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Willem Aantjes (2008)
Willem Aantjes

Born 16 January 1923 (1923-01-16) (age 87)
Nationality Dutch
Political party Christian Democratic Appeal
Spouse(s) Gisela Braun (1953 - divorced 1995), Ineke Ludikhuizen (since 2000)
Children 1 daughter, 2 sons
Alma mater Universiteit Utrecht
Occupation politician
Religion Protestant

Willem Aantjes (born 16 January 1923) is a Dutch politician and a prominent member of the CDA party.[1]


Early life

Aantjes was born in Bleskensgraaf. His father, Klaas Aantjes, was alderman in Bleskensgraaf and from 1 October 1950 to 14 January 1951 mayor of Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht. His brother Jan was also mayor of several municipalities. Aantjes attended the Marnix Gymnasium in Rotterdam.

On 8 February 1940, Aantjes started to work for the postal mail company PTT.[1] On 19 July 1943, he was selected for Arbeitseinsatz and sent to Güstrow to deliver mail. Aantjes would later say he had not refuse selection, because the board of PTT would otherwise have sent a married employee in his place. In September 1944, Aantjes wanted to return to the Netherlands. Other Dutch forced laborers told him that if one joined the Germaanse-SS, one could ask for an assignment in the Netherlands and be trained as a police officer on the Avegoor estate near Ellecom.[2] Aantjes decided he would follow this route, and enlisted in the SS. To his dismay, he was assigned to Landstorm Nederland, a division of the Waffen-SS and he received a uniform. After being transferred to Hoogeveen, Aantjes refused to wear the uniform and to enlist in Landstorm Nederland. He was arrested and imprisoned in Port Natal near Assen, an abandoned psychiatric hospital that had been turned into a work camp by the Nazis.

After the war ended in May 1945, Aantjes enrolled at the University of Utrecht to study law. He never mentioned his enlisting in the Germaanse-SS to anyone.

Political career

Aantjes (right) played an important role in the forming of the CDA. In this scene, he welcomes the first chairman of the CDA to the founding congress, in which Aantjes would deliver his famous Sermon on the Mount.

Aantjes became a member of the House of Representatives for the Anti Revolutionary Party (ARP) in 1959.[1] He was offered the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment in 1967. He turned it down, because several party members knew enough about his war past to object to his candidacy in public.[3] On 6 July 1971, Aantjes became leader of the ARP group.

Aantjes played an important part in the fusion of the Anti Revolutionary Party (ARP), the Christian Historical Union (CHU) and the Catholic People's Party (KVP) into the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA).[4] His address to the first joint congress of the three parties, which was held in 1975, has become known as the "Sermon on the Mount". After the Dutch general election of 1977, Aantjes was offered the Ministry of Justice in the first cabinet of Prime Minister Dries van Agt.[1] Again, Aantjes refused, and used his continuing involvement in the development of the CDA party as reason for his refusal. He then became the first leader of the CDA party in the House of Representatives on 20 December 1977.[5]

War past controversy

Journalist N. van Nieuwenhuyzen presents his book on the war past of Willem Aantjes on 2 April 1981.

On 6 November 1978, dr. Loe de Jong of the Dutch Institute for War Documentation announced in a press conference that Aantjes had signed up for the Waffen-SS in World War II, and that he had been a camp guard in Port Natal.[2][3] Aantjes, at that time leader of the CDA party in the House of Representatives, resigned his position as parliamentary party leader and member of the House of Representatives the next day. Later it turned out that De Jong had confused the Waffen SS with the Germaansche SS. Furthermore he had misinterpreted the motivations of Aantjes' behaviour. Aantjes had joined the Germaansche SS because, he believed that this was the only legal way to escape from forced labor in Güstrow. De Jong mistakenly assumed that Aantjes had joined the Germaansche SS out of mere opportunism, sympathy for the Nazi ideology or the Dutch collaborating fascist NSB party.


  1. ^ a b c d (Dutch) Biographical info on, set up by the Parliamentary Documentation Center of Leiden University, retrieved 11 May 2007.
  2. ^ a b (Dutch) The downfall of CDA politician Willem Aantjes in 1978, retrieved 11 May 2007.
  3. ^ a b (Dutch) NRC Handelsblad, "Loe de Jong admits mistakes", 5 February 2001, retrieved 11 May 2007.
  4. ^ (Dutch) De Groene Amsterdammer, "Aantjes en de CDA-machinaties", 15 October 1997, retrieved 18 May 2007.
  5. ^ After a general election the previous cabinet continues as a caretaker. The intended Prime Minister is a member of Parliament until the next cabinet is inaugurated, and in that period funcions as interim leader of the parliamentary party. So, from 25 May 1977 until 19 December 1977, Dries van Agt was technically the first leader of the CDA parliamentary party.

Further reading

  • (Dutch) Roelof Bouwman, "De val van een bergredenaar. Het politieke leven van Willem Aantjes.", Boom, Amsterdam, ISBN 978-90-5352-717-7.


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