Het Parool 1940-1945. Verzetsblad in Oorlogstijd. (Cramwinckel Amsterdam)

Summary of Het Parool

The illegal press flourished in the Netherlands during the German Occupation of 1940-1945. The titles are known of almost thirteen hundred illegal papers and leaflets. Some only appeared for a short time, while others were issued throughout the five years of the occupation. A few were handwritten, but most were duplicated, and some were actually printed. The majority of the illegal papers appeared in print runs of a few hundred, but some achieved a circulation of some tens of thousands.

The present study is concerned with the history of Het Parool, one of the major illegal papers, and its precursor, the Nieuwsbrief van Pieter ‘t Hoen, which first appeared on 25 July 1940. It was the initiative of one man, who was responsible for the contents. The Nieuwsbrief was produced by a handful of individuals and distributed on a small scale. The Nieuwsbrief van Pieter ‘t Hoen became Het Parool in February 1941. Het Parool was written by a larger editorial team and was widely distributed throughout the country. It was published continuously from 10 February 1941 until the liberation.

The first chapter presents an account of the history of Nieuwsbrief van Pieter ‘t Hoen and an analysis of the contents of the paper, preceded by an outline of the career of the man behind the pseudonym Pieter ‘t Hoen, the Amsterdam journalist F.J.Goedhart. His career as a journalist in the prewar period was characterised by the need to oppose exploitation and oppression. He saw his profession as a political act and strove to achieve the greatest possible effectiveness with his journalism. Over the years his position changed from Communist to independent Socialist to the left of social democracy.

Goedhart was well aware of the threat which Germany posed to Western European democracy from 1933 on and of the menace to Dutch independence. In word and deed he opposed the government policy, which was ineffectual, in his opinion, in devising forces to counter National Socialism and the expansionism of the Third Reich. He was therefore by no means surprised by the rapid capitulation of the Netherlands on 14 May 1940. His initiative in publishing the Nieuwsbrief van Pieter ‘t Hoen was a continuation of his prewar political convictions. The primary aim of the Nieuwsbrief was to incite readers to put up a resistance. He linked this call to arms with a vision of the transformation of the Netherlands into an active and resilient democracy after the Germans had been defeated, a democracy which had learned from the errors of the prewar social and political system. The frequent attacks published in the Nieuwsbrief were not aimed at democracy in the prewar Netherlands, but at the functioning of the political system of the time. It had to be reformed in the future. Gross social inequality must come to an end. As for the existing party system, marked by opposition between the confessional parties and the parties based on purely constitutional principles, he considered that it was demonstrably unable to tackle the current political and socio-economic issues with determination and was therefore in need of revision. He saw the new programme of principles of the Social Democratic Workers Party (SDAP) of 1937 as a positive step in this direction. However, the party must get rid of the age-old traditions and Marxist dogmas which were still a hallmark of social democracy and which had been responsible for the stagnation in its membership up to 1940 and for its isolation in national politics until 1939.

Pieter ‘t Hoen attacked all those who came to terms with the policy of the occupying forces, those who sided with them and collaborated with them. The motto of the Nieuwsbrief was one of complete non-cooperation. He sharply criticised those who considered that the German occupation heralded the beginning of a new era and that it was already necessary to construct a new nation during the occupation. Pieter ‘t Hoen was totally opposed to any form of politics other than underground politics, on the grounds that it was an act of collaboration with the occupying forces.

The Nieuwsbrief was already distributed outside Amsterdam in 1940. The circulation soon rose to 7,000. However, it was Goedhart’s ambition to turn his Nieuwsbrief into a big national illegal paper. The potential that this required could not be supplied by his Amsterdam connections alone. Distribution points had to be found all over the country. At first he worked as a travelling salesman himself to establish the necessary contacts. However, the quality of his Nieuwsbrief soon attracted the attention of others, who saw that widespread distribution of the illegal paper called for the utilisation of an organisational structure that was already in existence. They seized upon the party organisation of the Social Democratic Workers Party (SDAP). The ex-chairman of the SDAP, Koos Vorrink, came to an agreement with Goedhart in the autumn of 1940 to set up the illegal paper on a broader basis. Het Parool acquired an editorial board of six: Goedhart, Vorrink, A.A.L.Althoff, M.Kann, J.C.S.Warendorf and J.Nunes Vaz.

