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Prince Bernhard in World War 2

Discussion in 'History of Holland and Belgium during World War I' started by MichaelBully, Apr 13, 2018.

  1. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Greetings, I have been reading up on Prince Bernhard van Lippe -Biesterfeld , (1911- 2004) , German born, but then prince consort to Dutch Princess , later, Queen Juliana .
    A German prince, Bernhard became a Dutch citizen on 4th December 1936 and married Princess Juliana on 7th January 1937. Bernhard , Juliana, their two baby daughters, and Queen Wilhelmina fled to London at the time of the German invasion of The Netherlands.
    Juliana and the children went on to Canada, Queen Wilhelmina stayed in London working with the Dutch government in exile. Bernhard went on a mysterious mission to Paris, then was largely based in London.
    Bernhard gave a radio interview in which he called Hitler a 'tyrant' and declared that Britain would defeat Germany, he worked with British intelligence and the Dutch resistance in exile, served with the Allies in liberating The Netherlands. Seemingly to have made a break with Germany and having an impeccable war record.

    Yet recent scholarship has not been kind to him. Philip Droge's 'Beroep: meester spion het geheime leven van Prins Bernhard ' published in 2002, ( 'Occupation Master Spy: the Secret of Prince Bernhard) depicts Bernhard as hiding the fact that he was once a committed Nazi, that he was lucky not to be interned along with other Germans when arriving in Britain in 1940, that one of his circle could be connected to a security leak which jeopardised the success of Operation Market Garden. This writer was also quite scathing about his post-war career
    The question of Bernhard's Nazi past was also the subject of a 2010 book by Dutch writer and Journalist Anejete van der Zijl titled ' Bernhard een verborgen geschiedenis' ( Bernhard a hidden history')

    Looks like his legacy will continue to face criticism.
     
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  2. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Just my opinion but in the 30's many considered Hitler a miracle maker. Until he showed his true face. Then he was understood to be the devil instead. Starting from the pope etc. In the UK was there other persons than WC who claimed Hitler was to open the war sooner than later? Maybe WC view has been given more pages by historians but he had the correct view. I think
     
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  3. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    As Kai-Petri, a lot of people were sympathetic to the Nazis in the early days, seeing them as an alternative to Bolshevism or simple chaos.

    As for Market-Garden, there are stories about the operation being betrayed (or alternatively a set of plans being found in a crashed glider), but no indication of specific German preparations prior to the attack. The location of Model's headquarters practically on the British drop zone hardly suggests advance knowledge!

    As soon as the paratroops began landing, the scope of the operation and the importance of the bridges became obvious.
     
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  4. Chewy_Barry

    Chewy_Barry Member

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    Market Garden simply failed due to poor planning, drop zones being far from their targets and the plans found in the crashed glider. So like Carronade said there was no espionage involved otherwise there would have been preparations.
     
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  5. MarChant

    MarChant New Member

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    Well, opinion on Bernhard is a mixed-bag: Either you like him or you don't. Nowadays the opinion that he was a charlatan seems to have the upper hand. After the war, he was involved in several scandals, of wich the Lockheed bribery is the most well known. I do not find it hard to believe he used to be a nazi-symphatiser and also understand the fact that he (or even the government) tried to hide this when the war broke out. If he was a spy, or saboteur? I think a lot is romanticised, but he must have been a liaison of some sort, no doubt about that.
     
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  6. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Thank you for all the replies. Fascinating. I am trying to keep the 'Lockheed' scandal aside whilst looking at Bernhard in World War 2.
    Certainly in British history prominent individuals can fall from grace, Lord Kitchener and General Haig are prime examples.Not sure if Dutch history also has such a pattern.

    In respect of Bernhard's membership of the NSDAP -either he was a member or he wasn't. Yes so were millions of other people for a many different reasons. But if Bernhard was a one time member and denied being so, then he was being economical with the truth.There seems no other way to phrase this. It seems most likely that he was a member and left in 1934, and genuinely took the side of The Netherlands when the Germans invaded. Certainly the British authorities treated him as a Dutch citizen on the run from the invasion , and from what I understand, counted him as having relinquished German citizenship.

    In respect of Market Garden, I don't think that anyone has argued that Bernhard deliberately wanted the operation to fail, more that there was a leak from his circle. I don't honestly know and haven't researched Market Garden. I was surprised to see the allegation and count it as not proven.

    Bernhard had a 'playboy prince' reputation which some might find endearing, but others will be hostile. He may have exaggerated his importance in World War 2 and broken a few rules on the way. I am more interested to see if there is any evidence that Bernhard really caused any harm to the Allied side.
     

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