New minister: "Proposal doesn't have priority"


In what seems to be good news for Dutch citizens abroad a spokesperson for minister Spies said that sending the controversial dual-nationality law to the Dutch Parliament "currently does not have priority". Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports that minister Spies did not mention when she will submit the proposal for review to the Tweede Kamer, and said that she will determine the time-frame of this "herself" -- apparently distancing herself from her predecessor Minister Donner who had earlier said that he would send the proposal before Christmas.

"A U-turn compared to last year"

Eelco Keij, spokesman and initiator of the protests again the proposal: "This means a U-turn compared to last year, and it seems that because of the public pressure the government is (temporarily) backing off. Needless to say, we remain alert, but for now it comes down to a 'standstill victory'. The exceptions for dual nationality for Dutch people abroad remain unharmed, at least for now."

The minister's remarks come after significant publicity around the effects of the proposed laws on Dutch citizens abroad, including in The Economist and the Huffington Post. The Economist wrote: "By seeking to toughen its nationality laws, the Netherlands is bucking a global trend". The online petition against the proposal currently has more than 20,000 signatures.

No formal decision to delay or postpone the proposal has been made, so it remains to be seen how things will ultimately play out. Says Keij: "we'll keep monitoring".

Minister Spies was named Minister of Interior and Kingdom Relations after Mr. Donner was appointed to be the new Vice President of the Council of State in December 2011. The proposed law has as goal to limit dual citizenship for new Dutch citizens and would impact Dutch citizens abroad as well.

Nationality law proposal to Dutch parliament before Christmas


Minister Donner expects to present his proposal for modifying the Dutch nationality law to parliament before Christmas.

In October we wrote about Minister Donner's plan to eliminate dual nationality for Dutch citizen. The proposal, which has not yet been officially presented to the Tweede Kamer (the Dutch House of Representatives), will be sent to parliament before the Christmas break. Minister Donner answered this in response to questions by House member Gerard Schouw of the D66 party.

Importance of Dutch expats

The minister estimates that there are about 850,000 Dutch passport holders living abroad, but it is not known how many of them hold dual nationality. The minister "acknowledges the importance of Dutch expats for the Dutch economy and Dutch diplomatic relations".

Position of the Tweede Kamer

The new law, which if it was accepted would have a significant negative effect on Dutch citizens living abroad, is controversial. A majority of parties in the Tweede Kamer has spoken in support of Dutch citizens abroad who could no longer maintain their Dutch nationality when applying for foreign citizenship.

On November 22nd a motion was brought forward to ask the minister to reconsider the aspects of the proposal that would impact Dutch citizens abroad. The motion did not get a majority in the Tweede Kamer though since the VVD did not support it, on technical grounds. Eelco Keij, who initiated the online petition against the proposal, remains optimistic: "This was just a procedural move by the VVD. When it comes to the content, they already publicly stated they are on our side."

The petition by Dutch citizens abroad has received almost 19,000 signatures and significant coverage in the Dutch media. More information in Dutch about the petition can be found on

Rembrandt in America exhibition on tour


A new exhibition about Rembrandt in America is attracting thousands of visitors at the North Carolina Museum of Art, and will travel to Cleveland, OH and Minneapolis, MN next year. It is the largest collection of Rembrandt paintings ever presented in an American exhibition and the first major exhibition to explore in depth the collecting history of Rembrandt paintings in America.

The almost 30 Rembrandts on display are from private collections and more than two dozen American art museums, and one of the works was transported from the Netherlands for this exhibition. In total, nearly 50 works are shown, including some that were originally attributed to Rembrandt van Rijn but are now thought to be by other masters such as Jan Lieven or Govert Flinck.

While the primary focus of the exhibition is on the history of Rembrandt collecting in America, the show also explores his work across various genres, his artistic evolution, and his influence on other artists of the day. Included in this exhibition are a number of significant portraits from Rembrandt’s prosperous early career in Amsterdam as the city’s most sought-after portrait painter, as well as character studies, historical and biblical scenes, and three of his celebrated self-portraits. In addition, the exhibition features a gallery with Rembrandt catalogues since the mid-19th century.

