The Peace Palace and the Second World War (part II)


This article will provide information on events in the surrounding area of the Peace Palace during the Second World War. A number of sources have been consulted to write this article. This is very much appreciated. Special thank you to Jacobine Wieringa for all aid and assistance.

People in hiding, Refugees and Victims

The so-called Arian-declaration was a point of discussion among the board of directors of the Peace Palace. According to the board, two members of the staff risked being labelled Jewish. This was dangerous, therefore, it was decided to obstruct as much as possible and not to provide them with assistance. One of the two was the reading room assistant Ada Belinfante. Aside from her work for the Dutch government, Ada also collected books to enlarge the collection of the Peace Palace Library. Together with her brother Wim[3], she fled to England in May 1940. The identity of the second allegedly Jewish staff member remains unknown.

Another person at the Peace Palace who was at risk due to his Jewish heritage was Ernst van Raalte[4], in the spring of 1940 attached to the PCIJ as press attaché (probably an attempt to include him in the movement of the PCIJ to Switzerland) for whom Mr. Eysinga tried to arrange a trip to the United States through PCIJ Judge Manley O. Hudson[5]. Unfortunately, the attempt failed but luckily he survived the war in hiding.[6]

Among the staff members of the Carnegie Foundation there was a victim to be mourned; the 2nd conservator and librarian Theodor Max Chotzen. Called up for military service and having fought at the battle of the Grebbe-Line, this outstanding academic remained involved with the resistance during the war. In January 1945, Theodor and his family were arrested  and incarcerated in the notorious prison at Scheveningen. Theodor was tortured in “Hotel Orange” and his wife and daughter were also maltreated. On 20 February, Theodor’s wife and daughter were released but on the 27 February, the body of Theodor Max Chotzen was deposited at the Municipal Disinfection Bureau[7]. Theodor’s wife and daughter got the body. The Carnegie Foundation donated an allowance to augment the pension of this unfortunate widow. [8] [9]

Executive architect for the construction of the Peace Palace, J.A.G. van der Steur died in 1945 at Steenwijk “ ….after he had to endure the violence of war up close, on the 7th of February at Steenwijk, as the result of a fatal accident, unexpectedly passed away.”[10]

Another sad story was that of ex-employee Elsa Rachel Oppenheim. In 1916 she entered the service of the Peace Palace where she published an important catalogue of the collection in collaboration with Ph.J. Molhuysen, whom she married in 1920. Divorced in 1923, and from 1924 onwards working for the Leiden University Library, she was fired in November 1940 due to her Jewish background. Left without a means to make a living and under increasing threat from the occupation forces, she committed suicide on the 8 April 1941 in Leiden. She is buried in the Jewish cemetery of The Hague, close to the Peace Palace.[11]

Article by C. van Tol


Picture Theodor Max Chotzen in Uniform. Photographer unknown

[3] Joods Biografisch Woordenboek

[4] Parlement & Politiek – Ernst van Raalte

[5] Eysinga, Gestion des Affaires, I, pp. 15 en 16

[6] Nationaal Archief – Ernst van Raalte

[7] Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Stichting Oranjehotel: Doodenboeken, nummer toegang 2.19.136, inventarisnummer 174 Scan Nationaal Archief

[8] Dossier Chotzen. Archives Carnegie Foundation

[9] Een keltoloog, taalkundige en pacifist onder de wapenen en in het verzet.

[10] Verslag betreffende de bibliotheek van het Vredespaleis over het kalenderjaar 1945.

[11] Een zwarte bladzijde uit de geschiedenis van de UB Leiden