Dutch railway to pay 'tens of millions' to Holocaust victims

State-owned Dutch railway service the NS will pay “tens of millions” to individuals for transporting some 100,000 people on their way to death camps for the Nazis in World War II. In a press conference on Wednesday evening, a special commission recommended the railway should make a payout that will total at least €35 million to around 6,000 survivors or next of kin. The NS was commissioned by the Nazis to run special trains to Westerbork, Vught and Amerfoort, full of Jewish, Roma and Sinti people being transported to concentration and death camps. It is estimated to have been paid some €2.5 million for this – something it describes as “a black page” in its history. Now, after a three-year battle from 83-year-old Holocaust survivor Salo Muller, a commission set up by the NS has recommended that it makes individual payments: €15,000 to each direct survivor, €7,500 to widows or widowers and €5,000 or €7,500 to children of the victims. There are estimated to be 500 survivors and 5,500 nearest next of kin. Suffering Roger van Boxtel, chief executive of the NS, said in a press conference that the company will honour these recommendations. “We want to make a gesture towards those directly involved, and the question of how the NS deals with its war history is a difficult one,” he said. “We realise though that any amount of money does not take away individual suffering. How – in the name of peace – could this have happened such a short time ago?” Salo Muller, whose parents were arrested and transported to the transit camp of Westerbork, then on to Auschwitz, has fought a three-year battle for individual suffering to be recognised financially. Battling emotion, the former physiotherapist for the Ajax football team, whose parents were taken when he was five in 1942, said he had mixed feelings. “I am happy that after six months the commission has come up with individual compensation,” he said. “I am not at all happy about the reason for it. This is about thousands of people who feel the suffering of the war every day – people who lost their parents, brothers, nieces, nephews. It is a tragic situation.” Moral payment Commission chairman Job Cohen said it had a difficult task. “Advising on the level of this figure was almost impossible – suggesting a level of money that can compensate for the suffering,” he said. “It is an allowance, a moral payment. There are also groups and individuals who don’t come under the commission but who suffered and are suffering still today.” To recognise these groups, the commission recommended commissioning the first broad, historical study into the role of transport in World War II – something the NS said it will consider in the future. Liesbeth Zegveld, Mr Muller’s laywer, told DutchNews.nl that he and his wife Conny van der Sluijs would receive €30,000, as her parents were also deported. “A wider group of people has qualified for financial recognition than the first idea, and it was important that they differentiated between different categories,” she said. “Salo believes in his rights, and he believes in justice and keeping on hoping. It is a recognition, a small piece in a process that will never end.” She added that the compensation could have been higher, although they would not have accepted any less. “We don’t want the Dutch railway to go bankrupt,” she said.    More >

Terror threat level held at 'substantial'

The risk of a terrorist attack in the Netherlands remains 'substantial' following the tram shooting in Utrecht in March and a number of arrests, counter-terrorism officials say. The official threat level stands at 4 on a scale of 5, meaning there is a real risk of a terror attack taking place. The National Co-Ordinator for Counter-Terrorism and Security (NCTV) said that recent documents had emerged indicating that the Islamist movement IS was focusing its efforts on attacks in the west now that it now longer controls any territory in the Middle East. IS remains 'capable of mobilising the global jihadist movement,' said the NCTV, though it added that the group's capacity to carry out a large-scale attack was diminishing. 'The number of attacks in the West is low, but the intention remains,' it said. Four people died on March 18 when a lone gunman opened fire in a commuter tram near Utrecht's central station. A 37-year-old man, Gökmen Tanis, was arrested and has confessed to the crime, said police. He claims to have acted alone.  More >

Three arrested for harassing policewomen

Three men have been arrested for sexual intimidation after undercover policewomen were drafted in to deal with complaints from women who had been harassed while jogging or walking round the Sloterplas lake in western Amsterdam. The police officers, some wearing sports clothes, were brought in after a survey of 131 people found 51 had been subjected to some form of intimidation, mainly of a sexual nature, the Parool reported. The three men were arrested after following the plain clothes police officers and making 'sexual propositions,' the paper said. A police officer was unable to say what charges they might face and what would happen next. Amsterdam first introduced local bylaws banning street intimidation in 2017 but the issue has been on the back burner since new mayor Femke Halsema said she had a number of objections. 'A ban on hissing is only dealing with the symptoms,' Halsema told the Parool earlier this year. 'You have to use education and get rid of the idea that is completely normal to shout at women in the street.' A majority of city councillors from across the political spectrum also back Halsema's plan not to start actively enforcing the law. Rotterdam A similar ban has been enacted in Rotterdam and several cases have come to trial. In December 2018, a 36-year-old Rotterdam man was fined €200 for harassing two women in the street, in the first conviction of its kind in the Netherlands. The man, seen as a test case by the public prosecution department, was convicted on the basis of evidence from street wardens rather than complaints from the women themselves and the case has gone to appeal. Draft national legislation which would make street intimidation a criminal offence is currently being looked at by the Council of State.  More >

