English translation of the written defence ‘Waarom verzet ….’
by Susan Verkerk-Wheatley / Anne-Marie Bos
Why do the Dutch people, especially the Catholic people, resist the N.S.B.?
Translation of 'Waarom verzet zich het Nederlandsche volk, met name het Katholieke volksdeel, tegen de N.S.B.?’ , written in the prison of Scheveningen by order of the Gestapo, January 1942. For the original text see: Waarom verzet…. See also comment by Gerrit Steunebrink: titusbrandsmateksten.nl.
Why do the Dutch people, especially the Catholic community, resist the N.S.B.?
First and foremost, because of the anti-patriotic character of its origin and development.
In Germany, in the National-Socialist movement, the nationalistic character dominates, the chief consideration being to rescue Germany, whatever the cost, from imminent destruction, and developed an initially strong, almost purely economically conceived movement for the improvement of poor economic conditions– followed by a growing group of people– into a political movement that grasped for power, and after acquiring state power, attempted to build up a new German state with the natural consequence that they then also more closely defined it theoretically and set it down in propositions which initially were disinterestedly and pragmatically done. Thus, the economic-political movement became a system, an ideology, the development of which should, however, be more closely inspected. First, people drew on philosophers and sociologists with Neo-Hegelian ideas, and the system at that time was still strongly idealistic, but gradually it developed itself more in a biologistic, increasingly more materialistic sense. In the culture of the noble Germanic race, developed on Germanic soil, the ideal was visible and, with this, people began to harp back more and more to elemental primordial conditions though, in order to beguile, these were sublimated and idealised. Although more a-religious, even anti-religious and also anti-Catholic elements and tendencies gradually revealed themselves, and a few bishops, such as Cardinal Faulhaber and particularly the bishop of Mainz (Dr. Hugo), looked more sharply at the consequences than at the still, at that moment, existing phase of development, feeling themselves compelled to point to the dangers which were implied in this system for the Catholic Church and for the Christian religion– these presently regarded dangerous tendencies for the Church were initially not viewed by people as something intentional but more perhaps as still not so strongly to be feared consequences, yet to be avoided with good will, at least alleviated. The declarations of the Führer, further strengthened by the official conclusion of a Concordat with the Pope, caused many to view optimistically the development in anti-catholic senses, and to merge with the national socialists in the common, fine ideal: the salvation of the German people from impending destruction. In many respects their stance is similar, and at the same is also viewed by many Dutch Catholics as somewhat comparable to the stance of the Dutch Catholics at the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century when, also in great numbers, they followed the party of William of Orange, and cities opened the doors to them, although for the time being they foresaw a significant disadvantage for the Church, led by the view that once the Spaniards had scarpered and the Netherlands was free, the shadow side of the nationalistic movement would not be quite so dark. The nationalistic idea also prevailed among them and a perhaps not sufficiently rooted optimism existed concerning the anti-catholic tendencies and consequences of this nationalistic movement.
In the Netherlands at this moment, the matter is completely different. The Nationaal-Socialistiche Beweging (the N.S.B.) has stamped its mark completely differently here than in Germany. At the very least, it has developed here out of a general awareness that the country was threatened with decline, that the conditions here became unsustainable, but rather the movement of a few who, zealous about what National-Socialism had brought about in Germany, not on economic grounds but first and foremost on idealistic grounds, wanted to translate the national-socialist dispositions from Germany to the Netherlands, without sufficiently taking into account the particular Dutch national spirit and the completely different historical development of many institutions in the Netherlands. Without any originality or brilliant insight, without the necessary differentiation according to the completely different conditions existing in the Netherlands, the German example was simply imitated, and often in extremely bungling and childish ways. One was not even capable of finding the correct Dutch words and terms, which one indiscriminately adopted, so that a German, non-Dutch mark was imprinted on everything. In the absence of historical insight or understanding of ethnological differences, people often wanted, moreover, to transfer from Germany to the Netherlands what in Germany had grounds for improving existing serious abuses, but barely made sense in the Netherlands because the circumstances there, certainly according to the general judgment of the population, did not warrant such improvement in that same sense. The birth rate is greater in the Netherlands, the mortality, calculated of course before the war, is considerably lower, which points to greater people power and better hygienic conditions. Of course, this makes one sceptical about German notions of improving things. In the Netherlands, public housing and social security are more generous and more abundant than in Germany. In the Netherlands the agricultural yield, as wholeheartedly and openly admitted in the last number of ‘die Zeitschrift für Geopolitik’ by Wolfgang B. von Lengercke, is considerably richer in output per hectare. In general, productive labour in the Netherlands is in a much more favourable condition than in Germany. Whilst in Germany this had, to a very great extent, been only negatively regulated, a Vernichtungsproduktion in defence against feared enemies and thus a very powerful means of positive labour for the wellbeing of the people, had to be withdrawn –something that is also recognised in the cited German journal – in the Netherlands production