Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dutch Nazis, Nationalism and the Monarchy

Regular readers may recall a past article on the Netherlands involvement in World War II in which mention was made of the Dutch equivalent of the Nazi Party, the NSB or Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging in Nederland (National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands) which was founded in 1931 and led by Anton Mussert, today the most notorious Dutch collaborator of World War II. There is much that can, I think, be learned from the relationship between Anton Mussert and Adolf Hitler, the Dutch NSB and the German NSDAP which should serve as a warning for people today who might have the right intentions but who should be on guard against any threats to separate them from their own unique identity and historic institutions. The NSB started out with the simple goal of wishing to stop the decay in Dutch society and restore the Netherlands to her former status as a major world power but ended up, by their increasing adherence to the German Nazi Party, fighting for the exact opposite of that.

As with many such similar movements, the NSB was originally most inspired by the fantastic success of Benito Mussolini and his Fascist Party in Italy. They had swept to power a decade earlier while Hitler and his Brown shirts were still struggling. Because of this, the NSB, founded by Anton Mussert and Cornelis van Geelkerken, had more in common with the Italian Black shirts than with Hitler and the Nazis. The most noticeable difference was that they were pro-Dutch and not anti-Jewish, indeed, like the Fascists, originally had Jewish members. They were opposed to direct democracy, advocating corporatism rather than capitalism or socialism but were not revolutionary, planning to work within the existing constitutional framework to achieve power and enact their changes to the Netherlands legally. They pushed for national unity and favored the corporatist model specifically to end the labor-versus-ownership divide which caused strikes and to put occupational concerns over ideological divisions.

Their goal of pushing for a return to national greatness also meant calling to mind the glory days of Dutch history when the Netherlands had been a major power. This meant that they were not opposed to the Dutch monarchy, indeed they drew inspiration from many past members of the House of Orange and, most significantly for our purposes here, they wanted to see the strengthening and expansion of Dutch power around the world. This meant that they wanted to strengthen their position in the Dutch East Indies (modern day Indonesia) and to annex Flanders and French Flanders to create a “Greater Netherlands”. This would, of course, necessitate the break up of the Kingdom of Belgium and the NSB intended for the vast Belgian Congo to become a Dutch colony and, if possible, for the Netherlands to regain control of South Africa by restoring the Afrikaner republics as Dutch colonies united with their ancestral homeland. They expected to be a close ally of Germany but nothing more, pursuing their own national interests on the world stage. However, their friendship with the Nazi Party proved a double-edged sword.

Early on the NSB gained some surprising electoral success for a country which, then as now, was seen as a place where such a party would not be expected to do well. The NSB gained enough of a following for the socialists, trade unionists and major religious institutions to come out against them. The government forbid state employees from joining the party and the socialists formed groups to disrupt their events and prevent the NSB from getting its message out (the Antifa of the day). They reached their peak in 1935, saw support drop somewhat after that but they were still a force to be reckoned with when World War II in Europe broke out with the German invasion of Poland in 1939.

The decline in support for the NSB came at around the same time, roughly 1936 and afterwards, that the Nazis began to eclipse the Italian Fascists as their primary source of inspiration. Racial rhetoric and anti-Semitism began to appear and became increasingly common though never on the same level as these subjects dominated political discourse in Germany. One area of concern in this regard was the Dutch East Indies where the NSB had some sizeable support before the war. This is not surprising given that one of the primary concerns of the NSB was to strengthen and enlarge the Dutch colonial empire and so, naturally, they were not without support in the largest and most important Dutch colony. However, the Dutch East Indies was also home to a sizeable minority of mixed-race people who, like the Anglo-Indians for the British, were quite important to the smooth operation of the colony which constituted the vast majority of the Dutch empire. There was considerable concern that the racial rhetoric would damage the support for the NSB in the East Indies. As it turned out, that would prove the least of their problems.

