Persecution and forced labour

Shortly after the Germans had occupied Holland, they proclaimed measures against Jewish citizens. They were no longer allowed to work as a civil-servant. In case they had a shop of their own, it was closed. And in parks, café’s, cinemas, museums and swimming-pools, signs were put up with the text ‘Forbidden for Jews’.

Racial hatred and delusions

In order to persecute the entire Jewish population, the German authorities extensively assessed its members. Racial hatred and false suppositions, in combination with thoroughness, led to an absurd bureaucratic classification of genetic descent and affinity into degrees. Those who were considered to be Jews in the first degree, had three or four Jewish grandparents or they were member of a Jewish religious community. Someone with two Jewish grandparents was treated as a Jew in the first degree, on the condition that this person was married to a first degree Jew or that he or she belonged to a Jewish community. Around the time of the German invasion, of the first degree Dutch Jews, approximately 114.000 belonged to the Dutch Israelite Jews and 4.000 to the Portuguese Israelite Jews. On top of that, there were, at that moment, still 16.000 German first degree Jews” (mainly refugees) and over 8.000 first degree Jews with another nationality in Holland. Of the approximately 140.000 first degree Jews who were deported from Holland, more than 100.000 have perished; that is about 71 %.

Compulsory enlistment and registration

In January 1941 all Dutch Jews received a summons from the German occupant to report at the Register of population before the end of February. This regulation formed the administrative foundation for the deportations, which took place later on, and it was an important means of control, used at nearly all anti-Jewish measures. The civil-servants of the Register meticulously mapped in which municipalities the Jews were living. This enabled the Germans to detect precisely who was eligible for deportation. Every Jew who reported at the Register, had to pay a fee of one guilder for the registration form. In this way, the occupant actually let the Jews partially pay for their own deportation.

Number of Jews in Rotterdam

In the “Statistiek der bevolking van Joodschen bloede in Nederland” (Statistics of the population with Jewish blood in The Netherlands), dating from 1942, the number of registered Jews are listed by domicile. From this it becomes clear that there were 8368 first degree Jews, 1871 second degree Jews and 767 fourth degree Jews in Rotterdam on 1st October 1941. For that matter, the number of Jewish citizens in Rotterdam had been decreased substantially as a result of the bombardment of 14th May. At first, the second and fourth degree Jews were left unharmed by the occupant, so as not to create ill-will with their non-Jewish fellowmen. Already in an early stage the first degree Jews were “branded”: in the summer of 1941 their identity cards were marked with a black J. As from 9th May 1942 onward, all Dutch Jews were obliged to visibly wear a so-called “Star of David” on their clothes.

Shed 24

The first deportations of Dutch Jews began in July 1942. Jews received a notification with the announcement that they would be taken to a transition camp in Westerbork, in the province of Drenthe in the north of the Netherlands, for a closer personal and medical investigation in order to judge whether they were eligible for “possible participation in a labour expansion project in Germany” under police surveillance. In Rotterdam the Jews had to report at Shed 24. This wooden building lay behind a more than 2 metres high wall of the Gemeentelijke Handelsinrichtingen (Municipal Trade Institutions) on a closed off dock area between the Spoorweghaven and the Binnenhaven. On the terrain lay railroad tracks, which connected the freight railway yard Feijenoord with the railway network of the Dutch Railways. Besides the Jews from Rotterdam, the Jewish inhabitants of the southern part of Zuid-Holland were deported from here as well.

Unfortunately exact data of deportations of Jews from Rotterdam are lacking. Thus, we do not know exactly how many persons have been summoned and have indeed shown up consequently. The first transport from Shed 24 to Westerbork took place during the night of 30th to 31st July 1942.

Round ups

In August 1942, a second notification to report at Shed 24, destined for the Jewish citizens of Rotterdam, followed. Warned by the accounts about the first transport, many refused to report voluntarily. Next the occupant decides to pick up the Jews at their homes after eight o’clock at night. Many round ups took place in Jewish houses, whereby the Dutch police was deployed as well. The approximately thirty Dutch policemen, who assisted the “Sicherheitsdienst” in tracing and arresting Jews who were in hiding, formed a notorious gang under the name Groep X (Group 10). The Jews, who had been arrested, had to pack their belongings in great haste, after which they were carried off to Shed 24 by coach or tram.


