Complicated Legacies of Justice: The Netherlands and World War II

Chrisje Brants

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After the Second World War, a process of what we now call transitional justice was initiated in The Netherlands to deal with crimes committed during the German occupation. ‘Extraordinary justice’ (bijzondere rechtspleging) as it was called, had criminal, administrative and disciplinary courts and tribunals with special jurisdiction over collaboration, treason and their consequences. It was based on the assumption that the good could be clearly separated from the bad, and aimed at ridding the country of all who had made the ‘wrong choice’. This right–wrong dichotomy persisted for many decades and is even present in public discourse in The Netherlands today. Concomitantly, it has been very difficult to publicly debate sensitive issues such as the permanent shunning of collaborators, the virtual destruction of Dutch Jewry, the cold reception of the few Jewish survivors and the bystander-role of the Dutch population during the deportations. This contribution asks how, in the socio-political context of the time, extraordinary justice coloured perceptions of events, allowing some to flourish and creating a great silence and social division around others. How did those perceptions change, and with them, the nature of public debate? With the benefit of hindsight, the legacy of extraordinary justice may help us understand more about the significance — and limits — of criminal law in processes of transition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-781
JournalJournal of International Criminal Justice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015


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