Future Dutch Queen Juliana with exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II
Yet, it was partly the racial rhetoric of the Nazis that kept the Dutch complacent. When Hitler invaded Poland and Britain and France declared war on Germany, most people in the Netherlands expected to sit out the war just as they had done from 1914-1918. The German Nazis, after all, viewed them as their Germanic cousins of superior racial stock and this, along with the fact that the Germans had pledged to respect Dutch neutrality and the detail that the Dutch had not and would not be so foolish as to attack the Germans, caused many to think the war would pass them by. Their queen was even married to a German prince and the former German Kaiser was living in the Netherlands and had been protected by the Dutch monarchy from efforts by the Allies to have him extradited and hanged as a “war criminal”. It therefore came as a great shock when the Germans started bombing them, dropping airborne troops on them and had panzers racing across the border. The Dutch were caught completely unprepared and despite their surprisingly fierce resistance were only able to hold on for four days before being obliged to surrender with the government and Queen Wilhelmina going into exile in England (quite against her wishes as she was preparing to hand out rifles to her maids and butlers and defend her palace herself -she was quite a formidable old lady).

The Nazis occupied the Netherlands and, naturally, turned to their biggest local fans in the NSB for support in running the country and dealing with the local population. This brought about a dramatic change in how the NSB was viewed and by what the role of the NSB was to be in the destiny of the Netherlands. Formed in reaction to the Great Depression, the NSB had garnered much of its support from presenting an alternative to communism and Mussert had addressed record crowds to talk about an alternative to the alien ideology of communism and the recently discredited model of capitalism. However, as soon as the war touched the Netherlands, a war no one expected, least of all the NSB which thought the Nazis would never attack, bomb and invade their Germanic racial brethren which was also neutral, until they did, Mussert immediately got in touch with the Nazis and offered his country up for annexation by Hitler’s Third Reich and even proposed leading a secret mission to kidnap Queen Wilhelmina and present her to the Germans.

Anton Mussert, doing his best to look the part
Mussert had rather ‘jumped the gun’ in throwing himself at the feet of Hitler before Hitler’s forces had actually conquered the Netherlands with the result that the Dutch government found out about these messages and several NSB leaders were arrested though Mussert himself escaped and remained in hiding until after the German conquest was complete. When the dust settled, however, he was not immediately given control of the Netherlands as he had expected, Hitler appointing the Austrian Arthur Seyss-Inquart as Reichskommissar of the Occupied Dutch Territories. When Mussert approached him about being named head of state in place of the Queen, Seyss-Inquart referred him to Hitler and to Hitler the ambitious Mussert proposed a ‘Nordic Federation’ of Germanic countries under Hitler’s direction and with himself in charge of the Netherlands. Hitler brushed him off but Mussert went on, holding rallies urging for cooperation with the Germans but with talk of the “Greater Netherlands” being sidelined in favor of talk about the Netherlands simply having “a place” in the “new Europe” run by Germany and Italy. Later on, Mussert would propose that he himself should be Hitler’s ‘number two’ man in this new order but, again, Hitler brushed him off.

Nonetheless, Mussert remained devoted to Hitler, even publicly swearing personal allegiance to him and urged his people to do the same. In June of 1940, at a mass gathering, he called on the Dutch people to rally behind him in supporting Hitler and the German war effort and to renounce their allegiance to the House of Orange, the Dutch monarchy and the government-in-exile in Britain. The Dutch were thus given a choice and it was made very stark for them; Mussert or Queen Wilhelmina. Mussert had been the nationalist leader pledging to strengthen and expand the Dutch empire but now was more about having a favored position in German-dominated Europe so long as they behaved themselves. Hitler, it must be said, did little to encourage such expectations and never allowed Mussert any position of real importance. He was not the head of state, he was not the prime minister and was only allowed the sort of honorary title of “Leader” but with no official position or power to go along with it. On the contrary, the Germans would eventually show more favor to other NSB members who were more pro-German and anti-Dutch, one even proposing to replace the Dutch language with German.