Identifying Rembrandt paintings

The exhibit is as much about art collecting and mistaken identity as it is about the art on display. It includes works no longer attributed to Rembrandt, including two in the North Carolina museum's own collection. The NCMA is a fitting venue for that, given its history. Back in the 1950s, the museum's first director, William Valentiner, was a major Rembrandt scholar who identified many works by the Old Master.

Many exhibitions devoted to Rembrandt’s paintings were held in 2006, during the 400-year anniversary of the artist’s birth; however, Rembrandt in America is unique in offering visitors a rare opportunity to envision the evolving opinions of scholars and collectors regarding what constituted an autograph Rembrandt painting over a period of more than a century.

Rembrandt in America

North Carolina Museum of Art: through January 22, 2012
Cleveland Museum of Art: February 19, May 28, 2012,
Minneapolis Institute of Arts: June 24, 2012 through September 16, 2012

Dutch Social Security for U.S. residents: new procedures


From Brooklyn, New York, correspondent Benno Groeneveld describes a new procedure to apply for Dutch social security benefits from the U.S.

Applying for Dutch social security benefits ("AOW") while living in the United States used to be quite easy: just call or e-mail the "Sociale Verzekeringsbank" (the Dutch Social Security Administration). The agency would send you a form to complete and return, and payments would start rolling into your bank account starting the month you turned 65.

June 2011: new procedures

But things changed in June 2011. Dutch-born residents of the U.S., whether Dutch citizens or not, must now apply for AOW payments through the U.S. Social Security Administration (S.S.A.). The application requires a special form, of course: SSA-2490-BK. Initially, this form could be found on the website of the Social Security Administration ( But when I looked recently, I found only a link to an explanation of a treaty between the U.S. and Poland (yes!), not the necessary form.

My best advice is to call the S.S.A. (1-800-772-1213) to request a copy of SSA-2490-BK. You can also visit your local office. To find the office nearest you, check the S.S.A.’s website.

After completing the form, send it to the S.S.A.’s international office in Baltimore or make an appointment to submit it personally at your local S.S.A. office. Appointments can be made through the general S.S.A. help number and, depending on how busy your local office is, may take some time to schedule. In my case, I waited four weeks.

It is useful to know that there is a special procedure for completing this application process: GN 01725.215C. Officials usually appreciate that kind of help, especially for new or unusual procedures. I met with an official who had never heard of this procedure, but the guidelines made the process smooth.

Form SSA-2490-BK can be used to apply for Dutch Social Security payments only, or you can apply for U.S. Social Security payments at the same time. Dutch Social Security payments automatically start in the month you turn 65. U.S. Social Security payments can start at any time between the ages of 62 and 70.

Preventing abuse

According to the Dutch "Sociale Verzekeringsbank," this procedural change will prevent abuse of the system. The bureau will be able to verify an individual’s data from afar (address, marital status, etc.) giving the SVB more certainty that all information is correct.

The new procedure does make the "AOW" application a little more cumbersome. So, make sure to start at least six months before your 65th birthday.

How much will you receive?

In the Netherlands, an individual’s AOW "account" builds up between the ages of 15 and 65. For every year you lived and/or worked in the Netherlands, you are entitled to a payment of 2 percent of the current "AOW" amount distributed to residents of the Netherlands. Nationality doesn’t matter. I know people who left the Old Country a few years after they turned 15 and became U.S. citizens. After their 65th birthday they applied for and now receive a payment (in Euros!) every month.

The Dutch AOW can be paid through a bank account in the Netherlands (monthly, independent of the amount) or through a bank in the U.S. In order to keep expenses low for international bank transactions low, "AOW" payments can also be made every three months or even once a year, in December.

If you still have questions: call the S.V.B.’s foreign office in Groningen. When calling from the U.S. the number is 011-31-50-316-9010. Or send an e-mail through the website. In my experience, S.V.B. employees are very helpful and they react quickly to e-mails.

Benno Groeneveld, Brooklyn, NY, October 2011.

This article is based on information from the Sociale Verzekerinsgsbank and my own experience. I am not a lawyer or an official spokesperson and I am not responsible for any mistakes in this article. This is only a guideline. Individual cases may be different. When in doubt, or for answers to specific questions: contact the SVB.

The end of dual citizenship?


