Looking for someone in the Central Archives for Special Criminal Jurisdiction
After World War II, hundreds of thousands of Dutch citizens were tried under the provisions of special criminal jurisdiction. They were accused of collaborating with the occupying German forces, treason or membership of the National Socialist Movement (NSB). The Central Archives for Special Criminal Jurisdiction (CABR) have a file on all these people. These large archives, four kilometres in length, are stored at the Nationaal Archief.
The CABR files have been open to the public since 2002. In the interests of privacy, the Nationaal Archief exercises discretion in all cases concerning individuals who are still alive. This mainly applies to those individuals for whom a file is present. But nearly every file also mentions the names of other people who may still be alive, such as relatives, neighbours, witnesses, victims and fellow villagers. We do our best to protect the privacy of these individuals as well.
How do I proceed?
To access the Central Archives for Special Criminal Jurisdiction you must submit a written request. This should be sent either by post to:
PO Box 90520
2509 LM The Hague
or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. In your letter please state:
- The surname of the person (or people) you want to research, and all first names in full.
- His or her birthplace and date of birth.
- If known: the person's place of residence during the war.
- Written proof of death if the person was born less than one hundred years ago.
- Your relationship to the person.
- Your reason for wanting access. This is not necessary for direct relatives: parent or grandparent, brother or sister.
- Your own personal details.
If you have other information that you think is important, such as the person's profession, you can mention this in your letter as well. This also goes for anything else that you may want to mention. If you do not mind being contacted by telephone about your request, please also give your telephone number.
If you are requesting access to your own file, you must also include a copy of a valid passport.
If you want to consult a CABR file for academic research purposes, your request must also include a research proposal stating the purpose of the research, the research question and the research methods. You must demonstrate in the proposal that it is necessary to include the requested personal details in your research. Please also indicate how you intend to use these personal details. The privacy of individuals who are still alive must come first.
How your request will be dealt with
You will first receive an acknowledgement. Within the next six weeks we will write to you to tell you whether or not there are any files under this person's name, and if so, which files they are. These files relate to the CABR, but may also have connections to other war-related archives. You can find an overview of these archives here.
Once you receive this letter you can make an appointment to come and view the files in the reading room of the Nationaal Archief. Until autumn 2013, it is not possible to bring someone else along with you, because of limited space due to the renovation of the reading room. Requests for gaining preliminary access are free of charge.
Unlike the regular records, you can only consult the Special Criminal Jurisdiction files if you have made an appointment. As a rule, appointments can be made on Mondays, from 10:00 to 17:00. You will make the appointment with the Public Services Secretariat, via tel. +31(0)70-3315411. On arrival you must register as a reading room visitor, for which you will need a valid passport. The registration desk is in the lobby, near the entrance to the reading room. Coats and bags are not permitted in the reading room. Please leave them in the cloakroom where there are lockers for your belongings.
What is in a CABR file?
Click on What is in a CABR file? to get an impression of what you might find in a CABR file.
If you want to know more about the CABR or other war-related archives, then the following publications (in Dutch) may be of help:
- Bijzonder Gewoon: Het Centraal Archief Bijzondere Rechtspleging (1944-2010) en de 'lichte gevallen', Sjoerd Faber & Gretha Donker. The Hague/Zwolle, 2010. Price €22.50
- De Oorlogsgids: met antwoorden op de 25 meest gestelde vragen over de oorlogsarchieven van het Nationaal Archief, ed. Jan H. Kompagnie. Meppel, 2005. Price €7.50
On internet you can consult the Wayfinder for the Archives of the Second World War (in Dutch) at www.archievenwo2.nl. This site includes the archives and collections held by Dutch records offices that are related to National Socialism and World War II, in relation to the Netherlands, Dutch East India, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles.
Other war-related archives:
- Nederlandse Beheersinstituut (Netherlands Custodian Office or NBI)
responsible for managing the property of political offenders, for example.
- Raad voor het Rechtsherstel (Council for the Restoration of Rights)
responsible for processing political offenders’ objections to custodial decisions of the Netherlands Custodian Office.
- Stichting Toezicht Politieke Delinquenten (Foundation for Monitoring of Political Offenders)
responsible for the rehabilitation of released political offenders. They also monitored compliance with conditions associated with conditional discontinuation of criminal proceedings, suspended sentences and release on parole.
- The Ministry of Justice's Bureau Bijzondere Jeugdzorg (Office for Special Youth Care). Provinciale Inspectie en Tehuizen voor de Bijzondere Jeugdzorg (Provincial Inspectorate and Housing for Special Youth Care) in South Holland
These institutions were responsible for the care and support of children whose parents had been interned. Young political offenders were also put under their care. The Inspectorate and Housing archives of the other provinces are held by the (state) records offices in the respective provincial capitals. Regrettably, archives in this category are not very well preserved.
- Zuiveringsarchieven (‘cleansing’ archives)
These relate to civil servants, the police, employees of the Dutch Labour Service, the press, artists, the business community, radio and broadcasting employees.
