Dutch Railways Convinced by Former Ajax Physiotherapist to Pay Holocaust Compensation

John Wimperis Metro, the amsterdammer Leave a Comment

The national rail company Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) has announced it will pay compensation to the survivors and relatives of Jews it transported to concentration camps during the World War II. Salo Muller, who is a former physiotherapist for Ajax football club and whose parents were taken to Westerbork transit camp on NS trains, convinced the company after a threat of legal action.

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Designed by Westerbork survivor Ralph Prins, the National Memorial Westerbork shows curled rusted rails resting on 93 sleepers, one for each transport that departed the camp. Courtesy of The Amsterdammer

NS has announced that it is setting up a commission, in consultation with Muller, which will decide on a case-by-case basis how to compensate Holocaust survivors and the immediate family of those murdered. In a statement released on Tuesday, NS said the commission would “consider how NS can issue individual payments on moral grounds” but that the specifics of how the commission would work were still unknown. It is claimed that this will be determined in the course of 2019.

Muller achieved this breakthrough after he enlisted the support of Human Rights lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld in threatening legal action. After three meetings with the CEO of NS, Roger van Boxtel, the company agreed to establish the commission and Muller decided not to begin a legal liability procedure.

“For me it means that the NS recognized that this pain has not gone. The grief is still there for very many Jewish people,” Muller was quoted as saying on Dutch TV by BBC News.

During the Second World War, NS collaborated with the Nazis to transport 102,000 Jews to concentration camps. The company received a payment equivalent to today’s €2.5million and continued to transport Jews to camps until September 1944, when their workers went on strike to help end the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. In 2005, NS acknowledged and apologized for this collaboration.

In their statement, NS simply wrote that “NS operated trains on the occupier’s instructions,” but Dirk Mulder of the National Westerbork Memorial phrased it differently. The BBC quoted him as saying on Dutch TV that “the Germans paid for it and said the NS had to come up with a timetable. And the company went and did it without a word of objection.”

When Muller was five years old, his parents were taken by the NS and transported to Westerbork. From there, they were taken to Auschwitz and gassed. “See you tonight and be a good boy,” those were the last words Muller’s mother said to him before being taken, they were also the words Muller used for the title of his book in 2017.

Muller made the decision to take NS to court after the French government was compelled in 2014 by the US to pay $60million (approximately €67.5million) to Holocaust survivors and their families, since the French national rail company, Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF), had deported 76,000 Jews to concentration camps.

In his adult life, Muller worked as a physiotherapist, including a stint in the 1960s for Amsterdam’s Ajax football club. In 2007 he wrote My Ajax, a book about his time with the club.

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