Anton Adriaan Mussert

Anton Adriaan Mussert was born on 11 May 1894 in Werkendam (Noord-Brabant). He became a civil engineer at the Department of Waterways and Public Works in 1918 and became a civil engineer at the Provincial Waterworks Utrecht two years later. He was interested in national and international problems from a young age. He was a strong opponent of the Treaty of Versailles (the treaty between the victors of the First World War and Germany), for example. Musserts political engagement first manifested itself when he founded the Nationaal Comité van Actie (National Action Committee) and successfully campaigned against het Belgisch Verdrag (an hydraulic engineering treaty regarding the canals between the Netherlands and Belgium dating from 1925). According to Mussert, the Netherlands had allowed themselves to be led by fear of the Treaty of Versailles when signing the 'Verdrag'. Partly due to the Comité's campaign the Belgisch Verdrag was rejected by the Eerste Kamer (Dutch House of Lords/Senate) forcing Karnebeek, the minister of foreign affairs to resign in 1927. After these successful activities Mussert became a member of the Dietsche Bond, which had a Great-Netherlands as its goal. Mussert's idealism manifested itself among other things in his support for Flemish activism.

In the early 1930's Mussert came into contact with Cornelis van Geelkerken with whom he founded a political movement: the Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging (NSB). Both were of the opinion that the time was right for taking action against the 'spirit of weakness' connected with the Dutch parliamentary democracy. The reopening of the debate regarding the Belgisch Verdrag in 1929 was proof to Mussert that the political system did not adequately protect national interests and was therefore defunct.

Mussert, who was appointed as the leader of the NSB, was a great admirer of the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini and copied many of his political ideas. He shared the 'Duce's' aversion to democracy and equality. According to him, the Netherlands needed a powerful government that could lead the Dutch people in the right direction. Mussert also borrowed many of his political ideas from Adolf Hitler, whose NSDAP-programme (which was in many ways derived from Mussolini's political ideas as well) was practically copied by the NSB.

There were also some differences, however. The NSB programme omitted several key paragraphs which formed the very core of nazism. The racial doctrines, extreme dictatorship, as well as anti-Semitism were initially pushed aside by the NSB. Another key difference between the NSB and Hitler's NSDAP was the goal of a 'Great-Netherlands' or 'Dietschland' in which all Dutch-speaking lands were to be united in a single realm. Hitler's dream was something completely different: a 'Great-Germania' under German leadership.

NSB pin
With a slightly modified political programme the NSB rapidly managed to gain support, granting Mussert his first electoral success in the elections of 1935. The course Mussert and Van Geelkerken had planned was not radical enough for some, however, and within the same year several radical elements within the movement came forward. These 'volksen' - as they were called - were strong supporters of the racial doctrines, extremely pro-German. They would start the process of radicalisation within the NSB in the coming years.

The NSB became increasingly anti-Semitic and looked more and more to Germany for support. Mussert was unable to stop this radicalisation, and eventually stimulated the process as he hoped that the German invasion and the ensuing German support for the NSB would cause his rise to power in the Netherlands.

When the Germans actually invaded and occupied the Netherlands in 1940 it turned out they had little interest for the NSB leader. Mussert was not nearly radical enough for their tastes and they initially preferred working with Rost van Tonningen. Mussert decided to show his desire to co-operate in the notorious speech: the 'Hagespraak der bevrijding' (22-6-1940), while - in reality - he mistrusted the occupiers and the SS in particular.

In a meeting with Gottlob Berger on 9 June 1940 it was made clear to Mussert what the future for the Netherlands would look like. To his alarm, he learned that the Netherlands were to be a part of Germany and that there would be no independence whatsoever. Berger presented Mussert with orders from Hitler for the foundation of the SS-Standarte 'Westland'. This part of the Waffen-SS division 'Wiking' was to be manned partially by Dutchmen. An Algemeine SS was to be founded in the Netherlands as well. Mussert was deeply shocked: Dutchmen in the power-hungry SS, never!

Initially, Mussert refused to co-operate with both plans, but he gave in at the end of 1940. In exchange for a visit with Hitler Musserts agreed with the foundation of the Dutch SS under the leadership of Feldmeijer and withdrew his objections to the incorporation of Dutchmen in the Standarte 'Westland', an infantry regiment of the SS Division 'Wiking'. Mussert somehow managed to gain the favour of the German occupiers at the expense of Rost van Tonningen and was convinced that Hitler would listen to him and that the visit would result in the reversal of the plans.

Hitler was not at all interested in Mussert's ideas and the Nederlandsche SS was founded on 11 September 1940 as a part of the NSB. Early 1941 Mussert called on the NSB members to join 'Westland'. After the attack on the Soviet Union (22 June 1941) Mussert tried to form a Dutch combat formation, but only after the competition (Meijer's National Front) had pulled out. The Germans told him that the unit would have an entirely Dutch character and that it would be led by Dutch officers. In time, the Vrijwilligerslegioen (Volunteer Legion) turned out to be a Waffen-SS unit in practice, however. Mussert was very distraught over this matter, but did not stop his co-operation. He hoped to establish a distinctly Dutch character nonetheless by having as many NSB men as possible join the legion. Although many NSB men indeed ended up in the legion, Mussert's plan failed.

Mussert (writing) visiting SS-Standarte 'Westland'
At the end of 1941 Mussert swore a personal oath of loyalty to Hitler as the Germanic führer in the hope of preventing 'his' Dutch SS from having to do so as well. Again Mussert had gambled and lost, in May 1942 the Dutch SS was sworn in as well. From that moment on Mussert's role with regard to the Dutch volunteers was over. Late 1942 it seemed that an NSB government was near, but this plan did not make it either. In 1943 the desperate Mussert lashed out at the SS, again without results. Neither the occupiers nor the SS were interested in what the man who had by then been given the meaningless function of 'Leader of the Dutch People' had to say.

Mussert continually overestimated his own role and repeated the mistake of assuming that Hitler had the best interests of the Dutch people in mind. The occupiers and the SS loathed him and his political ideas in all respects and their co-operation seemed to have been established simply because he was the only one with whom co-operation was possible. Anton Adriaan Mussert - the symbol of Dutch collaboration - was shot on 7 May 1946.

Sources: (see literature for title specifications) Havenaar, Anton Adriaan Mussert; Meyers, Mussert een politiek leven; NIOD, Het proces Mussert; Havenaar, de NSB; Van der Zee, Voor Führer, volk en vaderland; De Jong, Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog; De Jonge, Het Nationaal-Socialisme in Nederland; In 't Veld, De SS en Nederland; Storm SS ; Volk en Vaderland

  Text: EM © 2000 - 2004    Translations by: FvB © 2003
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