Shoplifting and fraud cost shops €1.8bn

Shops in the Netherlands are losing €1.8 bn a year to shoplifting and fraud, a study of retail crime across Europe has found. Checkpoint Systems, which handles security for 24,000 stores across 11 European countries, said retailers spent an additional €600,000 on preventive measures. The Netherlands has the second highest rate of retail crime after Spain, costing the equivalent of €139 per person, according to the company's survey. 'The losses in 2018 are enormously high. The sum of €1.8 bn comprises shoplifting, fraud by delivery companies and staff, and the damage caused in particular by travelling gangs,' Pjotr Wuyckhuyse of Checkpoint Systems told AD.nl. Organised criminals have targeted the Netherlands partly because its size and road network make it easy to make a quick getaway across the border. Police and retail organisation Detailhandel Nederland have stepped up efforts in recent months against travelling gangs, while prosecutors have asked courts to impose stronger penalties. 'It is easy to grab a big haul in a relatively small area and flee quickly afterwards,' said Wuyckhuyse. There are traffic intersections everywhere. For travelling criminals it's definitely a result. They roam all over the country, with far-reaching consequences.' Self-scan checkouts in supermarkets are another weak spot because shops do not carry out sufficient checks. Cheese, cosmetics, alcohol and chocolate are among the most popular items to steal at automatic terminals. Police spokesman Ed Kraszewski told the newspaper that criminal gangs travelling from abroad had become a major problem. 'The damage these so-called mobile bandits cause is considerable, both economically and emotionally,' he said. It's good that these criminals will receive immediate custodial sentences in future, and if they're caught a second time there's a high chance that they'll go to jail for six months.' He added 'Unfortunately not all retailers report offences because it takes up so much time. But an official complaint is essential to prosecute offenders.'  More >

Mitch Henriquez death: policeman cleared

Statue of justice. Appeal court judges have upheld the six-month suspended sentences against one of the two police officers who were held responsible for the death of Aruban national Mitch Henriquez, but cleared the other of all charges. The 42-year-old died a day after being pinned to the ground by five officers as he left a concert at the Zuiderpark in The Hague in July 2015. The city's district court ruled in December 2017 that the choke hold used during his arrest was likely to have contributed to his death and found the two officers guilty of assault. The appeal court has now cleared one of the two officers but said the violence used by one officer was 'out of all proportion'. In particular, the choke hold used to subdue Henriquez was 'an unmissable link' in his death, the court said. The original trial found that the prolonged use of the choke hold by one of the officers and the use of pepper spray by the other as he punched Henriquez in the face were unlawful. Officers said they had reacted to a claim by Henriquez that he was carrying a gun. All five officers involved in the arrest were internally disciplined by the police but none has been dismissed. Video footage of the scene showed the 42-year-old being restrained using a choke hold before his motionless body was bundled into a police van. His death triggered several nights of rioting in The Hague’s Schilderswijk district, where there has been a history of tension between the police and the large minority ethnic population.  More >

Ketamine seizures hit 800 kilos in 2018

The amount of the drug ketamine found by Dutch customs officers has soared from 2.6 kilos in 2016 to 800 kilos last year, broadcaster NOS said on Friday. Ketamine, developed for pain relief and sedation, is increasingly popular as a party drug. Because it is still used in hospitals, it does not fall under the opium laws and, one trader told NOS, is seen as a relatively safe drug to traffic. 'It comes into the country via Rotterdam and Antwerp ports but is not only destined for the Dutch market,' the source said. 'Like with other drugs, we are an important transit country.' Earlier this year, the Trimbos institute said ketamine is becoming increasingly popular under clubbers in the Netherlands. Although just 1.1% adults say they have used ketamine at some point in their lives, 17.3% of clubbers say they have done so, and 12.3% said they had used it at least once in the previous year, the research showed. In 2009, ketamine was involved in almost 3% of drugs cases referred for medical help, but that had risen to over 8% by 2017, the institute said.  More >

10 arrested after cocaine found in flowers

Ten people who work or worked for a logistics company which does business via Amsterdam's Schiphol airport have been arrested on drugs smuggling charges. The arrests follow the discovery of 27 kilos of cocaine hidden in cut flowers in January. The investigation also led to the seizure of 160 kilos of cocaine hidden in flowers at Maastricht airport several weeks later. The suspects are aged between 30 and 40 and were arrested at the airport, in Amsterdam and Almere. Eight of the 10, who include Dutch, Polish, Azerbaijani and Latvian nationals, remain in custody. The logistics company is located close to Schiphol but the military police who are investing the smuggling efforts have declined to give further details.  More >

Police face forensic staff shortages

The 'chronic shortage' of police forensic staff is hampering investigations and the problem is only likely to worse in the future, according to police union NPB. The union has now written to justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus expressing its concerns about the severe shortage of forensic staff and calling on the government to take action. The national police’s forensics department has a current workforce of 1,500 but needs about three times that number, the union said. Budget cuts and the ageing police population are among the reasons for the shortfall which is only likely to get worse in the future. Some 40% of staff are currently over the age of 55. The ‘chronic shortage of manpower in forensics’, is putting excessive strain on the staff, union chief Jan Struijs said in the letter. The average waiting time for DNA tests is currently 60 days, and crime scenes are not being examined completely. ‘The number of requests for forensic investigations has increased enormously, and the government’s response to this has been inadequate,' Struijs said. The workload and the stress of having to deal with human suffering on a day-to-day basis are taking its toll on the staff, with absenteeism averaging 9% in the last five years. The union is urging the minister to ‘recognise the severity of the situation’, and to ‘come up with an integral plan to improve working conditions.'  More >