A historical birth cohort study of 1116 women born between August 1 1944 and April 15 1946 in the Wilhelmina Gasthuis hospital in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, was set up to study the short- and long-term effects of a limited period of extreme nutritional deprivation in the winter of 1944-1945 in the Western Netherlands. The degree of food deprivation is evidenced by a dramatic decline in third trimester pregnancy weight gain and infant birthweight. All women were traced and 84% (683/813) of survivors presently resident in the Netherlands agreed to be interviewed in their homes. There were no differences in characteristics at birth between interviewed and uninterviewed survivors. The women who were interviewed had 1299 offspring and were able to recall birthweight of all of them. Additional birthweight information from hospital and well-baby clinic (WBC) records is available for about half of the offspring. Since the famine was imposed on the entire population of a well-defined area, whose opportunities to obtain food elsewhere were severely restricted, and the women from this hospital cohort were predominantly lower middle class, the relationship between fetal nutrition and subsequent health outcomes in this cohort is not likely to be confounded by unmeasured attributes related to social class. In addition, selective losses to follow-up could be excluded, which makes the Dutch famine birth cohort a valuable resource for future studies in perinatal epidemiology.