During World War II, at least 25,000 Dutch people volunteered for the Waffen SS, the Nazi Party’s elite protection body that later became a fighting force, according to the Institute for the Study of War, the Holocaust and Genocide (NIOD, in its Dutch version). acronym).
Hitler ordered these types of soldiers to receive the same salary and disability pension as the Germans, and it happened. Currently, at least 34 Dutch citizens continue to receive disability pension from the German authorities.
Dutch historian Cees Kleijn argues that there are also some 27 Belgian veterans in the same situation, and more recklessly others in the UK, US, Australia and Canada, where they emigrated. In Spain, it is extended to the Blue Division for people with a handicap derived from combat.
Payments, initiated around 1950, can now amount to 1,300 euros per month, but the Dutch government does not know who receives them because the German administration preserves the privacy of the recipients, who could also belong to the Wehrmacht , the armed forces of the Third Reich.
âThere have been questions in Parliament, the last in these days in the ranks of Christian Democracy, so that the Executive knows the identity of these retirees, or their widows. I spoke with 300 of these former volunteers, and I was able to interview 150, in the company of journalist Stijn Reurs.
About six or seven received the pension. They had to prove, by traveling to Germany, that their disability was due to war wounds. The payments were assumed after the war by the Federal Republic of Germany and are tax exempt. The money received by victims of forced labor by the Nazis is listed.
Germany says it will stop shipments if the recipient is proven to be a war criminal, but does not open its files to verify it. There were also war criminals with dual nationality who fled there and then there was no way to extradite them, âKleijn explains in a telephone conversation.
The Dutch Information and Documentation Center for Israel, which brings together the Jewish community, has called it “scandalous” that former SS receive such a monthly payment. “They fought alongside the Nazis and they still profit from it,” according to their deputy director, Naomi Mestrum.
The Dutch historian considers it logical that the same should happen with the Blue Division, the volunteer unit of Spanish infantry which, between 1941 and 1943, fought against the Soviet Union. âThey may be very old or have passed away, but the order for disability pensions came from Hitler himself, and it is not unreasonable to think that it will affect all the injured. Remember that in the Waffen SS it was not just Dutch, who according to my calculations were between 26,000 and 27,000. The volunteers were Belgians (17,000), Estonians, Ukrainians, Finns (1,400), despite the fact that Finland was not invaded, and even Bosnian Muslims. They were an elite corps at the start, in 1941, and a true state within the state due to their expansion towards the end of the war. In 1943, when he needed troops, they admitted soldiers they didn’t have â,
The pensions of Belgian volunteers have also reached Parliament. On February 19, the Foreign Affairs Committee analyzed the request of six deputies to “settle the situation by urgent diplomatic means”, in the words of the liberal Olivier Maingain, president of the DeFI party (Democratic, Federalist, Independent). For his part, Alvin de Coninck, researcher at Remembrance, a Belgian association which brings together survivors of the Second World War, ensures that disability allowances reach 1,275 euros per month.
âThe Second World War is a very sensitive subject in Holland. It should not be forgotten that hundreds of Dutch SS were guards in concentration camps in Poland, like Auschwitz. And the Westerbork transit camp, from where the Jews were taken to the extermination centers, was in the hands of the Dutch military police. Many disabled veterans have kept the truth from their families. One of them, already suffering from Alzheimer’s, sang German songs in the halls of the residence, and the doctors called the family to find out what they knew of his past. Another said his leg injury was due to a motorcycle accident. And two others met years later in a football match between Ajax and Feyenoord, and avoided greeting each other so as not to arouse suspicion. I have taught in schools and at the University of Amsterdam, and I try to offer a real vision of the competition, âexplains Cees Kleijn.