Charlotte van den Berg was a 20-year-old college student working part-time in Amsterdam's city archives when she and other interns came across a shocking find: letters from Jewish Holocaust survivors complaining that the city was forcing them to pay back taxes and late payment fines on property seized after they were deported to Nazi death camps.
How, the survivors asked, could they be on the hook for taxes due while Hitler's regime was trying to exterminate them? A typical response was: "The base fees and the fines for late payment must be satisfied, regardless of whether a third party, legally empowered or not, has for some time held the title to the building."
An estimated 110,000 Dutch Jews died in the Holocaust, including teenage diarist Anne Frank.
"Another thing that happened, and this is almost too sad to relate, is that Jews got back from Auschwitz — and then got an invoice for the gas that had been used in their homes," Nafthaniel said.
Van den Berg notified city officials about the documents and received assurances they would be fully investigated. Now and then she checked in, only to learn that nothing had been done. In March 2013, Van der Berg heard that the documents were "one signature away" from being destroyed, as other documents from the era had been. She was told that didn't matter because they had been digitized, but she felt it was important to preserve the physical evidence.
In desperation, she turned her findings over to Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool in March 2013.
The publication caused an outcry, and the city quickly commissioned a more thorough study by the NIOD to examine the documents and place them in a wider context of the city's postwar treatment of Jews.