National Socialism (Nazism) (The Netherlands)

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Already with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler in 1933 Dutch Mennonites began to struggle with the issue of which position they should take on National Socialism. During the years 1933-1945 Dutch Mennonites were characterized by particular unity under the Algemene Doopsgezinde Sociëteit (ADS), which had represented the congregations since 1923. Consequently these years, especially after 1936, saw increasing contacts between the ADS and the congregational retreat movement (Gemeentedag movement, see Gemeenschap voor Doopsgezind Broederschapswerk), which often entailed considerable difficulty, but which increasingly accented the unity among the brothers and sisters of the fellowship. Help also came from the latter movement, especially following the German occupation in July 1940. Under the leadership of its chairman Frits Kuiper, who had been strongly influenced by Karl Barth, adherents of the congregational retreat movement had already worked towards a deepening of faith and owning of their heritage before the war. Within this unity movement the task force against military service was the first to point to the dangers of National Socialism for the freedom of the gospel.

The ADS had already been at work before the war identifying the unique tradition of the Mennonite congregations, stressing particularly their apolitical stance. This attitude could be seen, for example, in its attempt to prevent political issues from being discussed at the Mennonite World Conference in 1936. Similarly the ADS withheld affirmation of the statement on "Christian Attitudes to State and Society" prepared by the Centrale Commissie voor het Vrijzinnig Protestantisme (Central Committee for Liberal Protestantism).

The congregational retreat movement was likewise nonpolitical and undogmatic, permitting membership of some who were clearly of National Socialist orientation and very active. Nevertheless, discussion about the nature of National Socialism was facilitated within the congregational retreat movement. Both the congregational retreat movement and the ADS worked to promote unity with Mennonites in Germany. These contacts declined after 1937, however, when the Hutterite communities were forced to leave Germany, without the German Mennonites speaking up in their behalf. This led to considerable protest among Dutch Mennonites.

The traditional Mennonite emphasis upon practical Christianity became more visible in 1938 and 1939 through the work of the Algemene Commissie voor Buitenlandse Noden (Stichting voor Bijzondere Noden, the Dutch Mennonite relief work commission) and the task force "Quakers and Mennonites," both being activated through the initiative of the work group against military service. The fellowship "Quakers and Mennonites" was changed into "Task Force of Mennonites and Like-Minded Groups" during the war years.

While warnings against the dangers of National Socialism emanated from the congregational retreat movement, the ADS kept a relatively low profile until 1939, though it also warned about the dangers of the movement. Differences of opinion about how one should relate to the occupation forces became apparent in due course. The decision of the ADS to be nonpolitical determined its actions, though it did issue circulars and messages clarifying how congregations in the Anabaptist tradition should conduct themselves in this situation. During the early years of the war, therefore, the attitude of the brotherhood might be characterized as one of "neutrality," being careful of its actions and possibly fearful of the regulations of the occupation forces. On the initiative of the congregational retreat movement a "shadow cabinet" of the ADS, in the form of a commission for spiritual concerns, was created in 1941 to help coordinate unity in the face of the occupation. However, this commission could also not prevent the ADS from remaining neutral in April 1942 when a union of churches prepared to announce from all pulpits a condemnation of the way Jews were being treated by the National Socialists. Still, this commission for spiritual concerns, did help congregations and the ADS to a clearer understanding of the dangers of National Socialism, including its anti-semitic aspects. It was because of this commission that the ADS increasingly opposed the occupation. We might say that the ADS abandoned its neutrality during the second half of the war.

At the same time the brotherhood was occupied with its own future, both organizational and spiritual. During the second half of the war the focus of the congregations within the ADS rested on surviving the storm intact. This meant a continuation of the centralization begun in 1923, which had been terminated in July 1940. As a whole this also meant that in addition to the organizational aspects, the ADS was occupied with work and reflection upon the spiritual foundations of the brotherhood. H. W. Meihuizen declared that a spiritual gain of war was that "the unity and solidarity of the brotherhood was greater than before."

