60 years of liberation in Zoetermeer

Searchlight, September 2005

On 5 May, the sixtieth anniversary of the Liberation from Nazism was celebrated throughout The Netherlands. In Zoetermeer, a town of 110,000 inhabitants close to The Hague, however, this year was to be a bit different after the city council rented a hut to a group of "nationalist youth" who went on to celebrate the day in their own twisted way.

Since 2003, the town has regularly hit the headlines with incidents involving several groups of 'Gabbers', the youth sub-culture in which white racists can flourish and nazi symbols are displayed.

The 'Gabber' groups are bound by devotion to Hardcore music, a fast 'House' style and have fought with other youth groups and migrant youth groups and have attacked youth centres that have a progressive image.

This is not unique. Across the country, this development is replicating itself but what makes Zoetermeer different is that right-wing extremists have managed to recruit from 'Gabber' circles.

At first, it was the now defunct New National Party (NNP) and its youth branch that managed to interest these youngsters, but now it is the notorious fascist group Voorpost that is making a political intervention.

Voorpost, established in 1976, originated in Flanders. Its Dutch counterpart started in 1978 with pro-apartheid campaigns and activities aimed at the unification of the Netherlands and Flanders and in support of the Dutch language. They also demonstrated for the honour of former Flemish SS members and other Nazi collaborators.

At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, Voorpost was more or less dormant and only revived when the parliamentary presence of the extreme right was wiped out 1998. After a campaign by Anti-Fascist Action, culminating in the discovery and removal of Voorpost's summer camp in Friesland, the organisation collapsed again.

Last year, however, younger people took control of Voorpost and these are the people who are now active in Zoetermeer. The leader of the group is Paul Peters, a former fascist CP'86, Stormfront Nederland and NNP member. Peters was convicted for desecrating Jewish graves in Oosterhout in 1999.

His teammate in Voorpost is Rens Kaaijk who lives in Zoetermeer and was also active for the NNP. Kaaijk attracted attention when, in 2002, after a nazi Dutch People's Union (NVU) demonstration in Rotterdam, he went on the 'hunt for foreigners' in Leiden and was arrested. For some time, Kaaijk has been organising so-called 'nationalist pub-evenings' in a bar in Zoetermeer.

Last year, the 5 May celebration in Zoetermeer was badly disrupted by 150 drunken 'Gabbers' who, according to police reports, attacked the police who had to call for back-up from nearby police and dog units to bring the situation back under control. In the resulting clashes, eleven people were arrested and several police officers were injured.

To profit from this situation and some other fights before May this year, Peters went to a town council meeting and raised the question of the Gabbers having a place of their own in Zoetermeer.

Three days later, they asked the council to rent them a hut in a park and they got it, a decision that sparked protests from anti-racist organisations. The council ignored the objections and the 'nationalist youth' party was able to go ahead, guarded by riot police.

The 'revellers' from such august bodies as the 'Soetermeer Skinhead Front' (SSF), Voorpost and the Gabbers celebrated their very own Liberation day with the Hitler salute, a Nazi flag with the swastika replaced by a Celtic Cross and heaps of Voorpost propaganda. Some visitors to the party were pictured giving the Hitler salute with police riot vans in the background. Later, three people two girls and a boy were arrested for displaying White Power logos on their coats and swastikas on their bodies.

Four days later, at a town council meeting, the fact that these youngsters were right-wingers was called into question. The next day the entire council got its answer: a collection of photographs taken at the party and were posted on the Internet by one of the visitors and delivered to the councillors by AFA. On 19 May, the council finally decided to ask the police to prosecute those who put the photographs on the Internet.

People from Anti-Fascist Action have since spoken with several councillors and convinced them to try to speak to the Gabbers but also to grasp that the organised fascists from Voorpost, who have their own political agenda, have to be isolated.

This case of dealing with white racist youth and fascist organisations that recruit them is a stark example of how little knowledge city councils have of the situation of Gabbers and other potential racist and violent youngsters.

In Zoetermeer, for example, they have to deal with a group of forty racist skinheads, two hundred "Lonsdale " youngsters, about 30 hooligans and several hundred Gabbers of about 14/15 years old.

Unfortunately, the police and the council in Zoetermeer are still refusing to make public their reports about 5 May and, by stonewalling, are trying to prevent an open debate about these events.

The assumption that if you give these racist youngsters their own place for a 'celebration' so that you can have a peaceful celebration of your own in the town center is bending to violence and is an injustice to the memory of the Liberation from Nazi terror.

By Jeroen Bosch of Alert! and Antifa-Net in Utrecht