The Dutch ‘kraker’ or squatter movement

By Beatriz van der Goes (Leiderdorp)

krakersAfter WO II, there was a huge housing shortage in the major cities in the Netherlands. During the war, and as a result of the preceding economic crises of the 1930-ies, major maintenance had been neglected. In many cases, the Jewish renters of the apartments and their house owners had not survived the war.

As a result large parts of the inner cities prewar houses had been transformed into slums and ghost towns. However, from a construction technical point of view, these prewar houses had been and still were of extremely good quality and architecture. So it was not so much a question of material quality but rather of changing living conditions, in combination with a focus on a modern future, rather than a remembrance to a historical past, that had urged city councils and the Dutch government to opt for demolishing entire pre war city quarters in the 1960-ies.

The young city dweller of the late 1960-ies who was unable to obtain an affordable living place, held a completely different view on the prewar housing shortage and the demolishing of rather good city quarters. It gave rise to the kraker movement. Houses that were listed for demolishing were occupied and inhabited.

According to the than local rules one could obtain rights of inhabiting after a period of 24 hours. During the 1970-ies and ’80-ies many old houses have been claimed this way by young students and artists. Not only as a place to live, but also as a creative space where one can life and work together with other people. In fact, without being aware, they have contributed to the preservation of the cities historical past.

It also prevented speculation in real estate and an extreme rising of inner city house prices. In spite of this, the legal authorities have time and again tried to push them out even by using extreme military violence.

Since 2010, kraken has become an illegal act by law. One can be sentenced to a year or even two years imprisonment in cases where extreme violence is used by the krakers.

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