Textile Tales From The Second World War

Lapel pin of the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands. The colours red and black stood for their Blood and Soil ('Bloed en Bodem') theories. Lapel pin of the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands. The colours red and black stood for their Blood and Soil ('Bloed en Bodem') theories. TRC 2020.3706

2. National Socialism

The National Socialist Movement (NSB), the Dutch political party that sympathised with Nazi Germany, worked together with the occupying forces during the Second World War. During the German occupation of the Netherlands it was the only permitted party in the country.

NSB members wore badges with the NSB logo, or with the so-called Prinsenvlag. This was the orange-white-blue flag that became popular during the Eighty Years' War between 1568 and 1648 which established the Netherlands as an independent country.  According to the NSB this was the real Dutch flag, instead of the official red-white-blue. Or they wore the Wolfsangel (an old heraldic symbol, which the National Socialists interpreted as an ancient Germanic rune sign). The National Socialists in the Netherlands expressed many of their ideas through their clothing and other outward symbols, such as flags and emblems.

The Weerbaarheidsafdeling (WA, 'defence section') was the black uniformed strong arm of the NSB. They normally wore insignia and images of the Wolfsangel and the Dutch heraldic lion on their uniform. The latter is remarkable since the Dutch lion was also used as a symbol of the Dutch resistance against the German occupying forces.

2016.0756Lace cap worn by Frisian women from the north of the Netherlands; according to the National Socialist Movement, Frisian regional dress was of 'proper' Germanic origin and therefore acceptable (TRC 2016.0756). For more information, click on the illustration.Folk costume

Regional dress was embraced by the National Socialists and consistently referred to as Volksdracht ('folk costume').  This idea fitted seamlessly into their blood and soil theory: the regional costume, according to the National Socialists, was an expression of the soul of the people, and thus linked to their blood line. It was also linked to their particular location, because each region has its own range of clothing.

The Dutch folk costume was said to have many elements that went back to clothing from the Bronze Age, the alleged cultural heyday of the Germanic nations. The Germanic ancestry was therefore preserved, so theu believed, in folk costume. Because the people expressed their character and ‘soul’ with their costume, clothing was therefore an expression of their race. The Dutch costume emphasised the ‘proper’ pedigree and appearance of the "North folk": the hoods and ear irons emphasised, for example, the long oval shape of the typical Germanic head.

According to the National Socialists, this was particularly the case with the Frisian and Saxon costumes; Frisians (in the north) and Saxons (in the east of the country) were regarded as typically Germanic peoples. Their clothes were considered sober and beautiful and were said to reflect an inner sense of propriety. The costumes worn by people in the west, along the North Sea coast and in Zeeland, were also acceptable. The National Socialists explained this by stating that the people of these regions descended from the Frisians. 

2006.0112cpA lace cap worn by women from Volendam. The National Socialists regarded the costume of Volendam as being 'non-Germanic' (TRC 2006.0112c). For more information, click on the illustration.However, they found the Zuiderzee costumes (including that worn by people in Volendam) to be unacceptable and ugly. These outfits were said to make the body look large and the garments were regarded as being too complicated and colourful. The caps made the head look small. Since the costume was regarded as an expression of race, the wearers of these "ugly" costumes could not, according to the National Socialists, be descendants of Germanic tribes. To explain this, they invented the old ‘people’ of the Flevons, who were not related to the German tribes, and who were the ancestors of the people living along the Zuiderzee (nowadays the IJsselmeer).

The Brabant costumes, worn by people in the south of the country, were also considered ugly. The explanation that the National Socialists provided for this phenomenon was that the Brabant dress, from the south of the country, had been influenced by the French.

It was disappointing to the National Socialists that much of the folk costume had already disappeared. According to them, this was due to mass production of textiles and clothing. The Jews, accrding to the NSB, played their part in the disappearance of the Volksdracht: most traditional dresses had short sleeves, and girls no longer wanted to wear them because they would then be harassed by Jews.

The political connotation attached to regional dress in the Netherlands affected the appreciation of local dress after the war. For many people in the Netherlands, regional dress was tainted as being 'fascist'.

Cover of the booklet Merklappen. Oud en Nieuw, by Ms H. Bottema (1942; TRC Library). For the contents, click on the illustration.In addition to folk costume, some motifs for embroidery and other forms of decoration were also regarded as an expression of the national character. Germanic (especially the tree of life) and Christian motifs were appreciated and preferred above the "tasteless" decorations on "modern" handicraft work. The TRC library houses a booklet that was published in 1942 entitled Merklappen. Oud en Nieuw ('Samplers. Old and New'). It contains a series of embroidery charts, mainly taken from eighteenth and nineteenth century Dutch sources. For a TRC blog on this brochure, and a PdF file of all charts, see Merklappen Oud en Nieuw (1942). See also another blog, A remarkable sampler booklet from Nazi occupied Holland, by Gillian Vogelsang (8 September 2020).

Winter relief

The National Socialists were committed to some form of charity. Their Dutch aid organisation was called Winterhulp, because there would be no poverty under National Socialism, only during the winter would charity in the form of food and clothing be needed. Winterhulp's sources derived from taxes, lotteries and street collections.

The collections were not very popular. Many people suspected that the money went directly to Germany or the NSB. To make the collections more popular, badges were issued. In exchange for a donation you received a badge. Matchboxes were also distributed during collections.

Stamp issued by the Dutch postal service in 1944 on the orders of the German occupying forces. The stamps were sold with a surcharge for the National Socialist Winterhulp (TRC 2020.3710b). For more information, click on the illustrationDuring a national collection on 14-15 November 1941, terracotta badges were distributed with images of well-known Dutch buildings. The production of the badges was awarded to a Dutch company, namely N.V. Brouwer's Aardewerk in Leiderdorp (the owners of which had strong NSB sympathies). They made 1½ million badges and temporarily hired 55 extra employees. The TRC houses a large collection of these badges, most of them damaged. They were discovered when the site of the former pottery works of the N.V. Brouwer's Aardewerk was prepared for development.

The badges depict well-known monuments in the Netherlands, such as the Westerkerk in Amsterdam, or the Martinitoren in Groningen, again glorifying Dutch history and culture (as long as it was linked to Germanic roots). The same phenomenon, as discussed above, occurred with National Socialist interest in Dutch regional dress and the use of the orange-white-blue flag (the Prinsenvlag).

In 1944, the Dutch postal services issued a series of stamps, whereby a surcharge was paid for each stamp in favour of Winterhulp.

The National Socialists also issued match folders with Dutch and French texts; they were distributed in the Netherlands and Belgium. One of these folders is housed in the TRC collection (TRC 2020.3718).

Those who wanted to qualify for direct support from Winterhulp were first checked for their background, after which they usually received coupons for shoes or clothing. A ration booklet recorded which particular assistance someone had received. 

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