Amsterdam 15 May 1940. Burning oil tanks at Shell in north Amsterdam. Seen from the Singel canal looking towards the harbour ( the "IJ"), with the dome of the Lutheran Church in the background. British commandos in collaboration with Dutch troops destroy the oil supplies. Photograph Beeldbank WWII-NIOD.
With the introduction of restrictive measures for Jews by the German occupying forces, dark clouds gather over the Amsterdam society. Traditionally, the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) has many Jewish patients and also has some Jewish personnel. However, at first an unexpected result of these restrictive measures is that clinical research flourishes in the NKI in 1940-1941, due to the fact that Betty Levie is not allowed to treat patients. She is given permission to perform scientific research. Current projects and plans, which were on hold due to the occupation, are taken up again.
In a short time much useful work was done. In November 1940, Dr. Levie in collaboration with Dr. Kwieser presents the results of research on the inhomogeneity of the radiation beam from the 50 kV Contact Therapy machine . This research results in Philips developing flattening filters that are placed on the X-ray tube. Levie also investigates whether the biological effect of radiation depends on dose rate. She finds no difference between 20 and 5500 r/min in Drosophila eggs.
Attempts are also made to reduce the radiosensitvity of the skin by the use of exsanguination, where adrenaline is administered through the process of iontophoresis. Another experimental treatment using a radioactive substance, probably phosphorus (P-32), was abandoned after a short period because Philips had to stop the production of the isotope. The neutron generator in Eindhoven was shut down.
The freedom to perform research was short lived. In November 1941,by order of the occupying forces, Betje Levie is dismissed by the NKI. Also the Jewish physicist, Dr. Moses Kwieser with whom she collaborated, undergoes a similar fate at the University of Amsterdam.