In Westerbork, very accurate records were kept of the last domicile of the persons who arrived in the camp. In 1942 4313 Jews from Rotterdam were registered and 2223 in 1943. In addition to this, still at least 254 Jewish detainees were carried off from the Police Headquarters in Rotterdam. Summed up a total number of 6790 Jews from Rotterdam arrived in camp Westerbork.

Nearly all Jews from Rotterdam have been deported from Westerbork to the concentration (extermination) camps Auschwitz (Oswiecim) and Sobibór, in Poland. In most cases the journey by train lasted three days. Most Jews were gassed almost immediately after arrival. Only few survived a stay in the camps. After the war almost nothing was left of the Jewish community in Rotterdam. Only Jews, who had a “mixed marriage”, remained largely free from deportation. Naturally there were also Jews, who escaped the deathly ride to the concentration camps, because they had gone underground.

Forced labour in Germany

During World War II eight to ten million foreigners, both men and women, were forced to work in Germany. They were mainly deployed in big companies participating in the war industry. Under this 'Arbeitseinsatz', as the Germans called it, approximately 600.000 Dutchmen were transported by force to Germany. Amongst them were nearly 100.000 inhabitants of the city of Rotterdam.


The Germans used various methods for recruiting people who could do forced labour. When recruiting volunteers by means of a propaganda campaign yielded too little workers, companies were combed out and 'replaceable persons' were sent to Germany. Later on the Germans even drafted into service entire age groups and developed new methods to register men who had a job. Finally, they used round ups on a large scale, the so called 'razzia's' (raids). The largest round up in the Netherlands took place in Rotterdam in November 1944.

The Razzia of Rotterdam

The razzia of November 10th and 11th 1944 came on as a bolt from the blue for the city of Rotterdam. On November 9th the Germans led troops in an inconspicuous way to the various approach roads of the city. That was the beginning of 'Aktion Rosenstock'. On November 10th the round up took place in Schiedam, in the south of Rotterdam, and in the outskirts north of the river Meuse. The Germans spread door-to-door pamphlets with the menacing word 'BEFEHL' (Warrant). One day later the razzia continued in the city-centre.

50.000 men

During the large scale round up some 50.000 men, varying in age from 17 to 40 years old, were caught. Most of them were transported instantly, others had to wait at the various provisionally arranged assembly points in the city, such as in the football stadium “De Kuip” (The Tub – named after its shape). The relocation of the men was done by train, by ship or on foot. Around 10.000 men ended up in the Eastern Netherlands, 40.000 of them were put to work in Germany. Nevertheless, more than 20.000 men managed to stay out of the hands of the Germans, in spite of constant house searching and squealers.

Able-bodied men

The big round up of November 1944 was not only meant to recruit forced labourers for the German war industry, but also served an other purpose. The Germans also wanted to eliminate all able-bodied men from the Western Netherlands. By doing so, they were hoping to prevent combatants from the underground movement from thwarting the plans of the German troops during the advancement of the Allies.

Working and living conditions in Germany

Most of the victims of the Rotterdam razzia ended up in the war industries in German cities, like Kassel. They were sheltered in large, poorly equipped barracks. There was famine and the sanitary facilities were inadequate. Furthermore, there was lack of clothing and of footwear. The forced labourers often made very long working days and had to carry out heavy dragging and digging. During the numerous air-raid warnings they had to spend many frightful hours in bunkers and shelters.


At the end of the war most forced labourers, many of them wounded and severely traumatised, returned home as 'Displaced Persons'. As a result of illness, undernourishment, bombardments and other acts of war, between 24.500 and 29.000 Dutch forced labourers have died in Germany. It is assumed that from about 100.000 forced labourers originating from Rotterdam, several thousands have not returned home alive.