The second chapter contains biographical sketches of all the other members of the editorial board of Het Parool besides Goedhart. The five other members also had an active career in politics and journalism behind them. As a team, they guaranteed the high journalistic quality which was to become a feature of Het Parool. They all shared the ambition of publishing a huge national illegal paper which also offered views on a better future. Vorrink believed that the illegal paper should adopt a moderate position with regard to the implications of the latter objective for a critique of the past. National resistance must not be plagued by party squabbles during the occupation. However since the editorial board included both left-wing Socialists like Goedhart and Nunes Vaz, on the one hand, and critical progressive liberals like Kann and Warendorf, on the other, this position created problems in determining a homogeneous editorial policy. In particular, Goedhart found it difficult to accommodate the opinions of Vorrink, who was joined by a new member of the editorial board, the Social Democrat H.B.Wiardi Beckman, after Kann’s arrest in May 1941. Goedhart refused to moderate his views on the failure of the prewar party leaders and on the SDAP as a fossilised workers party. Nunes Vaz and Warendorf shared his opinion.

Vorrink was undoubtedly the most well-known of these six editors. After the appointment M.M.Rost van Tonningen, a member of the Dutch National Social Party (NSB), as Kommissar of the SDAP in July 1940, the party leadership decided to keep the party members together as much as possible in order to discuss the current situation and to continue the discussion on the future of the party. Vorrink wanted to use the former party organisation for the resistance, but the party leadership did not consider this to be suitable for the resistance. All the same, in the course of 1941 Vorrink tried to involve as many party members as he could in national resistance plans. He saw Het Parool as a forum in which he could urge his fellow party members to engage in spiritual resistance. This was one of the reasons why the paper was to refrain from sharp criticism of the prewar system. He considered this to be inopportune for resistance reasons, but also because as a former party leader he was by now closely involved in the illegal regular political consultations between the leaders of the main prewar democratic parties. Vorrink assumed a prominent role in these talks and they led him to hope that after the liberation social democracy would emerge from its isolation and would be recognised as a partner in the government. In addition, any criticism of the prewar political system in Het Parool would impede his attempts to forge a link between the political deliberations and the military resistance that was combined in the Ordedienst (OD).

National solidarity was the message preached by Het Parool during the first phase of its existence, as is made clear in the third chapter. As a result of the high quality of the resistance journalism of Het Parool and its good sources of information, the paper soon expanded to become one of the main illegal papers. The difference in opinion as to the degree of criticism of the prewar system which could be expressed in Het Parool was bound to lead to an editorial rupture. The arrest of Goedhart and Wiardi Beckman in January 1942 was the pretext for Vorrink to try to transform Het Parool into a national resistance paper in accordance with his own views. By now his main antagonist had been arrested, but Nunes Vaz and Warendorf proved to be equally intractable. They considered that the former political leaders had forfeited their right to set themselves up as leaders of the resistance. This was the duty of the new forces which had originated underground. Their opposition led Vorrink to resign from the editorial board, accompanied by Althoff, a fellow party Member, who was by now involved in Vorrink’s resistance activities.

The organisation of Het Parool in 1941 is the subject of chapter four. The paper was duplicated in Amsterdam and in number of other places. It was the first illegal paper to be printed in August 1941. Besides the main edition which was printed in Zandvoort, there was a separate edition in The Hague which was printed under the name Vrijheid. Social Democrats played an important part in the distribution. The members of the Workers Youth Centrale (Arbeiders Jeugd Centrale, AJC) formed a large distribution centre in Amsterdam. A number of the distributors in Amsterdam and The Hague were arrested in the autumn of 1941. Goedhart was one of the twenty-three suspects to be brought to trial before the German magistrate in the first Parool trial in December 1942. Seventeen death sentences were pronounced and thirteen Parool workers were executed by firing squad in February 1943. Goedhart managed to obtain a retrieve. He escaped in September 1943 and resumed his position on the editorial board. Wiardi Beckmann was transported as a Nacht und Nebel prisoner. He died in Dachau in March 1945.

