Tracing Dutch WW2 victims

When researching more recent generations, it is not unlikely to get confronted with ancestors that did not survive WW2. Some may have died on duty as a soldier, others may have found a sad ending in one of the concentration camps. Sometimes ancestors seem to simply "disappear". To trace these ancestors can be hard, but the Dutch War Grave Foundation can sometimes shed some light on the case.

The Dutch War Grave Foundation
The organization was founded on September 13, 1946 by Dr. Van Anrooy. He was a physician and Lieutenant Colonel. He was the head of the Identification And Salvage Department of the Dutch Army. After a visit to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, he decided that the Netherlands had a need for a similar organization. He set about creating the Dutch War Grave Foundation with the help of the Dutch Royal Prince Bernard. Unfortunately he died in a car crash on December 24, 1946. However, his wife took over soon and made the organization to what it is today.

What They Do
So what does this foundation actually do? They trace all Dutch War casualties, make sure they get a proper grave and take care of the maintenance of those graves. Of the 180.000 known war victims, around 50.000 have an actual grave. The other 130.000 mostly perished in concentration camps and lack a physical grave. For the latter, the foundation keeps memorial books to make sure these people are remembered and honored as they should.

What You Can Find There
For the genealogist, the most interesting service of the War Grave Foundation is their online casualties database. To realize this project the foundation has traced over 180.000 names of Dutch war victims worldwide with the help of the Red Cross and the Dutch Ministry Of Foreign Affairs. These do not only include WW2 casualties but also those of later wars such as the independence war in Indonesia and more recent military actions in Afghanistan.

All data have been checked, whenever possible, with official vital records which makes this database a remarkable and reliable source for tracing ancestors that died during a war.

Many of the graves maintained by the Foundation are outside the Netherlands. If you happen to trace one of your ancestors to such a grave you might want to join one of the memorial trips the Foundation organizes regularly to visit the graves. In this fashion you can pay your respects yourself at the actual grave, if you like.

How To Use The Database
Although the interface is mainly Dutch, it is pretty straightforward:

  1. Go to
  2. In the left menu select "slachtofferregister" (war casualties database)
    You are now on the search page of the database. There are short instructions in English here on how to use the search fields.
  3. On the result page you will find personal data such as date and place of birth and death, sometimes an occupation or whether someone was part of the Dutch resistance, and of course the location of the grave or memorial site. For people without grave the volume of the memorial book in which their name was registered is shown.

Useful Vocabulary
Since the results are all in Dutch only, this small vocabulary may come in handy:

titel: title (only if of nobility)
achternaam: surname
voornamen: first names
voorletters: initials
geboortedatum: date of birth
geboorteplaats: place of birth
overlijdensdatum: date of death
overlijdensplaats: place of death
beroep: occupation
gedenkplaats: memorial
begraafplaats: cemetery
meer informatie: more information
straat: street
postcode: zip code
plaats: place / town
gemeente: municipality
provincie: province
land: country
gedenkboek: memorial book
vak: section
rij: row
nummer: number
erebegraafplaats: memorial cemetery
ereveld: memorial field
lid verzet: member resistance
verzetskruis: Dutch Cross of Resistance
rang: rank
mil. onderdeel: army division
lid N.B.S.: member Dutch Army
zeemansgraf: watery grave

To make sense of any army abbreviations you may find we suggest to read this Wikipedia page on the organization of the Dutch Army

Visiting Dutch War Graves
Should you come to the Netherlands to visit a grave of a war victim, you could consider visiting also one of the following excellent Dutch museums related to WW2:

National War And Resistance Museum
Dutch Resistance Museum
Jewish Historical Museum
Memorial Center Camp Westerbork
National Liberation Museum
Airborne Museum