Dutch recruiting poster for the SS
A new chance arose, however, to rally the Dutch to the Axis cause when the war was expanded to what Germany and Italy had always claimed was their real enemy; the Soviet Union. The Dutch had no desire to fight against the British but they volunteered in large numbers to fight the communist threat which had openly called for the subjugation of the world. The Netherlands supplied more volunteers for the Axis war effort than any other occupied country and the Germans were quick to make use of them on the brutal eastern front. Putting politics aside, the Dutch proved themselves in dramatic fashion, fighting with immense courage, many being highly decorated and taking dramatic losses in the process. Against the Bolshevik hordes, the Dutch fighting man had proven his worth and made incredible sacrifices in the process. However, just as the first year of the ‘Crusade against Bolshevism’ came to an end, Dutch nationalists would find themselves betrayed yet again when the Empire of Japan decided to get in on the global war. However, rather than joining Germany and Italy in war against the Soviet Union, it would be against the United States of America and, subsequently, against the Netherlands as well in order to seize the extensive oilfields of the Dutch East Indies.

Japan invades the Dutch East Indies
Once again, the Dutch were caught unprepared and had only minimal Allied assistance to call upon when the Japanese invaded, a massive operation that none of the western powers had previously thought Japan capable of. The Dutch set fire to their oilfields and their small colonial army offered gallant resistance but it was to no avail. Needless to say, the previously considerable support the NSB had in the Dutch East Indies immediately evaporated. It also caused considerable dismay at home. Imagine yourself being a proud, patriotic Nederlander; the NSB says they will lead you to a “Greater Netherlands” which will revive and enlarge the Dutch empire, making it bigger and better than it had ever been before. Then you are told that, instead, the Netherlands will be a subsidiary part of a greater Germanic federation but you can at least keep what you have and will be protected from communist subjugation. Finally, while your men are fighting and freezing to death on the eastern front alongside the Germans, you find out that Germany’s ally has seized your largest and most important colony, killed large numbers of your people and put everyone else in concentration camps. That sort of thing would tend to sap morale.

Queen Wilhelmina during the war
Now, still keeping in mind that you are a proud Dutch nationalist, possibly freezing to death on the Russian front, that while the side you are fighting for says your empire must be given up and your relatives in Southeast Asia are at the mercy of the Japanese, that Queen Wilhelmina, who you are told is now your enemy, is calling for the liberation of the Netherlands from German rule and the liberation of the Dutch East Indies from Japanese rule, fighting for the full restoration of the Dutch empire. You will also notice that all talk about South Africa is out of the question whereas Queen Wilhelmina had been the most sympathetic leader in the world toward your Boer brethren back in the days of their fight against the British, even sending a Dutch warship, HNLMS Gelderland, to evacuate the Boer President Paul Krueger from Africa and bring him to Europe. You might have even heard that the German Kaiser would not receive Krueger but in the Netherlands, Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch Royal Family gave him the warmest welcome in The Hague. Which side, that represented by the Queen, or that represented by Mussert, must have seemed the proper cause for any proud Nederlander?

Mussert had enough sense to see this and when the Dutch East Indies was invaded he appealed to Hitler to use his influence to get the Japanese to back off, to call off his “Honorary Aryans” in favor of actual Aryans as the Nazis might put it. Again, Mussert was ignored and Hitler and Mussolini quickly declared war on the United States in solidarity with their Japanese ally. Did this have an impact on the Dutch who were fighting alongside the Germans? Obviously, it could not have helped. Friction over Dutch officers being replaced with German ones in the Dutch SS volunteer legion had caused many to resign and the Dutch suffered heavy losses around Leningrad after being reformed in the spring of 1942. Later, their nominal commander, a former high ranking officer of the Dutch military, Lt. General Hendrik Seyffardt was assassinated at home. After their enlistments expired in the spring of 1943, by which time the Japanese had seized the Dutch East Indies, most refused to reenlist to fight with the Germans. Due to the lack of recruits, the legion was disbanded in May of 1943. When Mussert tried to protest against the reprisals taken by the SS after the murder of Seyffardt, Hitler would not even see him.

As Axis forces were being pushed back in Russia, North Africa and the Pacific, the Germans ordered the conscription of all former Dutch soldiers into their own army and SS legions. In response, the Dutch went on strike and nearly a hundred were shot in retaliation but there was little the Germans could really do, a dead man being rather less likely to work or fight for your war effort than one on strike. The NSB was decimated, most of its members dead on the Russian front or assassinated by the Dutch underground. When Hitler finally gave Mussert a last audience he informed the Dutch “Leader” plainly that he would never be given any political power. Still, he carried on even as June 1944 saw the Allied invasion of France, including over a thousand Dutch soldiers who had escaped the continent, fighting for their Queen and country. On September 5, fearing the approach of Allied soldiers, the remaining NSB members fled to Germany though Mussert notably did not, was taken prisoner and executed for high treason after the war.

