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Harry Verheij, Resistance Fighter and Amsterdam Alderman

On 30 June 2014 former CPN Amsterdam alderman Harry Verheij passed away at the age of 97. Just over a year later, the organization of his papers was completed and an inventory published on the IISH’s website. Arie Adriaan Verheij was born in 1917 into a social democratic family in a working-class neighbourhood in Amsterdam. As a tram driver Verheij had been involved in the February strike of 1941, called to oppose the anti-Jewish measures and activities of the Nazis. Later in the war, he helped organize the resistance movement in Rotterdam. It was in the resistance that he acquired the name “Harry”. Immediately after the liberation of the Netherlands Verheij was elected to the board of the CPN. In 1958 he was elected to Amsterdam’s city council. He was a member of the council for twenty years, and an alderman from 1966 to 1978.

The papers contain many documents relating to the CPN, the communist newspaper De Waarheid [The Truth], and to events within the party. During the 1950s there were various conflicts within the CPN. World War II, revelations about Stalin, fear of CPN party leader Paul de Groot, the relationship between the CPN and the communist-dominated Eenheidsvakcentrale [Unity Trade Union Federation], and other factors played a role in the party struggle. In 1958 the party leadership expelled a number of key members, including Gerben Wagenaar, party chairman and MP, and Henk Gortzak also an MP. The letter addressed to Wagenaar informing him of his expulsion was signed by Verheij. From his papers it becomes clear that in the period after the wave of purges Verheij attentively followed the new initiatives of his former comrades, initially the Brug [Bridge] Group and later the Socialist Workers Party.

Verheij remained loyal to the CPN right up until its dissolution in 1991. His papers include correspondence between Verheij and Engel Verkerke. Verkerke, who had been a CPN member for many years before breaking with the party, wrote to Verheij on 10 March 1998: “I regret that, even after all those years of revelation and new facts, you are unable to distance yourself from the Soviet view of history. Especially since – as you know – I have great admiration for the man H. Verheij”.  (Harry Verheij Papers, inventory nr 132). These two sentences nicely summarize the dilemmas that undoubtedly played a role in Verheij’s life.

Bouwe Hijma

26 August 2015