Nearly 160,000 registration cards belonging to Dutch Jews and people from other persecuted minorities, many of whom were destined for Nazi death camps, will be put on display for the first time in the National Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam after being handed over by the Red Cross.
The cards include name, address, date of birth, profession, marital status, family composition and, in three out of four cases, the date of their transport to a concentration camp written in red pencil. They ended up with the Red Cross after the war and were used to locate missing persons.
Jews in the Netherlands had been forced to register by the German invaders from 1941. The collection is believed to be the most comprehensive record to survive the second world war.
The Dutch Red Cross has passed ownership of the records to the Jewish Cultural Quarter of Amsterdam, an umbrella organisation of several institutions, including the Dutch National Holocaust Museum.
A four-year investigation by the Dutch Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies concluded in 2017 that the Dutch branch of the Red Cross did “little or nothing” to help Jews persecuted by Nazi occupiers.
At the time, the chair of the Dutch Red Cross board apologised unreservedly, admitting that the humanitarian organisation had “shirked its duties during world war two”.
Emile Schrijver, the director of the Jewish Cultural Quarter, said: “It is of the utmost importance that we can show the physical memory of all the Jews who were murdered. The transfer of the archive is part of a cleaning-up by the Red Cross. It’s late, but welcome.”
The death rate among the Jewish population in the Netherlands was higher than anywhere in occupied western Europe.
About 140,000 Jews lived in the country before the Nazi occupation. Of those, 107,000 were deported and only 5,200 survived. It is estimated that some 24,000 Jews went into hiding, of whom 8,000 were hunted down or betrayed.
The index will go on display next year when the museum reopens after renovation works are completed. In a statement, the Red Cross said the collection was “of great value not only as an archive but also as a museum monument and a tangible reminder of the Holocaust”.
The cards had been digitalised in 2012 and are available for viewing online upon specific request for a name or other identifying detail. But it will be the first time that the cards will be physically available for browsing.
The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, expressed his regret in 2017 for the conduct of the country’s authorities, which “failed in its responsibility as a provider of justice and security”.