Searchlight, November 2002
"Like you, I hope that at least a part of, for example, the Northern European or the Australian race will be saved by (so-called 'nazi' or 'racist') groups, who will make themselves strong enough not to mix with other races."
Dr. Boudewijn Heuts addressed these words in a letter in September to Florentine ("Florrie") Sophie Rost van Tonningen, widow of Meinoud Rost van Tonningen, a top official of the National Socialist Movement (NSB) in the Netherlands before and during the Second World War.
Florrie Rost van Tonningen, aged 88 and also known as the "Black Widow", still advocates nazism and is still a highly respected figure in international nazi circles.
Heuts, on the other hand, is a scientist in the Institute for Life Sciences at the University of Amsterdam and wrote his letter of solidarity to Rost van Tonningen after a television broadcast, called Het Zwarte Schaap (the Black Sheep), in which Rost van Tonningen was confronted by people critical of her ideas and her work.
Heuts said he wanted "to support the widow and show her some light at the end of her life, which has been so tough for her. "I had to do that according to my conscience," he declared, "I wanted to take a stand against what has been done to her."
He also told her in the letter that "in the television broadcast there was no intention of trying to understand you concerning what they did to you by killing your husband."
Officially, Meinoud Rost van Tonningen died in a prison accident after the war, but his wife continues to claim that the Dutch government ordered his murder.
Van Tonningen's villa, in a small town called Velp, has, since the early 1970s, been a place of nazi pilgrimage, a hangout where old Nazis and young nazis gather for lectures and ancient Teutonic rituals. At the start of the 1980s, Rost van Tonningen founded the Consortium De Levensboom, which distributes nazi literature, organises meetings and tries to promote the formation of a new fascist party. In her efforts to accomplish the latter objective, she negotiated with both the late Hans Janmaat of the right-wing extremist Centrum Democraten and with Wim Vreeswijk of the Nederlands Blok, the now defunct sister party of the Vlaams Blok in Belgium.
In Germany, Rost van Tonningen is still quite a cult figure, giving lectures to audiences of SS veterans, their widows and families. She is an especially prized guest because she knew Adolf Hitler and SS-chief Heinrich Himmler personally, the latter having been a witness to her marriage. In Belgium, she often attends the annual Yzerbedevaart (Iron Pilgrimage) in Diksmuide, where she is guaranteed a warm reception from her European hardcore nazi fans.
At the beginning of the 1990s, Rost van Tonningen was convicted for circulating racist and antisemitic literature and was fined for insulting the Jewish community. She was not deterred and continues to distribute nazi hate books in English and German.
She has also hit the headlines from time to time, for example with her much publicised plan to turn her villa, "Ben Trovato", into an exhibition and study centre where nazi paraphernalia could be displayed and "racial research" conducted.
Her plans went awry, however, when the local mayor denounced her, forcing Rost van Tonningen to try to buy a property near Dortmund that formerly belonged to Himmler, signing off her abortive fund-raising appeal with the SS motto Unsere Ehre heisst Treue. Currently, she is living – looked after by a butler – in a bungalow in Waasmunster.
After sometime out of the news, she is now back in it with a vengeance, thanks to Heuts' letter. And, once again, it is evident that Rost van Tonningen advanced years have in no way mellowed her hate-filled view of the world. Meanwhile, Heuts is, as is his employee, putting out excuses that he, Belgian from origin, didn't know the person Rost van Tonningen and that he distances himself from every racist conclusion from his letter.
By Jeroen Bosch of Alert! in Utrecht