An American Facebook acquaintance recently posted this video with the comment: “Just for the record”. I watched it and I found it to be a strange hodgepodge of information, rumor and images without commentary. It’s in Dutch, so let me briefly tell you what it’s about.
It begins with KLM, the Dutch airline, and its role in helping Nazis flee to South America after the war. Apparently Prince Bernhard–the German husband of Princess Juliana, who became queen in 1948–was instrumental in arranging this.
I didn’t know this, but I find it altogether plausible and when I googled the issue it seems the evidence is there. From what I’ve read, Bernhard had no real moral convictions, he was a bit of a playboy and he was always looking for ways to make his own money, rather than live off the stipend his in-laws gave him. He had friends in high places everywhere, including in the SS and South America.
For Dutch people this is probably nothing new, but I check the Dutch news spottily, so I had missed this. It’s a shameful part of the Dutch war narrative, and for the sake of balance it should be included in my posts about Netherlands in WWII.
The video continues to claim that Prince Bernhard was a spy for the Germans and later for the CIA, and that he was the one who informed the Germans about the Allied parachutists who were scheduled to land outside Arnhem as a part of Operation Market Garden. As a result the Germans were waiting for them, and shot them out of the sky like they were at a carnival shooting gallery.
There were always rumors and stories about Prince Bernhard, some of them based on the impression he himself gave people, suggesting he had a much more important role in the RAF than he actually had. According to one source he probably only made one flight, along with other planes,to northern France, and only after bribing his superior with a bottle of whiskey. The British intelligence was always leery of him because he was German and would never have given him any important information.
A different version is that his personal assistant was so close to Bernhard that he saw top secret documents about Operation Market Garden on his desk, and told the Germans. Again, since it’s very unlikely that the Allies would have given Bernhard any top secret information, it’s also unlikely that anyone would have come across this information on his desk.
But every now and then someone writes another book, like Philip Dröge’s Beroep: meesterspion; Het geheime leven van prins Bernhard (Profession: Master Spy – The Secret Life of Prince Bernhard) in 2002, with, it seems, no more evidence than in previous books, but it gets the rumors started again.
The video also mentions a letter Bernhard supposedly wrote to Hitler, asking to put him in charge of the Netherlands. But no one has ever found any such letter. And anyway, if it’s true, then the Allies would have had all the more reason not to let him in on anything.
And finally there is the text at the very beginning of the video, that claims that the Germans took over the Dutch government with the help of Prince Bernhard. That’s just ludicrous. The Germans bombed Rotterdam to blazes and threatened to do Utrecht next if the Dutch didn’t capitulate. How would Bernhard have helped the Germans in this? Did he point out Rotterdam to them on the map? Did he give him the top secret information that the Dutch army consisted of a few thousand men on bikes? Come on.
So, as far as I can tell, Bernhard was guilty as sin for helping Nazis escape to South America, and that’s terrible, even if he wasn’t also responsible for “A Bridge Too Far” at Arnhem.
Any comments, Dutch readers?
The rest of the video is a lot of footage of the NSB, the collaborators, handing the country over to the Germans on a silver platter. It also shows some footage of the way the Germans tried to ingratiate themselves with the Dutch by throwing parties for homeless children and sending them to summer camps in Germany after bombing their homes in Rotterdam to smithereens.
I’ll leave this post here for a while, and then I’ll insert it in the series of posts about the Netherlands in World War II that I did a while back.
Doofpot: Prins Bernhard en KLM hielpen nazi’s (ODESSA) bij vlucht naar Argentinië http://www.prorepublica.org/media
Prins Bernhard meesterspion? http://www.geschiedenis24.nl/nieuws/2002/juli
Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld http://en.wikipedia.org
De stadhoudersbrief: Het geheim van het Vaticaan http://www.prorepublica.org