Jewish refugee children in the Netherlands during WWII: migration, settlement and survival

Miriam Keesing, Peter Tammes, Andrew Simpkin

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This study focuses on Jewish refugee children who fled the Third Reich after the Kristallnacht in November 1938 either via the so-called Kindertransport [Children’s Transport] or by crossing the border illegally. Many parents, desperate after the Kristallnacht, sent their children abroad alone. About 1,800 arrived in the Netherlands. While for some the Netherlands was an intermediate stop, many stayed. We use a mixed-method approach with the aim of providing a better understanding of the survival rates of refugee children using information from several sources.The qualitative research provides illustrative individual experiences of child refugees and facilitates the formulation of hypotheses of settlement trajectories on risks of deportation and killed, which are then tested using a quantitative approach. Gathering information into a database allows us to estimate the risk associated with living situation and place in the Netherlands. Among 863 Kindertransport children staying in the Netherlands in July 1942, 74% were deported and of those deported 81% were killed. Differences in settlement trajectories resulted in different risks of deportation and death. Children living with family or relatives had a higher risk of being deported than those living with foster parents or in institutions. Children living with foster parents had a similar risk of deportation to those living in institutions. Changing household type did not alter risk of deportation, while moving places increased this risk. Children deported from foster parents’
households had an increased risk of death after deportation compared to those deported from institutions, indicating an enduring effect of household type.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages27
JournalSocial Science History
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2019


  • Holocaust
  • Kindertransport
  • refugee children
  • Netherlands
  • mixed-methods research
  • survival

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