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
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 the 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, dross 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 (simp) 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. I hey 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.G.S. Warendorf and J. Nunes Vaz.
The second chapter contains biographical sketches of all the other members or 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 big 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
parry 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 of M.M.
Rost van Tonningen, a member of the Dutch National Socialist Party (NSB), as Kommissar of
the sdap in July 1940, the party leadership decided to keep the parry 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 otganisation 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 his 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 (on).
National solidarity was the message preached by Het /Woo/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
The organisation of Het Parool in 1941 is the subject of chapter four. The paper was
duplicated in Amsterdam and in a 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 Centre (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 reprieve. He escaped in September 1943 and resumed his position on the editorial board. Wiardi
Beckman 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 19305 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 & 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 organisation 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 were 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.
1 he ninth chapter describes Het Parool's endeavours for the renewal of democracy by means
of the coordinated illegal organisation. This campaign envisaged an innovative 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 Comite), 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 be 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 communiques 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 communiques 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 hud 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 had visited 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 for 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 to 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. I his 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 political 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 proved to be limited. The importance of Het
Parool 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.