Searchlight - May 2007
On 24 March, one of Europe's most unpleasant specimens of Nazism, Florrie Rost van Tonningen died, aged 92, in Waasmunster, Belgium.
Out of fear of a commemoration rally by latter-day nazis, the city council in Rheden – where Rost van Tonningen bought a burial plot a decade ago – insisted that her funeral should not be a public event. Despite this, the death of the women known as the "Black Widow" attracted huge media attention in the Netherlands.
For most Dutch people, Florrie Rost van Tonningen was the incarnation of evil and a living link between the collaboration with the German occupation and today's fascists. Her home was always open to young nazis, but her role and position in the postwar nazi movement should not be exaggerated.
During the war, she was a relatively insignificant figure, giving birth to three children, the core business of a Third Reich wife. Her fascination with racial purity had already led her to join the Dutch Nazi Party (NSB), having been active in the 1930s recruiting youngsters for the Hitlerite youth outfit, Nationale Jeugdstorm.
In 1939, she met Dutch Nazi MP Meinoud Rost van Tonningen and became so popular in top Nazi circles that their wedding, in December 1940, was personally approved by SS leader Heinrich Himmler and the couple were placed on Hitler's Christmas presents list.
Meinoud Rost van Tonningen opposed the less radical NSB leader Anton Mussert and, in September 1940, was appointed deputy leader of the party. His star still in the ascendant, Hitler's satrap, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, made him president of the Dutch Bank and secretary-general of the Ministry of Finance in March 1941.
During the war, Rost van Tonningen gained a reputation as a factionalist, quarreling with Mussert and later losing his popularity with the Germans. Joining the SS in 1944, he was captured by Canadian troops and, in 1945, committed suicide in prison in Scheveningen.
Florrie Rost van Tonningen, after returning from Germany in 1948 and convicted for collaboration, claimed her husband was murdered by the Allies and demanded an investigation but her pleas were rejected. However, this did not stop her propagating Nazism. From 1969 onwards, when she emerged into the gaze of national publicity in a documentary on Mussert, she steadfastly expressed her fawning admiration for Hitler. In 1986, she hit the headlines when journalists uncovered the fact that she was she receiving a state pension, because her husband had been an MP. Despite protests and a trial by former resistance fighters, she continued to receive the cash.
The Black Widow never showed any remorse about the horrific crimes of the Nazis, claiming only that Hitler should have solved the so-called "Jewish issue" differently by giving the Jews country of their own. In 1991, however, she was fined 2.400 Euro for insulting Jews in her autobiography, In Search of My Wedding Ring.
In an interview in 1999, she denied the Holocaust by claiming: "In fact, no Jew was murdered. In Auschwitz, there were also non-Jews detained. If you check the Polish files, you'll see that a little over 800,000 people have died. Normal, by natural causes. It's not a hotel, such a camp. Auschwitz was no five star accommodation."
In her dotage, she was frequently visited by old Nazis and new nazis like Constant Kusters, chairman of the Dutch People's Union (NVU), Hitler lookalike Stefan Wijkamp and Joop Glimmerveen, the NVU's former frontman. But other hardcore nazi's, such as BNP-member Steward Mordaunt had his nose full of the parties at her place; then they had to jump over fires, just as the nazi's did and thought it was ridicolous.
Also, Hans Janmaat, former leader of the fascist Centrum Democrats, sought her advice but when, in parliament, he distanced himself from the Black Widow, she terminated contact with him.
While Rost van Tonningen organised parties, she did not finance any organisation except her own pet project, the Consortium De Levensboom, which distributed nazi literature with titles as 'The Auschwitz-lie' and '6 Million?', organised meetings and tried to promote the formation of a new fascist party in the Netherlands.
When she had to leave her villa in Velp (near Arnhem), she could not find a house in the Netherlands and moved to Belgium, spending her last years giving lectures in Germany and Flanders.
She was interred on 30 March in Rheden. Around thirty people from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany attended the ceremony and the NVU has announced that it will stage a march in Rheden to commemorate her.
Jeroen Bosch for Alert! and Antifa-Net