The Netherlands in the Global Second World War

Fascism and Antifascism in an Imperial Frame
April 12, 2021 - 1:30pm

The Netherlands confronted the Second World War as an empire.  But for seventy five years, the Netherlands—like so many other of the conflict’s participants--has remembered the Second World War as a nation.  The voices and narratives of the Dutch metropole have consistently drowned out those of its colonies, resulting in a segregation of the two that ironically calls to mind the social segregation that was itself a hallmark of empire.  Whether in narratives emphasizing the heroic black and white of Dutch resistance to fascist aggression, or those acknowledging the nuanced, ambiguous “grey” of a nation with a more complicated record on the wartime resistance front, the protagonists of the Netherlands’ Second World War are always, inevitably, Dutch nationals.  Revisiting the “forgotten” Second World War experience of three people in the Netherlands with colonial attachments (the Suriname-born scholar, anticolonial activist and resistance fighter Anton de Kom, the Indonesia-born sculptor and antifascist resistor Frits van Hall, and the avowed imperialist J.B. van Heutsz Jr., son of the Netherlands Indies’ most famous governor-general), this presentation will seek to highlight the alternative color palate that emerges when we envision and remember the Netherlands as an empire in the Second World War.

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Dr. Ethan Mark is an associate professor of Modern History at Leiden University. He specializes in modern Japanese history, with particular expertise in Japanese imperialism and the social and cultural history of the 1920s-1940s.  Dr. Mark's interests and thinking gravitate more towards cross-border questions and dynamics than to those contained within them.  He is also a scholar of modern Indonesia, and much of his research has revolved around Japan’s occupation of Indonesia in the Second World War as viewed and experienced by both Japanese and Indonesians, within a broader global context of interwar crisis.  This is the subject of his latest monograph, Japan’s Occupation of Java in the Second World War:  A Transnational History (London:  Bloomsbury, 2018).