was particularly positively regulated, and one only reluctantly and only under enormous pressure of the current political economic climate switched over to the extremely high costs of negative production. In the Netherlands, unemployment was certainly experienced as a major national disaster and it is by very many seen as a serious mistake that the State did not intervene earlier here and more energetically, but the example of Germany, where there was no longer unemployment and even large numbers of foreign labourers found work, did not catch on in the Netherlands, because people there felt nothing for a disproportionate, highly negative, system of production. In very many respects, one viewed the social-economic situation in the Netherlands as better than in Germany and the well-known sober-minded realism of the Dutch people did not believe that, although there were also bad situations in the Netherlands, the idea that it would all at once improve by adopting the institutions of a system which in one’s own country had led to no circumstances which were better in the Netherlands, only different. The old Dutch saying applied here: not every change is an improvement. And the not less well-known Dutch prudence and circumspection prevented people from feeling passionate about what the N.S.B. wanted to transplant from Germany to the Netherlands, virtually without any differentiation. People willingly acknowledged that there were many good things and actions in German National-Socialism. Here, there is an old saying: Germania docet, and the Netherlands has always learned and taken on a great deal from Germany, particularly in the social domain, but always after careful consideration, being attracted to the good in it, never unthinkingly or without differentiation or underestimating what is characteristically Dutch, historically developed. The action of the N.S.B. very strongly gave the impression that it was more about the realisation of an idea than about the genuine well-being of the people, and the realism of the Dutch people made them resist. Prof. Dr. J. Prinsen, a non-catholic Professor in Dutch Literature in Amsterdam, writes in one of the first pages of his Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Letterkunde, that realism and religiousness run like two golden threads through the whole history of our literature and, again and again, encounter each other and appear to intertwine. In the social-economic field, the N.S.B. is generally regarded as striving for the realisation of an idea much more than for a real improvement in social conditions and, thus, it has collided with the realism of the Dutch people and even more, the ideological purpose of this movement has come into conflict with the religiousness of the population. It has completely failed to understand the very strong Christian character of the nation and consequently acquired a yet much stronger anti-patriotic character, particularly for the protestant and catholic people, who together make up the majority of the population, and in whose circles a very strong religious consciousness is alive. What is seen in the National-Socialism of Germany by people with a religious inclination as an unwanted circumstance, many still see as something in the second instance, primarily otherwise as the salvation of the fatherland, which here in the Netherlands immediately made itself visible. Despite some fine words being spoken on some occasions, the N.S.B. immediately adopted a very adversarial, anti-religious, at least anti-christian and anti-catholic stance. It seemed that people believed they could not improve or reform social conditions, unless the ecclesiastical influence on social life and the confession of Christian and Catholic principles in social life was first oppressed. And that, whilst more than half of the population places the highest value on it, in parenting and education, in all cultural activity and also in the organisation of labour, confessing these principles, disseminating and putting them into practice as much as possible, and where the catholic community in particular is concerned, no section of the population has steered itself more strongly and more consciously towards the corporate state, precisely out of the strength of its principles.
For that religious confession of faith in the social life, the Dutch people, in many large parts, have made great sacrifices out of respect for God, out of love for God and in faithful trust in God. That respect for God makes them view this as a duty, that love for God confers on them zeal and a spirit of sacrifice for that purpose, that faithful trust in God makes them strong, able to go on doing this despite everything. Both the Christians as well as the Catholics venerate numerous martyrs from their history, who they themselves hold up as an example, even when it means giving their life for the sake of confessing their faith, where people seek to oppress that confession of faith. In this respect the Catholics in particular have traditions which are their glory and honour. Through centuries of oppression, countless have zealously given up their position, their property and even their life. In this time, when the religious life of the majority of the Dutch people is surely no less conscious, it will be no different.
The pushing aside of religiously ecclesiastical influence is felt not only as an affront to God in relationship to his creatures, but also as a violation of the glorious traditions of the Dutch people.
By continuing to press on in this direction the N.S.B. has, in its fight to improve social conditions in the Netherlands, given itself a strongly anti-patriotic character and, as a Dutch movement, it denies the traditions of its own people, at least of the greater part of this people, and it denies its history. Ultimately, the cardo queastionis is this: The N.S.B. narrows and restricts the girth of the, very much alive in the Netherlands and nurtured in proud consciousness, long-standing notion of ‘religiously ecclesiastical’, and instead gives a new much wider girth to the notion ‘political’ than this actually has in the Netherlands, by virtue of its traditions. To its [the N.S.B.’s] descriptions of these two notions in word and deed, the Catholic Church needs to object and the great majority of the Dutch people very seriously object.
