The Netherlands

PhotograpH: Joseph Roth and friends
The Austrian author Joseph Roth (1st from left) with his Dutch friends in Amsterdam, 1936. Next to him (from left to right) the artists and intellectuals Frans Hannema, Charles Nypels, Charles Roelofsz, Joop Sjollema and Maurits Mok
Leo Baeck Archive, New York, © Spaarnestad Photo, Amsterdam

The Netherlands

Hier bin ich nicht besonders glücklich […], ganz abgesehen davon, daß man geschäftlich nirgends hereinkommt, und die Zeitungen sich absolut gegen die Mitarbeit von Emigranten sperren […]. So sind die Menschen – sie könnten zwar noch schlimmer sein ([…] im lieben Deutschland sind die es!) – ganz nett für den Besucher, weniger nett für den, der unter ihnen zu wohnen gezwungen ist.

[I am not particularly happy here […], apart from the fact that it is impossible to get into the profession here and the newspapers are totally against working with emigrants […]. The people here – well, they could be worse ([…] which they are in our beloved Germany) – are very nice to visitors, but not so nice to those who have been forced to live among them. (ed. trans.)]

Georg Hermann, emigré German writer (1871-1943), in a letter from the Netherlands to his daughter, 22 October 1934


In the first months after Hitler seized power an estimated 15,000 German refugees crossed the border to the Netherlands – mostly under the guise of tourists or travellers en route to another destination. At the end of the first Nazi wave of terror, it was Jewish exiles in particular who returned to their home country. One of the reasons for this was that remaining in the Netherlands did not appear to be a viable proposition. For example, from 1935 the police authorities with responsibility for foreign nationals in Amsterdam only issued provisional residency permits. Being involved in undesirable political activities resulted in expulsion from the country, as did illegal entry or destitution. Work permits were only issued for certain occupations and companies founded by immigrants were subject to strict regulations. No financial support was provided by the state, meaning that the exiles had to rely on private support and help. There was another massive influx of refugees as a result of the pogrom of November 1938.

Jewish refugees were consigned to camps even before the German invasion. After the occupation of the Netherlands in May 1940, there were still around 20,000 refugees in the country, many of whom became victims of Nazi crimes before the War was over.

The country, and in particular, its capital Amsterdam acquired great significance as the home of exiled German artists and cultural figures. Those who took up residency there after 1933 included the painter Max Beckmann, the conductor Bruno Walter, the theatrical director Max Reinhardt as well as authors such as Klaus Mann, Georg Hermann and Joseph Roth. The Querido and Allert de Lange publishing houses based in Amsterdam both massively expanded their German language publications after 1933 and became the new home in print for many displaced authors such as Lion Feuchtwanger, Vicki Baum, Alfred Döblin and Arnold Zweig. Between 1933 and 1935 Querido published Klaus Mann's controversial exile magazine Die Sammlung. By 1940, the works of 650 exiled authors had been published in the Netherlands. Censorship was not imposed, however some politically provocative passages were toned down out of consideration for diplomatic relations to the larger neighbouring country. As well as the cultural figures who were exiled in the Netherlands, there were also political exiles. The Netherlands was “a centre of illegal cooperation between political exiles and internal German resistance by communists, socialists of all kinds and even German youth groups” (ed. trans.) is how Ursula Langkau-Alex and Hans Würzner summarise its significance (Niederlande. in: Handbuch der deutschsprachigen Emigration, p. 326).

Further reading:
Langkau-Alex, Ursula / Würzner, Hans: Niederlande: In: Krohn, Claus-Dieter et al. (Hg.): Handbuch der deutschsprachigen Emigration 1933-1945. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1998, p. 321-333

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