The leadership of the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands (NSB), a far-right Dutch political movement that existed between 1931 and 1945, could barely control its own paramilitaries. As a result, the movement’s political wing suffered from its supporters’ lawlessness, especially in Amsterdam. This is one of the findings of UvA researcher Gertjan Broek, who will obtain his doctorate on 2 October at the University of Amsterdam.
For his PhD project, Boers conducted research into the far-right paramilitary groups which were active in Amsterdam between 1923 and 1942.
‘Within Dutch historiography, little attention has been given to these paramilitary groups. My research clearly shows that Amsterdam paramilitaries prided themselves on using violence as a means to stifle political debate. The radicalism and anti-bourgeoisie sentiment of these homegrown fascists have been underestimated. This in turn has led to the misconception that the violence perpetrated by them (fascists –ed.) was inconsequential,’ says Broek.
Political movements, such as the NSB, were unable to effectively supervise their paramilitary groups (the NSB’s paramilitary brigade was the so-called Weerbaarheidheidafdeling - WA). Although there are differences, all Amsterdam-based fascist groups struggled with insubordination among militant activists. The Amsterdam branch of the WA regularly transgressed regulations on self-defence. Without taking much notice of the party leadership, WA members actively sought confrontation with opponents, ranging from communists to rival fascists. It was Antoon Mussert’s NSB that suffered the most from this insubordination.
‘The WA's lawlessness inflicted severe damage on the NSB. The authority that Mussert’s party wished to exercise over the Netherlands, couldn’t even be enforced among its own ranks. This was quite detrimental to the NSB,’ says Broek. According to him, this played a role in the NSB’s severe defeat in the elections of 1937. Despite the eventual success of attempts to reassert central authority, the damage inflicted turned out to be permanent.
The far-right paramilitary culture that existed in Amsterdam eventually came to an end in 1941 after the Nazi occupiers started recruiting men for the German armed forces in general, and the Waffen-SS in particular. The paramilitaries were capable of making the transition because of their appetite for fighting, experience with violence and willingness to bear arms.
G.J.A. Broek, Weerkorpsen. Extreemrechtse strijdgroepen in Amsterdam, 1923-1942. Supervisor: Prof. P. Romijn.
The doctoral defence ceremony will take place on Thursday, 2 October at
Place: Agnietenkapel, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 229-231, Amsterdam.