A new law is currently under consideration by the Dutch government that could spell the end of dual citizenship for Dutch citizens, including Dutch-Americans in the U.S. The law, which is now being reviewed by the Raad van State, will end several widely used exemptions to the general rule that Dutch citizens cannot claim other nationalities without losing their Dutch citizenship.

This will impact thousands of Dutch-Americans and Dutch citizens living in other countries outside the Kingdom of the Netherlands. People who already have dual Dutch citizenship will not be affected, but for people who had hoped to gain both American and Dutch nationality this law is an unwelcome development. With the new proposal, Minister Donner and the Dutch cabinet aim to reduce the number of dual citizens, and to increase the barriers for immigration to the Netherlands.

No more dual citizenship through marriage to a U.S. citizen

The current law on 'Nederlanderschap' has as a general rule that dual citizenship is not allowed. However, there is an important exception for people who gain citizenship through marriage. For example, if a Dutch national immigrates to the USA and marries an American partner, the Dutch national is allowed to keep the Dutch nationality while also becoming an American citizen. This exception was created in 2003 after extensive lobbying by Dutch expatriates and immigrants. U.S. law permits American citizens to hold other nationalities.

Dutch nationality for children born in the U.S.

Children born to a Dutch parent in the United States can currently maintain their Dutch citizenship when turning 18, due to exception "16-2e". This automatic exception will disappear as well, but it appears that maintaining Dutch citizenship for minors is possible as long as their passports are renewed on time.

Work in progress

The proposal, the integral text of which can be found here, is currently under consideration. After a well-visited discussion evening in New York City last week, several Dutch expat organizations have organized an on-line petition against the proposal (in Dutch).

More information:

- Proposed new Dutch nationality law (mirror copy)
- On-line petition against the new proposal

This is a proposed law. For the best information on current law on Dutch citizenship we advice you to contact your nearest Dutch consulate, Dutch embassy or a law firm.

New book: Prominent Dutch American Entrepreneurs

Work NC

Prominent Dutch American Entrepreneurs tells the stories of successful businesses started by Dutch-Americans in the United States. Its author is Professor Emeritus Carl Pegels of the University at Buffalo who taught Business Management there and has written extensively on that subject throughout his career. We spoke with him about his book.

Born in Rotterdam

Professor Pegels is a Dutch-American himself. He was born in a suburb of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. At age 16 he and his family emigrated to Canada. He studied in the US and in 1966 received a Ph.D. from Purdue University. He had always been interested in history but did not pursue that as a career in academia because he felt there was much more of a future for him, economically, teaching Business Management.

"I started writing about Dutch-American entrepreneurs after my retirement six years ago. Looking into my own family's history got me interested in genealogy and I was inspired by a survey of German immigrants into the United States. I realized there was no in-depth study on what Dutch-American individuals had achieved. "

Fascinating history

"When I started writing biographies I expected to maybe write 40 or 50 of them -- but there are now more than 300! I think they constitute a fascinating history. These immigrant families have made real contributions. Just think of Thomas Edison, for instance.”

"It wasn't my original plan to publish a book, so initially I just focused on writing online profiles." It became clear professor Pegels had enough material for a book, which he began about two years ago. "It was a good fit with my academic background. Moreover, I had a lot of fun with this project, writing about all these amazing stories where people start out with nothing and make it to the top."

With a wealth of facts, figures, and details Prominent Dutch American Entrepreneurs is a true source book and primer for college courses in Entrepreneurship, American History, Culture, Society and Economy. However, it will appeal to a wider audience, especially to Dutch-Americans.

The book uses a broad definition of "Dutch-Americans". Professor Pegels: "There was no hard and fast rule in selecting subjects in the book: if they had a reasonable Dutch background and were more famous, I included them". Among those featured: the Vanderbilts, Thomas Edison, as well as the Koch brothers -- whose grandfather came from the Netherlands to the Texas frontier. These and other famous Americans all have a place in the book which mainly focuses on the past 150 years, although some chapters on early immigrants in the 17th and 18th century are also included.

The book is highly structured, with a logical grouping by generation and subject. The grouping by subject makes for interesting comparisons. For example, in that framework, professor Pegels discusses three successful Mid-West companies together: Pella Corporation, with its $1 billion sales, Vermeer Manufacturing, also based in Pella, and Prince Manufacturing. All three companies were founded by Dutch immigrants.

