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21 January 2023

The Project

Subproject 1: Calculated choices

Burgemeester B.W.Th. van Slobbe (Breda, 1937). Source: Fotopersbureau Het Zuiden, Stadsarchief Breda

In this subproject, we examine the local political dynamics and ask ourselves what explains part and position of local political actors. In his authoritative study on Dutch wartime mayors, Romijn concludes that compliance was paramount: Nazi-mayors complied to anti-Jewish orders out of ideological consent; others did so out of the wish to maintain the Dutch infrastructure of (local) governance (Romijn 2006). By focusing on the broader political constellation in local communities, over a longer span of time, Subproject 1 aims to challenge this image of dual compliance, hypothesizing instead that local political actors had a voice in choosing their position and alliances and, at moments, could ‘seize’ anti-Jewish policy to pursue their own political agendas and/or to influence local power relations in their favor.


Connection to historiography

For a long time, the academic study of the Holocaust in the Netherlands has been dictated by the high Jewish death toll in the country. The search for explanations has led scholars to a general (dis)appreciation of Dutch authorities. ‘In order to prevent worse’ senior officials made compromises and complied to the demands of higher authorities (De Haan 2008, 2010). There are some important studies on mayors (Romijn 2006; Wouters 2016), yet a systematic analysis of a wider circle of local political actors, in a continuum that includes prewar local politics, is still missing. How did the local political constellation, of mayors and other officials in any role, of old local dignitaries and Nazi-newcomers, evolve? To what extent were their alliances and cooperation at key-moments in the Holocaust strategic or instrumental?



Subproject 1 consists of research in four steps. The first is a thorough exploration of international literature (resulting in chapter 1 of the thesis, see planned deliverables). A larger body of local academic studies of the Holocaust is investigated through the conceptual lens of Kalyvas. This analysis will further develop the conceptual and comparative framework required for a theoretically grounded case selection of towns that will be studied more in detail.


Next, after the case selection, the subproject concentrates on empirical research of relevant bodies of source-material from national, provincial, and local archives, complemented by a study of memoirs and other ego-documents of local political actors. We investigate the ‘hidden’ narratives in vertical dynamics, i.e., the development of relationships between local political actors and central authorities in the Holocaust (step 2, resulting in chapter 2 of the thesis). Closely connected is the study of the horizontal dynamics, between political stakeholders within a town, and their effects (step 3, resulting in chapter 3).


The last step (step 4, resulting in chapter 4) is a systematic and comparative analysis and synthesis of the collected data to discern wider patterns concerning the part and position of political actors in the studied towns. In this analysis the conceptualization of Kalyvas – on the instrumentality of political alliances, and the agency of local political actors – will be tested more comprehensively.