More than 50 million people died in the Second World War. European Jews suffered intense persecution, including mass killings, at the hands of Germany’s Nazis. The war ended 74 years ago. But Germany—as well as the people, countries, and businesses who helped the Nazis—is still trying to pay for the horrors of that war.
Reparations are ways people seek to make amends to people who have been wronged. Sometimes that involves paying money. Sometimes it means helping in other ways. The French government has doled out more than $6 billion in reparations to World War II survivors and families. The German government has paid over $89 billion in compensation for Nazi crimes.
The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany negotiates with the German government. The Claims Conference gives money to victims of the Holocaust. It organizes programs that recognize victim suffering. Now the Dutch railway company NS may begin paying for its role in transporting Jews during World War II.
During WWII, Nazis rounded up victims and transported them by NS trains to camps in the Netherlands. From there, Nazis put the captives on German trains headed for concentration camps. More than 100,000 Jews—70% of the Dutch Jewish community—didn’t survive.
NS officials admit the company’s WWII involvement “is a black page in the history of our country and our company.” Years ago, they apologized for NS’s role in the mass deportations.
Salo Muller’s parents rode an NS train to a camp in the Netherlands before being transported to Auschwitz. They died there.
Muller believes NS should do more than apologize. He is pushing for reparations. NS company spokesman Erik Kroeze says a commission is considering payments to Dutch Holocaust survivors and family members of Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis.
The company is not the first to confront its dark wartime history. French railway company SNCF expressed regret for its role in transporting Jews during World War II. SNCF acknowledges that its equipment and staff transported Jews to Germany. But it argues that it had no control during the Nazi occupation.
Muller is glad that NS may pay reparations. He says, “What this means for me is that the NS sees that the suffering is not over; that very many Jews are still suffering.”
Apologies can be hard. Forgiveness can be even more difficult. True forgiveness comes not because someone evened the score. It comes when one accepts the injury—and then releases the other party from obligation.
By Jesus’s death on the cross, forgiveness can be complete. The believer’s debt to God is paid by Jesus. “With His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)