Professor Pegels: "The stories of these entrepreneurs are stories about immigrants who were very ambitious, creative, and entrepreneurial. A good example is Cornelius Vanderbilt, who really started from scratch, was amazingly successful, and became one of the richest men in the United States. Even today Vanderbilt draws the most attention on our website. We track the page views with Google Analytics, and the Vanderbilt page is by far the most popular.”

Dutch coffee culture

The book has many more fascinating stories of successful enterprises. For instance, the Dutch coffee drinking culture made its way to the United States through the Peet family. "Alfred Peet grew up in a family that owned a gourmet coffee and tea distribution company in the Netherlands. After the Second World War he moved to the United States and was appalled that you could not find a gourmet coffee shop anywhere. So he opened his first gourmet coffee bean and coffee shop in Berkeley, California during the 1960s." It would prove to be the start of an amazing coffee empire: employees of Starbucks were later trained under Peet.

Professor Carl Pegels covers the 17th and 18th centuries, the transportation pioneers, industrial and infrastructure development, merchandising and services, innovation and development and finally the arts, culture and education. He has written a comprehensive study of the lives, histories and business endeavors of Dutch-American entrepreneurs.

Prominent Dutch American Entrepreneurs
C. Carl Pegels, University at Buffalo
199 pages, available as paperback and hardcover

Dutch: a new North-American magazine about the Netherlands


Dutch is a full-color glossy magazine about the Netherlands, the Dutch, and the Dutch in North-America.

The first edition of this new English-language magazine just came of the press this week. We spoke with Tom Bijvoet, the publisher.

"You can compare it to the glossies in stores about Italy, France or the United Kingdom", says Tom. “We target everybody with an interest in the Netherlands, and especially North-Americans with a Dutch background."

The magazine will be published every other month. The current edition has 2,500 copies, the goal is 5,000 at the end of the first year. "There's a large potential market", says Tom, "there are some 5 million North-Americans of Dutch ancestry".

Looking at the Netherlands with a North-American view

Tom describes the content of the first edition, which consists of 48 pages. "First, there are the letters to the editor, followed by short news articles. These are Dutch news items that are of interest, such as the new 'Floating Dutchman Bus' at Schiphol Airport. We have several feature articles, for example an article on the surveillance culture in the Netherlands. We tend to look at the Netherlands with a North-American view, and the large number of cameras on the highways, and in the inner cities is remarkable."

There is an article about the history of the Dutch-language press in North-America. Tom: "There used to be several dozen Dutch-language newspapers in the United States and Canada, some of which stayed in existence for a long time". Other items include articles on immigration, genealogy, travel to the Netherlands, the Dutch language, and a 'Dutch judge' comic strip. Tom: "We try to stay away from stereotypes: we're not about tulips and windmills. On the other hand, if there are interesting developments about water management in Holland, we will certainly write about them."

Target audience

The magazine targets everyone with in interest in the Netherlands and the Dutch. It is particularly aiming at the children of Dutch immigrants in North America. Tom: "Dutch immigrants tend to 'Americanize' very quickly, and the next generation usually doesn't speak Dutch very well. But they know the language a little bit and would have liked to know more about their roots".

Tom is also the publisher of De Krant, a large Dutch-language paper, but there are significant differences between the two publications. "De Krant is a Dutch-language magazine. A large part of its audience consists of immigrants who came to Canada and the US in the 1950s. The numbers of the target demographic of the newspaper are declining, which is one of the reasons we decided to start with Dutch. There are simply not that many Dutch-language immigrants coming the North-America anymore, and we don't want to mix Dutch and English in De Krant. We did a one-time special last year in English for De Krant, about World War II, which was a dry-run to see how an English-language publication would be received. "

The authors of Dutch live in the United States and Canada, and one of the columnists is an Englishman who lives in the Netherlands. Of note is the Dutch recipe column, by Nicole Holten, who translates her online success into a print publication.

A Dutch immigrant in Canada

Tom arrived in Canada in 1999 with his wife and 1-year old daughter. They had been on vacation in Canada, fell in love with the country and decided to immigrate to Canada. Now they have four children, and are living in Penticton, British Columbia.

