August 18, 2018

Financing the resistance

By Barend ter Haar.

Anybody interested in recent Dutch history should see The Resistance Banker, a movie that is currently shown in many Dutch theaters. The original film, entitled Bankier van het verzetis in Dutch, so look for the version with English subtitles.It tells the story of how during the German occupation of the Netherlands during the Second World War a system was set up to finance the Dutch resistance.

It started with supporting the families of Dutch sailors. Most of them were at sea when Germany attacked the Netherlands and decided not to return to the Netherlands as long as it was occupied by the Nazis. To punish these sailors, the Germans prohibited disbursing their salaries to their wives and children. To support these families an underground Zeemanspot (Seamen-Fund) was set up.

However, there were much more people in need of financial assistance. Therefore a Landrottenfonds (Landlubbers-Fund) was set up, to be succeeded by the Nationaal Steun Fonds (National Aid Fund). This Nationaal Steun Fonds (NSF) supported not only the families of seamen, but also the families of resistance workers that were arrested, people that refused to work for the Germans, Jewish families in hiding, etc.

When in September 1944 a general railway strike was ordered and 30000 railway workers lost their regular income, the NSF took also care of them.The NSF distributed about 100 million guilders (currently worth approximately € 500 million) to 50000 addresses, thereby supporting about 150000 people.

Bankier van het verzetis.

Collecting, distributing and administrating so much money to so many destinations would have been a major operation in peace time, but in an occupied country where all this had to be done in utmost secrecy, it was a wonder that the system continued working until the very end of the war.

Of the 2000 people involved in distributing the money, 82 were arrested and killed by the Germans. Among those were the two founders of the NSF, Iman van den Bosch and Walraven van Hall.

At first, most of the necessary money consisted of gifts. Soon this had to be supplemented by loans that would be paid back after the war. To collect and to distribute the money and to administrate all this, an underground bank had to be set up.

This has been the work of Walraven (Wally) van Hall and his brother Gijs. They developed an ingenious system to cheat the Dutch National Bank that was governed by a pro-German director. Without using any violence, they robbed the bank of 50 million guilders.

The film The Resistance Banker rightly honours their courage and creativity.

 

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