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Bernhard, Prince of Darkness - Dutch book

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2018 11:59 am    Post subject: Bernhard, Prince of Darkness - Dutch book Reply with quote

About Nothing was what seemed to Gerard Aalders
Uitgeverij Boom, Amsterdam, 2014,
ISBN 9789461055293 / 464p.

To survive, royal houses need two things: a sophisticated mythology and a people who believe in it.

That mythology does not have to be spot-free, French thinker Roland Barthes already showed in a short essay about the romance between RAF pilot Peter Townsend and British Princess Margaret. This affair caused quite a stir in the fifties. Townsend had no noble origins and was also separated, making Princess Margaret the enfant terrible of the royal family.

Margaret's struggle with the royal straitjacket is, according to Barthes, a confirmation of this at the same time. She just reveals 'the serfdom of the kings'. And it is that serfdom that strengthens the mythology of the royal family. Because people may well be untouchedly rich, but then they have to suffer for that. "Because wealth is a burden, he becomes ethical," writes Barthes. A little further you can read: 'Rebels, in love and still royal, Margaret consolidates the myth of the monarchy by vaccinating that myth with its own rebellion.'

Mime and rumble are the two legs on which the myth of the royal family runs. And if there was someone in the Netherlands who caused a lot of humiliation and rumbling in royal spheres, then it is Prince Bernhard (1911-2004). At the same time, he is still extremely popular to this day. Even after his death Bernhard continues to speak to the imagination.

The immortal popularity of Prince Bernhard is a thorn in the eyes of the Dutch historian Gerard Aalders (1946). Aalders worked for many years as a researcher for the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD) and over the years, through books and articles, he regularly paid attention to Bernhard's many missteps. But a summarizing biography of the prince was still missing in Aalders' oeuvre and so he wrote Nothing was what it seemed , a book that spent many weeks in the non-fiction top 10 of the CPNB.

It is not strange. It was not what it seemed like is a historical biography that reads like a schelmen novel and contains more juicy scandals than all Dutch gossip magazines combined. The emphasis on the scandals from Bernhard's life is a conscious choice, according to Aalders' introduction. "It was not my intention to make a biography that covers all aspects of a life," writes the historian. "The basic idea was to summarize Bernhard's trials chronologically thematically, with an emphasis on the many large, but also smaller - say -" missteps "he had committed during his lifetime; a "strapatography". '

Such a 'strapatography' is much needed according to Aalders, because according to him the public image of Bernhard is based on nothing but lies. Under the widely supported image of Bernhard as a resistance hero and charismatic leader, there is a stinking reality that has been carefully covered with the cooperation of ministers and the Government Information Service. "If the cover-up had not existed, he would have been invented for Bernhard," Aalders writes without hesitation. And:

It is certain that Prince Bernhard was indeed very charming, charismatic, kind, thoughtful, committed, humorous and bold. In any case, he effortlessly aroused the appearance. His dark sides, on the other hand, remained hidden from the general public. The husband of our long-term queen was also a greedy, stingy, selfish, self-centered and corruptible person. In addition, he lied and cheated when it came to him.

Bernhard, Aalders wants to say, was a first class scammer. And with scammers nothing is what it seems.

Nothing was what it seemed to read as a wrecking ball that is released in an extreme speed on the mythology surrounding Bernhard. According to Aalders, the 'real' Bernhard is a kind of evil genius who knew no scruples. He concluded his marriage with Juliana solely from opportunism and everything was permitted when it came to expanding his power and standing. The lies begin at his origin. "None of Bernhard's grandfathers had a royal or princely title, and his father was no more than Bernhard himself born with a high title. The later prince of the Netherlands wanted us to believe that better, but all too well, "writes Aalders. His youth at the German estate Reckenwalde, where Bernhard grew up together with his brother Aschwin, was a lot shabby than he later suggested. And Bernhard's alleged sporting slant can not be traced back to his childhood: 'Bernhard, who in his later life would gladly present himself as a born athlete - what his biographers had written down on his authority - scored at school for his sporting performances invariably "defective". "."

Then of course there is the hot issue of Bernhard's membership of the NSDAP and its two subdivisions: the SS and the SA. His NSDAP membership has always been denied by Bernhard, but he has not made any secret of his SA and SS past. According to the prince, these were necessary because otherwise he could not pass for his exams. Nonsense, says Aalders. "Bernhard was a voluntary - and not a forced - Nazi." Bernhard himself would always have detested National Socialism himself and entered into his memberships for purely practical reasons. But there is no question of 'any form of aversion,' says Aalders.

"Bernhard was continually describing a life he had never lived, but that put him in a radiant light," writes Aalders. He was charming, and convincing; two qualities with which he won Princess Juliana. On 7 January 1937 they married in The Hague and Bernhard was given the title Prince of the Netherlands. 'Bernhard received a treatment when he came to the Netherlands, which in our days only received pop stars.'

Bernhard was particularly bored during the first years of his marriage. But the war brought a solution. A few days after the German invasion the prince fled to London, from there to build an image as a resistance hero. This image is also not based on anything, according to Aalders. Bernhard got in the way in London and often turned to alcohol and women.