See also Judaism and Jews;Bonhoeffer. Dietrich.


Archival materials are found in the ADS Gemeente Archief, Amsterdam, in the Rijksinstituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie, Amsterdam (doc. 1-1128 [J. ter Meulen], doc. 1-988 [R Kuipers], and doc. 1-1290 [F. J. Overbeek]). And in private collections by G. van Room (located in the Archief der Nederlands Hervormde Kerk, Leidschendam) and C. Inja.

Published materials include:

Bakels, F. B. Nacht und Nebel: Mijn verhaal uit Duitse gevangenissen en concentratiekampen. Amsterdam, 1977.

"De Huterschen in Nederland en Engeland." Doopsgezinde Jaarboekje (1938): 51-60.

Brussee van der Zee, E. I. T. "De Doopsgezinde Broederschap en het nationaalsocialisme, 1933-1940." Doopsgezinde Bijdragen n.r. 11 (1985): 118-29.

Dam, H. De NSB en de Kerken. Kampen 1986.

Dijkema, F. "De oecumenische beweging en de Doopsgezinden."  Oecumenisch Christendom. Orgaan van de Nederlandsche Afdeeling van den Wereldbond voor internationale vriendschap door de Kerken, 24, no. 3 Rotterdam (1940): 134-140.

Fopma, G. "De volkstelling 1930." Doopsgezinde Jaarboekje (1934): 64-73.

Gorter, S. H. N. "Internationale Doopsgezinde Opbouw." Doopsgezinde Jaarboekje (1931): 64-71.

de Jong, L. Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede wereldoorlog, deel 5, eerste helft. Het laatste Jaar II. The Hague, 1981.

Knipscheer, Sr., L. D. G. "Een halve eeuw doopsgezinde vredesaktie." Doopsgezinde Jaarboekje (1973): 18-37.

Koekebakker, J. "De organisatie onzer Broedersehap." Doopsgezinde Jaarboekje (1938): 32-50.

Bakhoven, H. C. Leignes. "Het Algemeen Congres." Doopsgezinde Jaarboekje (1937): 58-65.

Meihuizen, H. W. "De Nederlandse Doopsgezinden van  1938 tot 1948." Doopsgezinde  Jaarboekje  (1949): 19-31.

Neff, Christian. Editor. Der Allgemeine Kongress der Mennoniten gehalten in Amsterdam, Elspeet, Witmarsum (Holland) 29 Juni bis 3 Juli 1936. Karlsruhe, n.d.

Pasma, F. H. "A.D.S. voorzitter in oorlogstijd." Stemmen uit de Doopsgezinde Broederschap 12, no. 1. Assen (1963): 1-39.

van Roon, G. Protestants Nederland en Duitsland 1933-1941. Utrecht, 1973.

Touw, H. C. Het verzet der Hervormde Kerk. The Hague, 1946.

van de Water, A. P. "Het Protestants-Joodse vluchtelingenwerk." Doopsgezinde Jaarboekje (1940): 50-56.

Wethmar, H. "Gemeenteleven en instellingen: Ontwikkelingen in de 20ste eeuw." Wederdopers Menisten Doopsgezinden in Nederland 1530-1980. Zutphen. (1980): 240-275.

IJntema, J. Wij Doopsgezinden, no. 61, 2nd edition Amsterdam: de Verstrooiing, 1941.

IJntema, J. "De Doopsgezinden in verleden en heden." Doopsgezinde Jaarboekje (1937): 46-57.

van der Zipp, N. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Nederland. Arnhem 1952.

Author(s) E. I. T Brussee-van der Zee
Date Published 1987

Cite This Article

MLA style

Brussee-van der Zee, E. I. T. "National Socialism (Nazism) (The Netherlands)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 28 Jul 2021.

APA style

Brussee-van der Zee, E. I. T. (1987). National Socialism (Nazism) (The Netherlands). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 28 July 2021, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 618-619. All rights reserved.

©1996-2021 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.