Thursday, February 19, 2015

WW2 | 9. Resistance Banker–Wally van Hall (Updated July 22, 2016)

Walraven (Wally) van Hall, "Resistance 
Banker". Photo 1943 by Fred Kroon
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Walraven (Wally) van Hall (1906-1945) was known as the Bankier van Het Verzet and Premier– the "Resistance Banker" and "Prime Minister".

He was assisted in his work by many Boissevains and van Halls, men and women.

Wally's Achievements

Wally and his brother Gijs van Hall succeeded in raising today's equivalent of one billion dollars. He did this in part by counterfeiting guilders and substituting the fake money for real bills in the vaults of the Dutch central bank.

He gave the genuine guilders to Resistance groups and people entitled to pensions whom the Nazi government would not pay at all, or would not pay as much as they were owed.

He also borrowed money from prominent Dutch people, giving them out-of-date stock certificates or one-guilder notes, keeping track of the numbers so they could be redeemed after the war. When the Queen returned to Holland, she repaid every obligation. All the money was accounted for.

We know all this because of the meticulously documented work of the late Dr. Louis (Loe) de Jong (1914-2005). He wrote–in Dutch only, alas–the formidable 14-volume history of the Second World War in Holland.

Dr. de Jong was not given to lavish praise of very many of the Dutch leaders during the war. But because the Nationaal Steun Fonds (National Support Fund, NSF) enabled so many other activities of the Dutch Resistance, de Jong considered Wally to be Holland's most important underground worker during the war.

In his Erasmus Lectures at Harvard in 1988 on the Dutch Resistance, de Jong was careful not to claim too much for Resistance work. He quoted Dutch historian Johan Huizinga as saying: "History, like good sherry, should be dry" (de Jong [1988], 30). However, on the subject of Wally van Hall's stewardship of Resistance funds, de Jong is sweet:
[T]he underground movement in the Netherlands was unique insofar as it numbered one secret organization whose sole task was to collect the money needed to keep all other groups in action and to provide financial support to many of the thousands in hiding. [...] The total expenses of this financial organization alone amounted to [a 1988] value of perhaps $500 million [i.e., more than $1 billion in 2016 using the BLS inflation calculator], and when liberation came, all expenses were accounted for, not a single dime having been misappropriated, and all the people and companies from whom money had been borrowed were repaid by the government (de Jong [1988], 46-47).
Coming from a skeptical historian who is careful with his words, such high praise is astounding.