|Dutch refugee policy|
It is thought that around 35,000 German-Jewish refugees sought temporary or permanent sanctuary in the Netherlands; 24,000 stayed longer than two weeks and 11,000 stayed only a few days. In May 1940 there were probably still around 15,000 German-Jewish refugees in the Netherlands.
The government’s treatment of this group was largely determined by the need to maintain trade relations with Germany, to safeguard the policy of neutrality and to protect the Dutch economy at a time of mass unemployment. Lurking in the background were also fears that a new influx of Jews would fuel antisemitism and spark social unrest. The policy of the Dutch Government was not based on rights of asylum, but on the Aliens Act, under which refugees were treated as migrants. Accordingly, the refugees had to produce valid papers and prove they had sufficient means of support before being granted entry.
In 1933 the Dutch Government tried above all to exclude political refugees and Jews from Eastern Europe; in later years German-Jewish refugees also ran into obstacles when trying to enter the country. There were no systematic border controls in 1933, nor was there a centralized registration system for refugees.
Restrictive measures were therefore introduced in 1934: the German Jews already in the country would be left in peace, but newly arrived Jewish refugees would only be permitted to stay temporarily.
The legislation was further tightened in the years leading up to 1938. The border police were issued with clearer instructions: only ‘comfortable’ refugees would be allowed admission or refugees whose lives were in immediate danger.
"Increasing the tarrifs for immigration...." (NIOD 184184)
After the Anschluss in March 1938 many refugees who had no valid papers were sent back; passport-holders were issued with a residence permit for fourteen days. It was around this time that the term ‘refugee’ became almost synonymous with ‘Jew’ in the Netherlands. In the period that followed the situation of Jews in Germany and Austria worsened, but this was ignored by the politicians. After the Kristallnacht the Dutch Government, under pressure from public opinion, admitted a single batch of 7,000 Jewish refugees. Some of them were placed in special camps and could not move around freely. In December 1938 the government decided to seal the border once and for all. The only exception was for women and children who had crossed the border alone – not as part of a larger group. By May1939 there were eight camps for legal refugees in the Netherlands as well as four camps for illegal refugees and 24 institutions for children.