In second place, the Dutch people, and especially the catholic community, resist the N.S.B. because of the far reaching arrogance and gross incompetence of so many persons, who as leading powers in this movement, are appearing more and more in responsible positions of political and social influence. Nomina sunt odiosa, but generally with the Dutch people, the belief, that this small party – which as Mussert the leader in Berlin at the same time declared, consists of 100,000 people, of whom half are women, whilst out of the 50,000 men, 11,000 are at the front in Russia, so that not even 40,000 remain in the Netherlands, which is not even 1 in 200 or 0.5% of the population – does not have the powers which are necessary to reform the Netherlands. The consequence is that a few talented and gifted personnel are required to do everything at the same time and occupy various responsible positions with an accumulation of duties, which to perform well demands a well-rounded person, whilst further up, various posts are given to people who do not possess the talent for them. For the sober minded Dutch man, this is not compensated for by a cocksure performance with insufficient knowledge of matters. On the one hand, the Dutch people laugh about these self-inflated people and shrug their shoulders over them. One will show deference towards authority, but authority is never more strongly undermined than through the incompetence of those in charge. On the other hand, the Dutch people view this with indignation, but especially with concern, because it means that in this way the true interests of the people are trifled with. One does not understand how the intelligent German people, so renowned for their ability to organise, can rate so highly these persons. One recalls the Dutch man of the Patriot period from the beginning of the nineteenth century, when after the French revolution the small party of the Patriots – still somewhat larger than that of the N.S.B. – with support from the French power, sought to occupy and were given various positions of state administration and management of social institutions. At that time, the great incompetence of the persons who became or were put into leadership positions, made the occupying powers decide in the end to untie itself from this party and to orientate itself differently.
With this, I come to the third reason for resistance on the part of the Dutch people against the N.S.B. For this party it became perilous that, in order to realise its ideals, it looked for support from and found it with the German occupying power. This is particularly a psychological reason, illustrated best by what young people, who are not in agreement with each other, refer to as the menace of the ‘big brother’, the stronger brother who must resolve the conflict, when people are unable to secure it via their own powers. The Dutch people, by far the vast majority of its population, respect sincerely and loyally the rights of the occupying German power. Of course, in such a time there is always a few insurgent and rebellious elements, but in the Netherlands, these are the exception. Our people desire order and peace and recognise authority and laws, but the Dutch people would renounce its tradition and history if it did not experience the occupation as something terrible in the life of its people. The synthesis of the Dutch fatherland’s history is, in the first instance: the wrestling of the Dutch people for its freedom. The love of liberty in our people is great, truly great. They are sober minded and circumspect, they suffer and trust, they wait quietly for freedom anew, and they yearn for it. They think that these feelings do not in any way conflict with the respect and submission due to, according to international law, the occupying power during the occupation, and regard a call for help from this power for the realisation of ideas of an anti-national patriotic tone — because they [the NSB] are unable to realise this in their own power — to be in conflict with their own national dignity, which is recognised by the occupying power and evidenced in its statements, and which the people themselves are free to maintain. That the German people wanted to govern according to the German model is understood by the Dutch people. Therefore, understanding is there if it does not go too far, but the Dutch can ill endure a drift in that direction. When two attempt to do the same, it is still therefore not the same! The Netherlands is still the Netherlands. It still has its previous boundaries, and hopes and trusts to preserve them, once again in complete freedom and in permanent freedom with the German people. It is much less fearful of Germany not wanting to recognise that freedom, than of people from its own fatherland wishing to blur the boundaries between both lands. The leader of the N.S.B. wrote the following in a main article, ‘Van Grebbe naar Oeral’, in one of the very last numbers of ‘Volk en Vaderland’: ‘Boundaries of which many of us thought existed and still think exist, are no longer there’. Whilst statements such as these might be well intended and open to good interpretation, they are read by many with a degree of mistrust, and lead to a blurring of everyone’s well-defined understanding of boundaries which a people, who form a State, must have and within which they must maintain their independence and sovereignty. The Netherlands values this most highly. Returning once more to the realism of the Dutch people, means that they will assume and accept more from the German people in complete freedom and independence and within sharply delineated boundaries of independent existence, than they shall ever accept by force and terror, indeed from any significant restriction of their freedom. The people shall accept and preserve far more from Germany the more they enjoy from it a greater freedom with regard to the organisation of their own society and political life. History is a living testament to this.
Thus, this is how I see the mood in the Netherlands. I have tried, as requested of me, to describe this as objectively as possible.
God bless the Netherlands.
God bless Germany.
God grant, that both nations will once again stand next to each other in total freedom, in recognition of him and for the sake of his glory, for the salvation and blossoming of such closely allied people.
Scheveningen. Police prison, 22 January 1942.
Prof. Dr. Titus Brandsma O. Carm.
- N.S.B. refers to the Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging, in English, the Dutch national socialist movement.
- This translates literally as ‘destructive production’.
- The English tend to say: ‘some things are better left as they are’.
- Here Titus means the protestants.
Translation: Susan Verkerk-Wheatley / Anne-Marie Bos
© Titus Brandsma Instituut 2019