Three new members joined the editorial board: J. Meijer, W. van Norden and C.H. de Groot. Their biographical backgrounds are outlined in chapter five. They all lived in The Hague and were distributors of the Nieuwsbrief and Het Parool from the first. Their political position was independent left. They welcomed the reorientation of social democracy in the course of the 1930s and supported a new Socialist party for the future. They agreed with Warendorf and Nunes Vaz that the role of Het Parool as a resistance paper was to propagate a political, social and cultural renewal of the Netherlands. Their joint efforts managed to carry Het Parool through the dark year of 1942, the year of the deportations of the Jews. Circulation barely increased. Nunes Vaz, Meijer and van Norden fell into German hands in October; Warendorf managed to escape in time and reached England in June 1943. Nunes Vaz was killed in the Polish concentration camp of Sobibor. Het Parool was continued by the only editor left, De Groot, and a few assistants. A new member joined the editorial board of Het Parool at the end of 1942; G.J. van Heuven Goedhart. Chapter six contains an account of his prewar journalistic career and an analysis of his political views. In spite of his high estimation of democracy and the fact that he was not a socialist but a progressive liberal, he too was critical of the functioning of prewar parliamentary democracy. Meijer and Van Norden were released in the first half of 1943 and resumed their positions on the editorial board of Het Parool in the summer of that year, so that in the course of the promising year of 1943, with De Groot, Meijer and Van Norden as its editors, Het Parool was gradually able to elaborate a programme of renewal for the postwar Netherlands. After the arrest of Wiardi Beckman and the departure of Vorrink from the editorial board, Het Parool had become isolated to a certain extent, but now Van Heuven Goedhart moved in all kinds of circles and established wide contacts for the benefit of the paper. A link with England was established in 1943. Het Parool profiled itself as a major spokesman for the spiritual resistance, but also as the resistance paper of a group which propagated the political, social and cultural renewal of the Netherlands.

The seventh chapter focuses on the organisation of Het Parool in 1943. Circulation rose to a minimum of 25,000. The organization was hit by a wave of arrests again from December 1943 to March 1944. The key figures in the distribution network, the printers and a number of regional distributors were seized, but the editorial board evaded arrest. Once again twenty-three individuals were tried in the second Parool trial, held in July 1944. The majority received sentences in a house of correction and a few were acquitted. The printing and distribution organisation had to be rebuilt from scratch.

In 1943 a few illegal groups took the initiative of coordinating the illegal activities on a broader scale to improve the effectiveness of the resistance. The editors of Het Parool also saw that a degree of coordination of the different illegal groups was called for, whatever their field of activities. Besides the arguments in terms of the resistance itself, Het Parool also supported this move because a coordinated organisation of the various illegal groups which were cooperating could function as a mouthpiece of Dutch hopes for the future and as a contact for London. The eighth chapter describes the process of coordinating the various illegal groups. Het Parool greatly encouraged this process. Van Heuven Goedhart did so in collaboration with H.M. van Randwijk, editor-in-chief of the illegal sister paper Vrij Nederland, and with a number of advisors and informants with whom he already had contact for some time. They joined to form a group in which L.H.N.Bosch van Rosenthal, who had been dismissed as Royal Commissioner for Utrecht in 1941, played a prominent role. In April 1944 Het Parool and Vrij Nederland published a joint manifesto on the basis of which they hoped to unite all those who were in favour of renewal. The appeal received little response. The aims of the group met with large resistance on the part of the majority of the illegal groups which expected to cooperate with one another. Most of the illegal groups were in favour of coordination as far as the strictly resistance activities were concerned, but they rejected the political wing of the illegal groups which Bosch van Rosenthal and his followers proposed. It was only when London explicitly expressed its desire for the coordination of illegal groups that the Great Council of Illegal Groups was set up in July 1944, with the Contact Committee as a coordinating body.

