet I have since found by studying only one town, Hoorn, that 40 assets have not been restituted there. Generally, it is interesting to note that in the Netherlands a substantial number of robbed Jewish assets were purchased by municipalities.
“Besides buildings, now also robbed shops, building plots, heathlands, and forests owned by Jews are in the public eye."“Besides buildings, now also robbed shops, building plots, heathlands, and forests owned by Jews are in the public eye. Jews also owned some agricultural lands. Yet one finds little about these in the sources because when expropriated no notarial act was required for their sale. One could transfer ownership via an agent through a private act. The historian Rob Bakker claims that 17 million guilders was received for these, which were not passed to the original Jewish owners.. They represented 0.9 percent of the Dutch territory. In order to find out more information about this, one would have to do research in individual localities.
“The question remains what happened to those assets where the original owner was murdered and there were no descendants. I assume that there were two possibilities. One was that the money received for the post-war sale of assets which could not be passed back to an original Jewish owner or his descendants was transferred to the consignment office of the Ministry of Finance. The other was that the asset stayed with the wartime buyer.
“During the German occupation, the non-Jewish buyer of robbed assets had to pay a 5% registration fee to the tax authorities. During the restitution the original Jewish owner or his descendants frequently paid this amount back to the buyer in the framework of an 'amicable solution.' The original Jewish owner often tried to claim the money from the tax authorities. However the transactions made during the war of 'stolen Jewish assets' were still considered valid. This was extremely brazen.
“Finally, the issue came before the Supreme Court. In 1949 the court ruled that the tax authorities were in the wrong. I have never found any indication that tax money was returned for the ‘amicable’ agreements before that date. Most likely, the Dutch tax authorities substantially benefit until today from retained transfer tax on stolen Jewish assets. I estimate that its present value may amount to 40 million Euro. This is without accumulated interest. Further historical research would have to tell us how the tax authorities got to their position and how much money it gained from non-restituted tax.
“Notaries played an important role in the transactions of stolen Jewish assets. After the war only those notaries who had been members of the pro-German NSB party and those who had evaded paying tax were prosecuted. There was a deal between the notaries’ representatives and the Minister of Justice in 1946 that there would be no further prosecution. Via a voluntary agreement the notaries who had profited from the transactions had to pay back 60% of what they earned to two organizations, one for victims from the resistance, the other a Jewish social one. This agreement was very leniently carried out. Notaries could negotiate about how much they paid back. They were allowed to deduct this payment from their tax bill.
“During the German occupation, the non-Jewish buyer of robbed assets had to pay a 5% registration fee to the tax authorities. During the restitution the original Jewish owner or his descendants frequently paid this amount back to the buyer.
“Most brokers in transactions of stolen Jewish assets have not been prosecuted in any way. Two of them however were sentenced to jail terms. They were released early. The attitude toward collaborating lawyers was also lenient. Only members of the NSB and those involved in the German occupier-ordered liquidations of organizations and foundations lost their lawyers license. In the course of the 1950's they were allowed to practice again.
“Additional injustice was done after the war. Amsterdam and The Hague requested ground lease payments -- plus a fine -- from pre-war Jewish owners of expropriated real estate. A few years ago, The Hague gave people to whom this had happened the opportunity to request the money back. Thirty-two people put in such a request. Yet only 9 received their money back. The municipality had, according to the rules, destroyed the original documents. Thus, only those people who had kept documents themselves and could prove they had been duped, received restitution.
“In Amsterdam, the municipality paid 10.4 million Euro to collective Jewish projects. There are also stories that returning Jews had to pay the unpaid gas bills of those who lived in their apartments during the war. I have no proof of that. Yet from my general experience I fear the worst about this.
“A huge topic that remains largely untouched is the very partial restitution of expropriated Jewish companies. The archive of the post-war organization Nederlands Beheersinstituut (NBI) that dealt with the restitution is enormous. Only part of the archive has been put in order. Furthermore, there is no tradition of critical historical research in the Netherlands to investigate such a subject in detail. Anyhow it would require a great deal of time.”
Schütz concludes that one can do only very limited research in the National Archives. He remarks: "This is a violation of the EU-agreements made in Stockholm in 1999 about the accessibility of Shoah archives! One would almost think that the Dutch authorities have something to hide.... In order to do the very necessary additional research it is important that the archives become more easily accessible. Also, the necessary expertise should be made available. The proof for the loaded war-past of the Netherlands should not be hidden behind a Berlin wall of General Data Protection Rules, i.e privacy rules."