Post-war reconstruction

The railway strike came to an end when the German troops capitulated, on 5 may 1945. In the last few months before the liberation, the Germans had severely damaged the railways in the Netherlands. They had destroyed whole sections, removed equipment and taken it to Germany, blown up bridges and caused havoc in offices and workshops. Even so, the railway strikers proudly emerged from the war with a new goal on the horizon: restoring the railways and reconstructing the Netherlands. In that context, Hupkes, Van Rijckevorsel and Giesberger felt that any contribution by former President Goudriaan, who had been dismissed in 1941, but was temporarily restored in his function after the liberation of the south of the Netherlands, would be out of place. They even threatened to call another strike if Goudriaan were to be restored to his former position. Given the lack of support for Goudriaan, he was granted honourable discharge in June 1945 and succeeded by Hupkes. The new NS President faced some considerable challenges, as only 1000 kilometres of railway tracks (out of a total of 4500 kilometres) could still be used after the war. Thanks to an enormous effort, however, by September of the same year 3100 kilometres were available. One top priority was to restore the connection between the north and the south of the Netherlands so as to resume coal and food transports.

The liberation of the southern part of the Netherlands

While the occupation in the north of the country continued, the first villages in the southern province of Limburg were liberated on 12 September 1944, soon to be followed by several other parts of the south. Former NS President Jan Goudriaan, who had been dismissed by the Germans in 1941, had found accommodation in Eindhoven in early September 1944 and witnessed that city's liberation on 18 September. He then asked the Dutch government, still exiled in London, to be restored to his position as NS President in the liberated southern part of the country. Minister Alberda honoured that request by a decision dated 31 October. With considerable and creative effort and in cooperation with the Belgian railways and the Military Authority, Goudriaan managed to get NS back on its feet again in the liberated parts of the country by restoring bridges, railway lines, rolling stock and equipment.


When the German army surrendered, on 4 May 1945, the railway strike also came to an end - to the immense relief of all NS employees. For nearly eight months, many of them had been in hiding and had only ventured into the streets with forged identity papers. The first trains were soon running again after Deputy President Hupkes, in an official instruction, had ordered people to get back to work. However, NS also found time to celebrate the liberation, with many employees taking part in the countless parades and parties.

War damage

The NS Annual Report from 1945 lists the damage to railways, NS buildings and rolling stock caused by the Germans. As many as 72 railway stations, 25 goods sheds, 63 signal houses, 14 locomotive sheds, 14 workshops and 76 guard posts had been severely damaged. One hundred and sixty-one steam engines were still missing and most passenger carriages were not longer fit for use. On most railway sections the overhead wires had been destroyed, and the electric trains had either been requisitioned by the Germans or damaged. Most railway bridges were likewise impassable. According to an NS estimate, the damage totalled 522.5 million guilders.

Victims among NS employees

In total, 477 railway employees died during the Second World War. These included the Jewish employees dismissed in November 1940 and murdered later in concentration and extermination camps. NS employees were also killed during air raids and in sabotage actions on the railways. Political opponents of the Nazis were executed or died in concentration camps. NS commemorated the members of its staff who had died by publishing their names and portraits, where available, in railway magazine Spoor- en Tramwegen. In 1948, NS put up plaques with victims' names at 110 railway stations, workshops and administrative buildings. In memory of all railway employees who had fallen during the war, NS unveiled a work by Groningen sculptor Willem Valk just outside its head office, Main Administration Building III, on 17 September 1949.


There was a general sense after the war that the country should be purged from people who had collaborated with the Germans rather too closely. Despite not having been purged itself, the NS management board received permission from the government to organise efforts to rid the company of collaborators and installed special committees to that effect in several cities. In all, NS employees submitted 7290 complaints against colleagues who had conspired with the Germans, had been NSB members or had not joined the railway strike. Punishments ranged from cash penalties and wage deductions to transfer or dismissal. The former resistance movement criticised the way NS organised the purges. Following a complaint by former President Goudriaan and others, the NS management board itself was called to account over its wartime policy. The objections were declared unfounded, however.


After the liberation, NS tried to get the German, Allied or Dutch steam engines and carriages back on the rails as soon as possible, and also deployed goods carriages and lorries. In a tremendous effort, the railway bridges across the major rivers were restored. In his weekly radio talk, ‘De spoorwegen spreken’, Chief Inspector and Head of Scheduling Operations Dr P.Th. Posthumus Meyjes presented an overview of activities at NS. The Marshall Plan, the American system of financial aid to support the reconstruction effort in Europe, enabled NS to buy new locomotives.

NS historiography

Shortly after the war there was a great sense of pride at NS for the bravery shown by its employees during the railway strike. However, in the wake of the parliamentary inquiry into Dutch government policy during the war, which was held in 1953, NS became the subject of increasing criticism. The interviews revealed that the former NS management board and Staff Council had not been particularly concerned about the fate of the deported Jews. Findings from an extensive study by professor A.J.C. Rüter in 1960, moreover, showed that the railway strike had been far less effective, from a military perspective, than had previously been assumed. Over time, the critics of NS zoomed in on a single question: why had the NS management board offered resistance to the German occupiers to protect its own employees, but failed to take any action to protect deported Jewish citizens? NS itself struggled with this question for a long time. Indeed, it was not until 2005 that the then President Aad Veenman apologised to the Jewish community for the suffering caused by the deportations. In 2018, NS eventually agreed to a plan developed on the initiative of Holocaust survivor Salo Muller for compensation payments to the Jews, Roma and Sinti who had been deported to concentration camps, and their next of kin.