The ninth chapter describes Het Parool’s endeavours for the renewal of democracy by means of the coordinated illegal organization. This campaign envisaged an innovatory role for the illegal groups after the war. Its proponents were encouraged by the support expressed for such plans on a number of occasions by the queen and the government in London. Illegal groups of a different political persuasion and the political leaders who had combined to form the National Committee (Vaderlands Comité), the new consultative body of the former political parties, opposed what they saw as an appropriation of responsibilities beyond their preserves by the illegal groups. Het Parool continued to give full support to the renewal as expressed in the April manifesto. The key elements in the programme of renewal which the paper used to inspire the resistance were: increased government intervention, political and social democracy, planning and regulation and the establishment of a broad progressive popular party. Het Parool performed its function as a resistance paper as it had never done before during the last months of the war. It often acted as the mouthpiece for decisions affecting the resistance which had been taken by the Contact Committee.

Chapter ten deals with the preparations for the postwar daily newspaper Het Parool. The decision to continue the illegal paper after the war had already been taken in the summer of 1943 . Het Parool was to become an independent Socialist national newspaper, propagating the ideas which had been ventilated during the occupation. The ‘Het Parool’ Foundation was set up in September 1944 to guarantee these aims and to emphasise the ideals of the paper. This decision was taken at a time when it looked as though the liberation of the Netherlands was imminent; its definitive form could he settled once the war was over. In September 1944 the daily news bulletins published by Het Parool started to appear in addition to the paper itself. These bulletins had high circulation figures, particularly in the four large cities in the west of the Netherlands. These communiqués had a double function for Het Parool: they went a long way to satisfying the demand for news, and they were an attempt to reach readers of Het Parool who would also be interested in a daily Het Parool after the war. It was primarily for the latter reason that in the autumn of 1944 Het Parool detached itself from the joint communiqués which it had set up in collaboration with other illegal papers in September. Het Parool’s policy of giving prominence to its own identity ran up against resistance on the part of other news bulletin organisations which attached particular importance to the joint activities of the illegal press.

Ever since the autumn of 1943 Het Parool had been trying to win London over to its vision of the future of the press. It had argued for a strict purging of the press in articles and memos. The former illegal press would have to assume the responsibility for a part of the task of the dissemination of news immediately after liberation until the work of purging had been completed. Het Parool also supported press regulation in the future. The fact that this principle was enshrined in the Press Decree of September 1944 was partly due to the influence of Van Heuven Goedhart, who went to England in April 1944 as a representative of some of the illegal groups. Het Parool’s radical views on the purging and regulation of the press also ran up against resistance both on the part of the daily papers which had continued to appear during the war and from the groups which were concerned with the question of the dissemination of news immediately after liberation. The Minister of Home Affairs in London, J.A.W.Burger, who was responsible fur matters of this kind, sympathised with the views of Het Parool. The paper tried to find presses in the Netherlands where the postwar paper could be printed under contract. De Telegraaf, the big national daily which was due in be purged and whose printing press was to be shut down after the war, was approached for the national edition of Het Parool. As a result of the measures which had been adopted by the government-appointed Board of Agents (College van Vertrouwensmannen) in August 1944, it was possible to print Het Parool there after the liberation.

The final chapter deals with Het Parool in the immediate aftermath of the war. The circulation of the Amsterdam edition of Het Parool soon reached 100,000. Local editions of Het Parool appeared in more than ten cities in the country.

‘The liberation paper’ was how Het Parool referred to itself on one of its liberation posters. This slogan can be interpreted in three ways: as a resistance paper, Het Parool had fought for the liberation; it had tried to deliver the Netherlands from the errors which had marked the prewar system; and from 5 May 1945 it was issued as a daily paper for the society which had just been liberated. For five years Het Parool had functioned as the mouthpiece of those whose longing for social renewal had been strengthened by the experience of war and occupation. The response that it received, however, was partly due to the temporary absence of the appropriate politic channels during the occupation. Het Parool prospered until the Contact Committee started up. However, the claims that it made on the basis of its role in the underground ran up against resistance on the part of the political forces which were operative in 1944 both within and outside the Contact Committee, in the liberated South of the Netherlands and in London. From then on Het Parool was a group which provoked opposition and resistance instead of being the illegal paper which could count on much respect and had played an important role in the illegal Dutch organisations. Whatever influence Het Parool may have had on the Netherlands in the postwar period, its political role in the struggle for a new postwar system during the occupation is above all in its role as one of the big illegal papers which joined in the struggle against the occupying forces.