- Netherlands War Crimes Commission (NWCC)
responsible for the investigation of war criminals (non-Dutch citizens).
- Bureau Opsporing Oorlogsmisdadigers (Bureau for the Apprehension of War Criminals or BOOM)
the operational authority of the Netherlands War Crimes Commission.
Responsibilities included investigating war criminals (non-Dutch citizens).
- Bureau Nationale Veiligheid (National Security Bureau)
responsibilities included identifying, investigating, arresting and interrogating individuals belonging to the German espionage and sabotage organisations such as the Abwehr, Gestapo and Sicherheitsdienst.
As standard procedure for all CABR requests, members of staff at the Nationaal Archief will also search the archives of the Netherlands Custodian Office and the Foundation for Monitoring Political Offenders. If necessary they will also include other war archives in their search. In this case, the members of staff at the Nationaal Archief will also give you the relevant catalogue references for these archives.
What is in a CABR file?
After World War II, political offenders in the Netherlands were investigated, arrested, locked up, put on trial and prosecuted. This took place mainly thanks to new rules and with the help of specially formed authorities. The paperwork generated by such legislation is stored in the Central Archives for Special Criminal Jurisdiction (CABR). The CABR today contains more than half a million files on individuals and companies. The total number of defendants at the time is not really known. Estimates vary from a minimum of 310,000 to a maximum of 525,000. The files are divided into four groups:
- Investigative files, created by local/regional police departments whose task it was to investigate and apprehend political suspects.
Politieke Opsporings Diensten (Political Investigation Services): POD files
Politieke Recherche Afdelingen (Political Investigation Departments): PRA files (from 1 March 1946)
Politieke Recherche Afdelingen Collaboratie (Political Investigation Department of Collaboration with the Enemy): PRAC files (for economic offences)
- Files of the Public Prosecutor, generated by the special prosecutor (Procureur-Fiscaal) at the special criminal courts: PF files
The special prosecutor served as Public Prosecutor; he was in charge of the investigations and brought cases to court. He also coordinated any cases dealt with by tribunals.
- Adjudication files, generated by the tribunals responsible for the disciplinary punishment of Dutch citizens who had behaved in an unpatriotic manner. Examples of such behaviour were NSB membership, 'intimate association' with German soldiers, etc. From 1947 onwards, the tribunals also heard minor offences.
- Adjudication files, generated by the special criminal courts and the Special Court of Cassation responsible for the criminal prosecution of war crimes. This included aiding and abetting the enemy, enlisting in enemy forces, treason, murder, assault, etc. The Special Court of Cassation could reverse the sentences handed down by the special criminal courts and impose their own punishments. It was also possible for a case to be referred back to another criminal court (or the same one in later years).
Why do some political offenders have just one CABR file, while others have two or more?
First of all a PRA file was generated. In some cases the matter ended there, since no further investigation was deemed necessary (geen nader onderzoek or GNO). But usually a PRA file was passed on to the special prosecutor. Sometimes a 'shadow file' remained in the Political Investigation Department. Despite its name, such a file could still contain unique (personal) records. If the case was heard in court, the PF file was passed on to the judge; sometimes a shadow file was left behind with the special prosecutor, sometimes it wasn't.
In later years, different files concerning a single individual were sometimes combined to form a single consolidated file. Sporadic combining of files also took place in the early stages of adaptations to the archives in the 1990s.
Does every suspect have an adjudication file?
Only a minority of the suspects, approximately 64,000, were tried by a tribunal or a special criminal court. For the remaining - minor - offences the case was settled by the special prosecutor, who had been given the authority to issue:
- Conditional discontinuation of criminal proceedings (out-of-court punishment). This was applied close to 90,000 times. Possible conditions: family supervision order, requirement to report to the police, handing over money or property, loss of right to vote, compulsory labour, etc.
- Unconditional discontinuation of criminal proceedings (Onvoorwaardelijke buitenvervolgingstelling or OBS) due to minor offence; due to lack of evidence; due to lack of grounds for suspicion;
- Sometimes the charges were simply dismissed.
What does a suspect's CABR file contain?
- Documents from the archives of Dutch authorities during the time of German occupation. At that time, the archives of National Socialist authorities in particular were searched for evidence regarding suspects.
- Correspondence between investigative authorities.
- Letters in which someone reports someone else to the authorities.
- Police report of the suspect's arrest.
- Police reports of suspect and witness interviews.
- Letters for the defence: letters written by family, friends and neighbours in an attempt to have the suspect released.
- Personal documents in the suspect's possession. You may find letters, diaries, journal entries, photographs, proof of membership of NSB organisations etc. At the time these were seized upon arrest for use as evidence.
- Decision of the special prosecutor with respect to conditional/unconditional discontinuation of criminal proceedings.
- Legal documents: rulings and sentences, summonses, minutes of court sessions.