October 1944. In London, the Dutch government-in-exile promulgates the Decree on Enemy Property. With this Decree, all Germans, Italians and Japanese – citizens of the so-called Axis-powers – are declared to be enemy citizens. Tens of thousands of in particular German nationals who have held residence in the Kingdom of the Netherlands for decades are suddenly enemies, because of their citizenship. Soon after the German capitulation in May 1945 they are stripped of their assets, regardless of place of residence or political allegiance and without any Dutch compensation. They are no longer allowed a work or residence permit. Some are arrested, imprisoned and even deported. Others leave at their own initiative.
Who were these German enemy citizens? What did it imply to be German, to have German citizenship, in the chaotic post-war time of conflict and transition? What faith awaited German Jews, who had fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s but were treated like Germans and thus enemies by the Dutch government? What status did people have, who had been part of Dutch society before WWII but were now suddenly enemies? Those questions are central in my PhD research. Main source is the archive of the Dutch Custody Institute (NBI). Authorized to detect, manage and liquidate confiscated enemy property, this institute dealt with tens of thousands of cases of enemy citizens. The files of people requesting de-enemisation have been preserved, and are a valuable source of information to learn more about the turbulent postwar period.