War in Arcadia: Dutch country houses and estates in World War II

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


In 2021, the heritage organisation Gelders Genootschap and the Dutch Castle Foundation started a new research project on Dutch country houses in WWII: War in Arcadia. The country houses and picturesque landscapes created by noblemen, regents and other country house owners, were often viewed as Arcadia, as Paradise on earth. But from May 1940 to the liberation in 1945 this Arcadia was the background of the Second World War. For the Netherlands at least, little is known about the impact for country houses and their owners. In what way were ‘arcadian’ landscapes and country houses affected by the war? Were country houses confiscated, and to what purposes? Due to our research we now know that over 400 Dutch country houses were confiscated by German troops for both military and civil purposes, including country houses of Jewish families. Castles and country houses proved to be of great interest, as it concerned large buildings in wide landscapes, with good infrastructure and valuable resources. Many country houses and estates were plundered and completely destroyed, others were left scarred with bunkers, trenches and military installations. In relation to the theme of Jewish country houses: having researched over 1200 Dutch castles and country estates in the Netherlands we have come across only about a dozen Jewish country estates. For instance, Nijenrode castle and Oostermeer estate, both owned by Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker. After the family fled the country, all came into possession of the German occupier. We have also studied country estates that were used by the German occupier for Jewish work camps. In this paper I would like to address the importance of researching the history of ‘war in arcadia’ and discuss the challenges that come with remembering and preserving war-related heritage. What do these stories mean for us now? Do we actually tell the stories to country house visitors? How do we deal with managing the tangible war heritage at country houses, such as the SS sportshall at Avegoor
estate built by Jewish prisoners?
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2023
EventJewish Country Houses and the Holocaust in History and Memory
Brno, Czech Republic
- Brno, Czech Republic
Duration: 10 May 202312 May 2023


ConferenceJewish Country Houses and the Holocaust in History and Memory
Brno, Czech Republic
Abbreviated titleJewish Country Houses
Country/TerritoryCzech Republic
Internet address


  • country houses
  • Jewish history
  • Landscape history
  • Historical geography
  • WWII
  • Netherlands


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