During World War II at least 25,000 Dutch volunteered for the Waffen SS,the elite protection body of the Nazi party, later turned into a fighting force, according to the Institute for the Study of War, the Holocaust and Genocide (NIOD, in its Dutch acronym).
Hitler ordered that these types of soldiers enjoy the same salary and disability pension as the Germans, and this happened. At present, at least 34 Dutch citizens continue to receive a disability pension paid by the German authorities.
The Dutch historian Cees Kleijn maintains that there are also some 27 Belgian veterans in the same situation, and others more without calculating in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Canada, where they emigrated. In Spain, it is extended to the Blue Division for those with a disability derived from combat.
The payments, initiated around 1950, may today amount to 1,300 euros per month, but the Dutch Government does not know who receives them because the German Administration maintains the privacy of the recipients, who could also belong to the Wehrmacht, the Armed Forces of the Third Reich.
“There have been questions in Parliament, the last these days from the ranks of the Christian democracy, for the Executive to find out the identity of these retirees, or their widows. I have spoken with 300 of these old volunteers, and was able to interview 150, along with journalist Stijn Reurs.
About six or seven received the pension. They had to prove, 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-free. The money received by victims of forced labor by the Nazis is listed.
Germany says it will halt shipments if the recipient is proven to be a war criminal, but does not open its files to verify this. There have also been war criminals with dual nationality who fled there and then there was no way to extradite them, ”says Kleijn, in a telephone conversation.
The Dutch Information and Documentation Center for Israel, which brings together the Jewish community, has described it as “scandalous” that former SS men receive such a monthly payment. “They fought on the side of the Nazis and they still take advantage of it,” according to their deputy director, Naomi Mestrum.
The Dutch historian considers it logical that the same thing happens with the Blue Division, the unit of Spanish infantry volunteers that, between 1941 and 1943, fought against the Soviet Union. “They may be very old, or have died, but the order for disability pensions came from Hitler himself, and it is not unreasonable to think that it will reach all those injured. Think that in the Waffen SS there were not only 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 body at the beginning, in 1941, and a true state within the state due to their expansion towards the end of the war. By 1943, when it needed troops, they admitted soldiers they did not have ”,
Belgian volunteers’ pensions have also reached Parliament. On February 19, the Foreign Affairs Committee analyzed the request of six deputies to “address the situation through urgent diplomatic channels,” in the words of the liberal Olivier Maingain, president of the DéFI (Democratic, Federalist, Independent) party. For his part, Alvin de Coninck, a researcher at Remembrance, a Belgian association that brings together survivors of World War II, assures that disability payments reach 1,275 euros per month.
“The Second World War is a very sensitive matter in Holland. It should not be forgotten that hundreds of Dutch SS men were guards in concentration camps in Poland, such as 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 of the disabled veterans hid the truth from their families. One of them, already with Alzheimer’s, sang German songs through the corridors of the residence, and the doctors called the family to see what they knew about his past. Another said the injury to his leg was from a motorcycle accident. And two more met years later in a football match between Ajax and Feyenoord, and avoided greeting each other to avoid arousing suspicion. I have taught in schools and at the University of Amsterdam, and I try to offer a real vision of the contest, ”says Cees Kleijn.