The Dutch spent the last winter of the war starving and freezing as the Allied Operation Market Garden failed and the Germans cut off all supplies to punish their racial cousins. The only relief came from 11,000 tons of food dropped by American and British aircraft. Not long after, the German forces remaining surrendered and soon the Queen returned, met by a rapturous welcome. Interestingly enough, after Mussert was convicted and sentenced to death, he appealed to Queen Wilhelmina to spare him. The Queen he had renounced his allegiance to, the Queen he encouraged his people to abandon, the last hope Mussert had was for her to use her royal powers to spare his life. However, Queen Wilhelmina was not that sort and Mussert was executed by firing squad. He died for his persistent allegiance to a German ruler who never trusted him nor made any objection to the stripping away of Dutch territory. Queen Wilhelmina, on the other hand, would spend the end of her reign fighting to maintain the Dutch colonial empire in Southeast Asia, even while her own allies betrayed her and the business elites of the country criticized her for not conceding.

Dutch colonial troops march against Japan
There is a great lesson to be learned from the sad life of Anton Mussert and his NSB. His desire for the Netherlands to be stronger was certainly valid as subsequent events proved that neutrality only works if your neighbors are good enough to respect it. He was not a revolutionary, was not anti-religion nor was he anti-other races, simply pro-Dutch. His political views about disliking democracy and preferring a system based around occupational representation were, in my view, perfectly reasonable. However, his captivation with Hitler proved disastrous for himself as well as his movement. It certainly did his country no good but Hitler would have done with the Netherlands as he pleased regardless of whether Mussert was in the picture or not. He became so enamored with the idealized image of Hitler that he turned against the traditions and traditional institutions of his own nation so that, in the end, it was the Queen he betrayed and was fighting against who represented the cause of Dutch greatness while the side he was on was allied to a power which themselves claim to have been fighting a race war against his people and those like them. That is something everyone with a proper pride and self-respect for their own people and culture would do well to take notice of.


  1. Excellent article, but you might have mentioned that it was His Majesty's Canadian Forces that liberated the Netherlands (and Belgium).

    When I lived in Edmonton, I had an older friend who had been a starving 12 year old when the Canadians freed his country. In gratitude, he emigrated to Canada.

    And, I once attended a Netherlands Liberation Day anniversary event. There was a young woman carrying a hand made sign that said simply, 'Thank You Canada!'

    1. Well, this wasn't specifically about the war or about Canadian involvement (I think I may have mentioned it in the article I did about the Dutch in WW2 but I'd have to look again). I have seen such displays before myself and it is nice and rather unusually so to see the gratitude that remains towards Canadian forces by the Dutch public.

  2. I think the other sad part of this story is the fact that because of what Hitler did to the Netherlands in the second world war, many Dutch people even to this day still hate the Germans. In this day and age, hatred among Europeans has no place, and only further strengthens the enemies of all of Europe. I also think, and I believe that you would probably agree with me, that there are comparisons to make between men such as Mussolini, Degrelle, Mussert, Tiso, and even some White Russian veterans and the modern alt right, in the sense that they started off as more or less traditional conservatives, but as the left provoked, sidelined and suppressed them more and more, they became sympathetic to the nazis. The same way in which faith Goldy gave an interview to the daily stormer. It just shows that that the intolerance of the left is what creates these push backs in the first place, and more people should learn that.

    1. All too true. I don't like to see bad feelings between Europeans and insults and snide remarks over the past. That said, I have also seen those on the ALT-Right who say the same thing but, when you get down to it, are really just partisans of Nazi Germany and want a unity based on "let's just all agree that Hitler was right and everyone else was wrong". Sorry, not correct and not that simple. If anything, Hitler has been an albatross around the neck of almost all Europeans and their descendants. You are also correct as well that, as I've written about before, the left is pushing people in that direction.


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