Crime in wartime

1 September 2020 until 1 August 2023
Project member(s)
Dr J.J. Zurné (Jan Julia)
Project type

During the Second World War, crime rates all over occupied Europe were on the rise. People who normally led ‘respectable’ lives now broke the law in various ways, ranging from black market dealing and prostitution to illegal activities in the context of resistance to the occupying regime. Particularly theft and other crimes against property proved to be boosted by the war circumstances. This created new opportunities and necessities for crime and changed how people thought about breaking the law.

In the research project Crime in wartime, a collaboration between archival institutions and researchers, we examine how moral codes of conduct and tolerance towards criminal behavior (particularly theft and other crimes against property) in the Netherlands changed as a result of the German occupation in 1940-1945. The basic assumption of this project is that war had a disrupting impact on institutional and public perceptions of crime: judicial practitioners and individuals involved in crime perceived and framed crimes differently in wartime and, presumably, in the immediate post-war period too. The main research questions in this project are: How did citizens and legal practitioners reflect on crime, culpability and mitigating and aggravating circumstances in the context of war? And what does this tell us about the rule of law and how it was perceived in occupied Western Europe?

Read more about the project on the website of Brabants Historisch Informatiecentrum:

Read more

On this website you will find interesting stories (in Dutch) we encountered during the research and updates about the project:



Ministerie van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport, Mondriaan Fonds


Brabants Historisch Informatiecentrum (BHIC), Noord-Hollands Archief

Contact information