An estimated 25.000 Dutch Jews tried to escape deportation by going into hiding. In all cases, the decision to go into hiding was a difficult one. The SD, a branch of the SS, and Dutch collaborators were permanently on the lookout for Jews. ‘Hiding’ meant becoming invisible.
To go into hiding cost a great deal of money. Suitable hiding places were few and far between, as were people who were willing and able to fully provide for those in hiding. Transport was another problem; there were very few cars and travel on public transport was virtually impossible because of severe restrictions frequent spot-checks.
Some parents entrusted their children to those who organised hiding places, but the parents then lived a life of permanent anguish. Sometimes they took their children back, sometimes to be deported with them. Of all the Jews in our country in the Second World War, about 60% survived. Of those in hiding, no exact numbers are known.
Jews in hiding were generally helped by non-Jewish Dutch people. Organisations like the Landelijke Organisatie voor Hulp aan Onderduikers (National Organisation for Help for those in Hiding) and students from the Utrechts Kinderencomité (Utrecht Children’s Committee) helped Jewish adults and children to disappear from public life. This was extremely risky. It was not only nerve-wracking work, there was also the permanent risk of the death penalty for those discovered providing help. There were impressive feats of courage and humanity. For example, with the consent of their parents, more than 600 children were taken from a nursery across the road from the Hollandsche Schouwburg (Dutch Theatre) in Amsterdam. Many tricks were used to get the children out safely. A German guard had been put in charge of counting the children, but he was continually mislead. Under normal circumstances the guard would be stationed next to the Hollandsche Schouwburg, on the other side of the road from the nursery. Between them was a tram-line. Under cover of an oncoming tram, one of the helpers, with a child on his arm, would run alongside and board the tram at the next stop. This was almost always witnessed by the passengers.
The children who escaped from the nursery on Plantage Middenlaan were sent to addresses across the Netherlands. Some settled in Limburg and Friesland where they often went to school and came through the war unscathed.
Several thousand Jews who were in hiding during World War Two were betrayed. Sometimes the reason was anti-Semitism and sometimes it was because of a quarrel. Jews and resistance fighters who were arrested were often beaten into confessing where Jews were hiding.
From 1943, members of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) could claim a bounty for every Jew that was arrested. In the larger cities this was also extended to some police departments. In Amsterdam the Colonne Henneicke (a group of Dutch bounty-hunters) arrested more than 8.000 Jews. For every Jew arrested, members could claim at least 7.50 Guilders in bonuses. In autumn 1944, this was raised to 40 guilders per Jew. Members of the Colonne Henneicke were not involved in the violence during arrests and interrogation.