Dissertation Award for historian Marieke Oprel

Historian Marieke Oprel receives a dissertation prize from the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation for her thesis 'The Burden of Nationality. Dutch citizenship policies towards German nationals in the aftermath of the Second World War (1944-1967)'. The prize is awarded each year to young researchers in the humanities and social sciences who have written a dissertation of particularly high quality.

The Praemium Erasmianum Foundation was established in 1958 by HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. The aim of the organisation is to strengthen the position of the humanities, social sciences, and the arts. The foundation annually awards dissertation prizes for outstanding dissertations in the humanities and social sciences. Oprel receives a sum of 3,000 euros and a certificate.

The Burden of Nationality

Marieke Oprel defended her dissertation on 24 June 2020 at VU University Amsterdam. With her research, she adds a previously underexposed chapter to the history of the Second World War in the Netherlands. In late 1944, when the south of the Netherlands had already been partially liberated, the Dutch government issued the Enemy Assets Decree from London. This meant that all Germans in the Dutch Kingdom were collectively declared enemy subjects. Immediately after liberation, the government confiscated all their possessions, regardless of their political affiliation or behaviour during the war. Men, women, children, maids, German Jews who had to flee home, nuns, orphans: anyone with a German passport was automatically an enemy subject after Royal Decree E-133.

Tens of thousands of Germans were affected by the decree. To regain possession, a request for 'de-enemization' had to be submitted. The 'enemy subjects' were judged on their wartime and post-war behaviour and had to prove that they had behaved as 'good Dutch citizens'. What that meant exactly was not always clear or objective.

Damage

Many German Dutchmen appealed in the hope of clearing their names and getting their fortunes back. More than 20,000 'de-enemization' appeals, kept in the National Archives in The Hague, provide insight into the long, uncertain times for Germans. The files raise questions about how quick, strict, and how just Dutch post-war policy towards Germans was. The confiscation of German assets yielded a considerable sum for the Dutch treasury but caused both material and immaterial damage to Germans who had become intertwined with Dutch society, Oprel's research shows.

Based on her dissertation, Oprel also wrote a book for the general public, in which Oprel describes the situation of eighteen families who were declared enemy subjects after the war. The book (in Dutch) was published in September 2021.

Contact information