The Dutch railway service NS is to pay “tens of millions” in compensation for its role in transporting 100,000 people on their way to death camps in the Second World War.
A commission established last November has recommended the railway pay €15,000 to each direct survivor, €7,500 to widows or widowers and €5,000 or €7,500 to children of the victims.
NS was commissioned by the Nazis to run special trains to Westerbork, Vught and Amerfoort – something the firm describes as “a black page” in its history.
The state-owned company was paid €2.5million in return.
Around 500 of the Jewish, Roma and Sinti people transported out of the Netherlands during the Holocaust still survive, said chairman Job Cohen.
The commission estimates that there are up to 5,500 next of kin entitled to payment, meaning the total is likely to exceed €35 million.
Roger van Boxtel, chief executive of the NS, said in a press conference that the company will make these payments. “We want to make a gesture towards those directly involved, and the question of how the NS deals with its war history is a difficult one,” he said.
“We realise though that any amount of money does not take away individual suffering.” The tax office has agreed the money will not be subject to income tax or affect any other benefits, he added.
Salo Muller, an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor whose parents were arrested and transported to the transit camp of Westerbork, then on to Auschwitz, has fought a three-year battle for individual suffering to be recognised financially.
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The former physiotherapist for the Ajax football team said he had mixed feelings. “I am happy that after six months the commission has come up with individual compensation. [But] I am not at all happy about the reason for it. This is about thousands of people who feel the suffering of the war every day – people who lost their parents, brothers, nieces, nephews. It is a tragic situation.”
Liesbeth Zegveld, Mr Muller’s laywer, told The Daily Telegraph that he and his wife Conny van der Sluijs would receive €30,000, as her parents were also deported.
“This is a recognition,” she said. “It is a small piece in a process that will never end, but for Salo and perhaps for others who believe in their own rights, this indicates that justice does exist.”
She added that the level of compensation was a baseline, but they were happy that it would go to all next of kin: “The compensation could be higher – but we don’t want the Dutch railways to go bankrupt!”