Clandestine literature was published in all countries under Nazi occupation, but nowhere else did it flourish as it did in the Netherlands. This raises important questions: What was the content of this literature? What were the risks of writing, printing, selling, and buying it? And why the Netherlands? Traditionally, the combative Dutch "spirit of resistance" has been cited, a reaction not only to German oppression but to German propaganda: while the Germans hoped to build bonds with their "Germanic" Dutch "brothers," clandestine literature insisted on their incompatibility.
However, when reading clandestine literature, one should not forget that this "spirit of resistance" came rather late and did not prevent the transportation of seventy-three percent of the Netherlands' Jewish population to Nazi death camps -- the largest percentage in Western Europe. The Dutch case is complex: while the country proved to be remarkably resistant to Nazi propaganda, little was done to prevent the actual execution of Nazi policies. The complete story of Dutch clandestine literature therefore combines resistance and complicity, victory and defeat, pride and shame.
Jeroen Dewulf is Queen Beatrix Professor of Dutch Studies in the Department of German at the University of California, Berkeley.