"After our immigration, I came across De Krant, and started writing columns for it. Four years ago, I got the opportunity to take over the newspaper, so I started a publishing business for magazines and several books, with publications about World War II".

Dutch is now available through the publisher, annual subscription fee is $39.50.

Mokeham Publishing Inc.
250 492-3002

U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands stepping down


This morning the U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Fay Hartog Levin announced that she will be stepping down in September.

The Ambassador cites family reasons for her resignation, and says that she will serve the interest closer to her home in Chicago. Hartog-Levin is the 65th United States Ambassador to the Netherlands; she presented her credentials to Queen Beatrix in August 2009. Her parents were Dutch Jews who fled from the Netherlands to Suriname in 1942 and emigrated to the United States in 1948, shortly before she was born.

From her announcement:

I thank the President for granting me the opportunity of a lifetime, and Secretary Clinton for her
inspiring leadership. Special thanks to Prime Ministers Rutte and Balkenende, Deputy Prime
Minister Verhagen and Foreign Minister Rosenthal with whom I have had the good fortune to
work as well as with the many other officials throughout the Dutch government who are
committed to maintaining and strengthening the bonds between our two nations.

Dutch-American astronomer Tom Gehrels dies


Famous Dutch-American astronomer Tom Gehrels passed away last week at age 86. Professor Gehrels discovered thousands of asteroids and comets and published numerous scientific articles.

Gehrels, who was born in the Haarlemmermeer, the Netherlands, pioneered the first photometric system of asteroids in the 50s, and wavelength dependence of polarization of stars and planets in the 60s, each resulting in an extended sequence of papers in the Astronomical Journal. During World War II Gehrels was, as a teenager, active in the Dutch Resistance. After he escaped to England, he was sent back by parachute as an organizer for the British Special Operations Executive.

Gehrels joined the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in 1961 as an Associate Professor. He earned his B.S. in Physics and Astronomy from Leiden University in 1951, and his Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics from the University of Chicago in 1956.

Read more about Tom Gehrels in this interview with Govert Schilling in Sky & Telescope Magazine.

Hollandse Nieuwe in New York City


From our correspondent Yolanda Gerritsen in New York City.

Herring lovers in and around New York can rejoice! Happy days are here again with the much-anticipated arrival of the 2011 First Catch Herring -- straight from Scheveningen. The 2011 Holland Herring Festival is now in full swing at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal, the historic and classic establishment for fresh seafood aficionados in New York. In its cavernous rooms a special area has been reserved for herring enthusiasts right at the entrance. You can’t miss it: posters and a traditional Dutch ‘haring kar’ (herring cart) mark the area where you can indulge in the tasty morsels that most Dutchmen and other nationals eagerly look forward to every spring.

The 2011 Holland Herring Festival was officially opened by Dutch Consul General Gajus Scheltema, the Oyster Bar’s executive chef Sandy Ingber and General Manager Jonathan Young.

Mr. Scheltema, who will leave New York for a diplomatic post in Islamabad, performed one of his last official duties -- spreading Dutch Culture in New York -- with aplomb. He showed those present the proper, traditional Dutch way to eat a herring: holding it by its tail, tilting the head back and slowly letting it slide into the mouth, thus savoring its delicate, slight saltiness that recalls the waters of the North Sea where the fish was caught. Mr. Ingber, Mr. Young, and Consul General Scheltema, repeated this ritual and then declared the Holland Herring Festival officially open to the public.

For the past thirty years the Holland Herring Festival at the Oyster Bar has become a much-loved tradition every spring. When the first catch of ‘nieuwe haring’ is welcomed at the fishing-port of Scheveningen, the freshly caught delicacy is air-expressed directly to the Oyster Bar in New York. The quality of the first catch can vary from year to year, but this 2011 season the new herring is really delicious and executive chef Sandy Ingber called it “a top quality herring catch, perhaps the best in the history of the festival."

The Festival will last until Friday June 24. Herring filets, served at the Oyster Bar with chopped hard-boiled egg, chopped sweet onions and chives, are $ 7.00 a piece. In addition, the menu features “Dutch Martinis", made with Ketel One Vodka ($11.75) or with Bols Genever ($10.50).

Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal
Herring Festival through June 24


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