Robbed and Dispossessed: The Emotional Impact of Property Loss during the German Occupation of the Netherlands, 1940–1945

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During the occupation of the Netherlands, the Jewish population was systematically robbed and deprived of their property rights. Their economic and social isolation went hand in hand with a loss of social status, connectedness,
security and identity, as homes were expropriated and furniture was confiscated. The process of depriving the Jews of everything they owned, which happened with such apparent ease by the seemingly allpowerful authorities, had a profound impact on the victims that went far beyond mere material loss. Furthermore, after the war, the restitution process confronted the survivors with bureaucratic procedures and formalities that evoked negative feelings among the persecuted victims. A strictly quantitative approach to compensation for the loss of furniture and other household items therefore seems to fall short. The view of loss as something that can be compensated with money does not take into account the psychological aspects of losing those personal possessions. This article pleads for a more qualitative approach to the subject of looting
and restitution, free from the limitations imposed by the quantitative scope of official archives. The authors suggest that future research should relate more to the link between ‘dignity taking’ – a term that was coined by Bernadette Atuahene, professor of Law in Chicago – and ‘emotional loss’. Looking into property loss from an emotional perspective will teach us more about the fragility of settledness against the backdrop of occupation and persecution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-198
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Modern European History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Second World War, Netherlands, German occupation, Holocaust, Looting, Material loss, Restitution


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