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Thread: DNA used in Dutch MIA research

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    Default DNA used in Dutch MIA research

    Gentlemen,

    In The Netherlands there has recently been an update on the law controlling processes concerning the dead (Wet op de lijkbezorging). This update enables DNA samples to be taken from unknown casualties of WW2, as these are found. A work group "WW2 Missing Persons" has been instituted, consisting of the Dutch Red Cross, the Police, and the BID, the Salvage & Identification Service of the Dutch Army. Family members of WW2 casualties who are missing, are requested to submit DNA reference material. A database is being build, containing that infomation. It is expected that this database shall increase very rapidly in size, so that it shall become a useful tool for MIA research.

    We can assume that this is a result of the following factors:
    1. The succes of DNA technology in criminal investigations.
    2. The increasing convenience of the technology and the decreasing costs of it.
    3. The Dutch Lawgiver has recognized that MIA research is desirable, as the proper way to bring closure to the families of the missing.

    The Work Group estimates that about 500 Dutchmen are still missing as casualties of WW2. I do not know how that number was estimated, and believe that this is a serious underestimation. Perhaps the number is based on an estimation about the number of Dutch WW2 casualties that are still MIA on the soil of The Netherlands only.

    A large sample I took (over 1.900 names) from the records of the Oorlogsgravenstichting, the Dutch CWGC, reveals that at least 4% of the WW2 casualties is not registered, meaning in fact missing. 4% of 180.000 registered casualties amounts to 7.200. This could even be substantially more, as an unknown number of casualties from the "Arbeitseinsatz" in Germany, possibly as many as 20.000, are not included. 90 of the Dutch RAF aviators are still MIA. On a total of about 900 Dutchmen who performed flying jobs in the RAF that's about 10%. So the number of MIA's mentioned as 500 is most likely to be far too low. Nevertheless, it seems that new winds are starting to blow, with new tools and a new awareness, leading to new chances for identification of bodies of unknown casualties, and therefore of missing persons.

    Surely this message can be seen as of little significance in British eyes. The UK has lost not 500 or 10.000, but hundreds of thousands of men in two World Wars. I did not bother to look up the official estimation of the number of UK MIA's, as the point is clear enough. Nevertheless, new winds are blowing right across The Channel, and the costs of the technology involved are rapidly going down.

    Sources: Dutch Red Cross & Nederlands Forensisch Instituut, correspondence with OGS

    Rob

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    Dear Rob,

    Many thanks for posting this important piece of information. Heel interessant!

    As someone who knows nothing about the subject, I get the impression from what you say that this legal development will apply only to Dutchmen MIA and not to other nationals MIA in Holland. Is this correct?

    And am I correct in concluding that Dutchmen MIA in other countries would also be included?

    Finally, you say that family members of missing WW2 casualties (I presume only service personnel) are requested to submit DNA reference material. What would be a typical example of such material?

    Regards,

    Hans

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    Thanks, Hans, excellent questions. I hope to be able to answer in more detail and with more certainty soon. Meanwhile, these are the preliminary answers:

    1. The Dutch have another official service that is engaged with missing persons: the Bureau Vermiste Personen Noordzee. This is a recently instituted subsection of the Korps Landelijke Politie Diensten. As this office is focussed on bodies of unknowns that washed ashore in The Netherlands, and as the sea makes no distinction to nationalities of victims, the office scope is not limited to Dutchmen only.

    2. WW2 airmen that were missing, are in the care of the Bergings en Identificatie Dienst of the Royal Dutch Army (BID KL), if and when found, irrespective of their nationality.

    3. Dutchmen MIA outside of Holland: as yet a grey area. Recent cases are covered by agreements about international police cooperation. For WW2 cases things are different. Dutch law does not apply outside of The Netherlands. Dutch law neither provides for such situations, as far as I know. If the BID KL is to operate outside of The Netherlands, which indeed has happened a few times, then it needs to have permission to do so from the highest office, which is the Minister, and of course permission from authorities abroad. The JPAC experience is that such international permission is always given. Surely the matter of Dutchmen MIA abroad in WW2 can do with an update of the MinistriŽle Richtlijn, controlling the work of the BID.

    4. The scope of the Werkgroep Vermiste Personen Tweede Wereldoorlog is not limited to servicemen. The usual DNA sample is taken from the cheek mucous tissue inside the mouth.
    Relatives of WW2 MIA's can contact the Dutch Red Cross for more information: by email via vermistepersonenWO2@redcross.nl or by mail to Nederlands Rode Kruis, afdeling Oorlogsnazorg, postbus 28120, 2502 KC Den Haag.

    Regards,

    Rob

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    Thanks for your very full and clear reaction. If you don't mind I will contact you further off-board.

    Best regards,

    Hans

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    My pleasure. You're welcome.

    Cheers,

    Rob

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