Here too his lies again led a life of their own. Thus the prince would have heroically participated in bombing flights. He would even have bombed Berlin. The prince, however, never flown over Germany. In 1944, he did participate in three missions over France and Italy. 'There were hardly any dangers associated with this,' says Aalders. Bernhard did during the war many pleasure flights to various countries, described by Aalders as a kind of 'front tourism'. At the liberation of the Netherlands, Bernhard gladly drove a jeep through the liberated areas where he was applauded by frenzied crowds. In this way he became a resistance hero, but Aalders delicately points out that Bernhard did not perform any warrior work during the liberation.

After the war, Bernhard was more popular than ever. In a rapid pace, according to Aalders, he developed into a crafty businessman with a preference for cars and planes:

He was soon the largest private car and aircraft owner in the Netherlands. Some cars were owned, but most were left by the occupying forces and attacked the Dutch state as a war booty. Bernhard did not have a message about that.

To get money, Bernhard acted in airplanes; the costs he made with his own fleet he unabashedly declared to the Dutch government, which tacitly reimbursed the huge expenses. In the meantime, Bernhard made a lot of traveling and created a large network. There were not always the freshest characters in between. From arms dealers to dictators, Bernhard was not picky. He had mistresses around the world.

Naturally, Aalders also pays extensive attention to the Hofmans affair . This affair, which revolved around the prayer healer Greet Hofmans who had a special bond with Juliana, knew Bernhard completely to his hand. "The story came out the way he wanted it. He himself came out well, while his wife was publicly shamed because of her contacts with Hofmans and the group around her. ' The British journalist Sefton Delmer, with whom Bernhard had a good contact, served as a conduit for the colored vision of the prince.

Ultimately, only Bernhard's involvement in the kick-off affair at aircraft manufacturer Lockheed (he would have received 1.1 million dollars in bribes) had a slight adverse effect on his public image, but here too he came out relatively well. To prevent a crisis within the monarchy, there was no prosecution, but the prince only had to take a number of public functions, including that of Inspector-General of the Armed Forces. Thus the prince remained on a pedestal until the end of his life.

Nothing was what it seemed like to finally put an end to the myths surrounding Bernhard and expose the ugly truth surrounding his person. 'Bernhard wanted to be buried as laundered as possible in Delft. This has largely succeeded, though his image irrevocably fades and the role he has actually played becomes clearer, 'Aalders writes at the end. It may be clear that the historian wants to give that peeling process an extra push with his book. But the method he has chosen for this is remarkable to say the least.

As mentioned, Aalders describes his historical biography as a 'strapatography'. In his preface he already indicates that it was not his intention to make a 'biography in which all aspects of a life are discussed.' Nevertheless, it remains a strange choice to equate the truth about a person with a list of all missteps made, large and small. It leads to a very one-sided picture. If we have to believe Aalders, Bernhard has never done anything good in his long life.

In addition, Aalders' frequent use of suggestive remarks undermines the scientific character of his book. Aalders writes in a passage about Reich Chancellor Heinrich Brüning: "Would Bernhard have been one of the SS men who had guarded him day and night, as he wrote in his biography? There is no proof for that, but the possibility is not excluded. ' And about Bernhard's proposal (not carried out) to shoot a group of POW's who were taken prisoner, Aalders remarks the following: 'By the way, Fusillering seemed to fascinate him in one way or another.' Exemplary is also Aalder's discussion of the so-called Stadhoudersbrief , a letter that Bernhard wrote to Adolf Hitler in 1942, in which he proposed becoming stadtholder of the Netherlands. The letter has never been found. Nevertheless, Aalders pays extensive attention to the rumor. Aalders acknowledges that its existence has never been proven. But he can not resist to mention that at least five people have assured him that the letter does exist.

The unilateral and suggestive approach creates an almost caricatural image of Bernhard. Thus Aalders unintentionally replaces one myth by another. Instead of the prince on the white horse he makes Bernhard the prince of darkness. With a black paint roller he brushes away the "laundered" image of Bernhard and thus tries to expose the truth.

In passing he also reinforces the myth of the royal family itself. Because, of course, Juliana paid the toll for Bernhard's straps. She suffered under Bernhard, but a divorce was out of the question. Aalders:

In 1987 he celebrated what is called a golden marriage in the language of speech, but in his case it was not gold that shone, even though the appearance had stopped. Bernhard and Juliana all lived in their own wing at Soestdijk Palace.

Soestdijk Palace as a golden cage. Thus Bernhard also confirms the "serfdom of the kings," as Barthes described it, and reinforces the reassuring message that the privilege of innate wealth is only enjoyed in captivity and, above all, a burden. Bernhard the dark prince probably gives the royal house mythology a stronger impulse than the 'laundered' Bernhard. Behind the palace walls predominantly sodder and rumbling prevailed and we like to see it.

Aalders unintentionally reaches the opposite of what he had in mind. Instead of blowing up myths, he blows new life into it. Thanks to Nothing was what it seemed , the mythological longevity of Bernhard and the Dutch royal family has been renewed for a number of years.
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