Meinout Rost van Tonningen's role with regard to the Waffen-SS in the Netherlands has been extremely important. He founded the Mussert-Garde in 1939 together with Henk Feldmeijer. This paramilitary youth organisation of the NSB developed into a kind of pre-SS, laying the foundations for the Dutch SS and the recruitment of Dutch volunteers for the Waffen-SS.
Meinout was born on 19 February 1894 in Soerabaja, Dutch East Indies. As the son of General Rost van Tonningen who had distinguished himself in fights on Lombok, Atjeh, and Bali Meinout developed an interest in military matters from an early age. In 1909 the Rost van Tonningen family returned to the Netherlands (Meinout was 15 years old at the time). Three years later he began his studies to become an engineer. He did not get further than his first year, however. Together with his fellow student Anton Mussert Meinout volunteered for military service when the First World War erupted in 1914. Luckily, the Netherlands were spared from the hell of trench warfare, but Rost managed to obtain the rank of reserve-eerste-luitenant der artillerie nonetheless.
Next, Rost began studying law in Leiden where he met his first wife: Mary Gordon Hasselbach. He graduated in 1921 and was hired by A.R. Zimmerman, commissary on behalf of the League of Nations in Austria. Rost's duties consisted of checking the 'account of Austria'. His stay in Vienna strongly increased his hatred for Jews and Communists and he often exchanged anti-Semitic and anti-Communist ideas with Zimmerman. On 17 January 1924 Rost married Mary Gordon Hasselbach. They would live in Vienna until 1928.
After a three-year stay in Amsterdam, where he was disturbed by the presence of Jews and Communists once again, Rost was offered another job at the League of Nations in Vienna. This time to fulfil the prestigious function of representative of the League of Nations. Rost could completely indulge himself and enjoy the good life in Vienna. He was impressed by Dolfuss's politics and spent more and more time with national-socialist company. In the summer of 1936 Rost said farewell to the League of Nations, but not after he had significantly simplified the Anschluss of Austria and Germany that would later take place by painting an extremely favourable image of that country.
On 7 August 1936 a new period in Rost's life began: not only did he divorce his wife, but he joined the NSB as well. The radical Rost chose the NSB instead of the NSDAP or the Zwart Front (Black Front) because he had the best prospects there. He hoped to be able to use the NSB for founding his own national-socialist movement. Initially, Mussert was very pleased by the enlistment of this celebrity, but his joy would soon change into feelings of mistrust. To Mussert's dissatisfaction Rost developed into an extremely radical national-socialist. Another member of the NSB: jonkvrouwe Julia op ten Noort brought Rost into contact with high-ranking German nazis and in March 1937 he first met Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. Both gentlemen shared their desire for a unification of all Germanic people into a Great-Germanic Empire. Apparently Rost made a good impression as he was invited to tea with none other than Adolf Hitler in August.
Rost made fewer friends in other areas. Despite the ideological distance between him and NSB-leader Mussert Rost was the one who represented the NSB in the Dutch parliament. As representative of the people Rost excelled in starting quarrels with other members of parliament. He holds the dubious honour of instigating the only fistfight in the history of the Tweede Kamer (Dutch House of Commons). Directly after joining the Beweging Rost got the opportunity to vent his radical ideas through 'Het Nationale Dagblad'. As the editor, he was in charge of this NSB-newspaper and he made full use of it. Anti-Semitic and Great-Germanically tinted articles appeared in 'Het Nationale Dagblad' on a regular basis, and although the paper was meant to propagate the NSB ideology, it became nothing less than Rost's personal voice tube.
Despite the fact that his radical national-socialist attitude made him many enemies within the NSB, the organisation became more radical as a result of his membership. The movement slowly became more 'volkser', anti-Semitic, and favourably inclined to Germany. Rost's position became more and more important as well, even though he did not outrank Mussert. His attempts to increase his power through the worker movements failed, and he was unsuccessful in his dealings with the youth movement as well. He founded the Mussert-Garde together with Feldmeijer in 1939. In Rost opinion, this paramilitary youth organisation was to replace the much too moderate Nationale Jeugdstorm (youth organisation of the NSB). However, Rost missed out again because the NSB members mostly saw Feldmeijer as their leader.
Rost and Feldmeijer were both extremely SS-minded and the blood and soil theory, the Great-Germanic ideology, as well as explicit anti-Semitism were all embodied within them. Unwittingly, Rost had managed to form a kind of pre-SS in the Netherlands with the foundation of the Mussert-Garde, because it intentionally had a great deal in common with the SS in Germany. The troops received political and military education and Jews were barred from joining. When the Dutch SS (Dutch variant of the Allgemeine SS) was founded in 1940 they were allowed to reap the benefits of a certain favourable climate which had been established by the Mussert-Garde. Indeed, the Mussert-Garde was completely absorbed by the Dutch SS, in hindsight providing Rost with a small success.
Early May 1940 Rost was imprisoned by the Dutch government along with twenty other 'public enemies'. He was set free by the Wehrmacht in Calais, who unwittingly saved him from his death as Prince Bernhard is reputed to have wanted them all shot. The fact that Rost had been imprisoned as opposed to Mussert worked to his advantage after his return to the Netherlands as it gave him a kind of heroic reputation that the NSB leader lacked. When Rost was called to a meeting with the occupiers before Mussert was, it seemed as though he had become the highest ranking man within the NSB.
Rost was informed of the SS plans for the Netherlands nine days before NSB leader Mussert was. An Allgemeine SS was to be formed in the Netherlands and Dutch volunteers were to be recruited to serve in the new Waffen-SS division 'Wiking'. The Dutch would get their 'own' SS-Standarte called 'Westland'. Rost was very enthusiastic about all this and promised Himmler and Berger his complete co-operation. Rost was ordered to unite youths, women, farmers, and workers within national-socialist associations to promote national-socialism in the Netherlands. Seeing as how he failed to do so, Mussert remained the main marionette of the SS and the occupiers.
Obviously, Rost was extremely disappointed, and his marriage with Florentine Sophie 'Florrie' Heubel on 21 December 1940 did not change this. In his opinion only one option remained: joining the Waffen-SS. But his application for the SS-Standarte 'Westland' in February 1941 was not accepted. Even though it did not seem to be a problem for his marriage, his supposed Dutch East Indies heritage proved to be problematic for a membership of the SS, as Rost was unable to produce a family tree that proved the 'pureness' of his blood. Moreover, he did not gain permission to join from Mussert. Feldmeijer on the other hand became the leader of the Dutch SS, causing Rost to lose ground to his competition in this area as well.
After the February strikes the occupiers felt the need for a new ally in the economic department. They wanted more control of the Dutch economy, and Rost was approached to fulfil an important function within the Dutch Nation Bank on the basis of his previous work in Vienna. Initially, Rost performed the function of president of the Dutch National Bank, but he became secretary-general later on. In June 1942 Rost became president of the Nederlandse Oostcompagnie (NOC). His duties consisted of co-ordinating the Dutch contribution to the colonisation of 'Ostland' (the Baltic States + the Ukraine). But there was little enthusiasm for this colonisation in the Netherlands, however, turning the NOC into a failure.
After the allied invasion of Normandy Rost reported to the Waffen-SS once again on 6 June 1944. The criteria of selection had become less strict by then, and his request was granted. In the period from 22 June to 8 August Rost was trained to become an officer (SS-untersturmführer der reserve) at the first battalion of 'Landstorm Nederland'. Halfway March 1945 Rost went to the front in the Betuwe. He was captured by the Canadians on 8 May 1945 (when he had become Obersturmführer).