The impact of warfare on social policy development has interested scholars for some time. This research has focused on belligerent countries, while its impact on neutral countries has received little attention. This paper aims to address this gap through a comparison of the development of unemployment social policies in the neutral Netherlands, which nevertheless mobilised for war, and combatant Germany. While the crisis conditions accompanying mobilisation forced these states to become involved with such policies for the first time, at no time during or after the war did they fully surrender their increased interventionist position. The state assumed responsibility for enacting, regulating and funding private initiatives and this role was institutionalised after the war. This study contributes to an understanding of welfare state development in the twentieth century.