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Wouter Gortzak, Journalist and Politician

Wouter Gortzak, 1982, foto Marcel Antonisse/Anefo (wikipedia)The inventory of the papers of Wouter Gortzak was recently completed.
Wouter Gortzak grew up in a communist milieu. His father Henk Gortzak was MP for the Dutch Communist Party (CPN) but broke with the CPN in the late 1950s. Wouter was briefly a CPN member himself but switched to the social-democratic PvdA. In the 1960s and ’70s Wouter made a name for himself as editor of the left-liberal weekly De Groene Amsterdammer. He was subsequently director of the Wiardi Beckman Foundation, editor of the daily newspaper Het Parool, chairman of the PvdA in Amsterdam’s South-east district, and an MP for the party. The papers consist mainly of correspondence and records relating to his work at De Groene, Het Parool, and the PvdA.

The files on De Groene give a good picture of leftist intellectual Amsterdam around 1970. Gortzak, who grew up in a Communist Party atmosphere of condemnation and guilt by association, joined De Groene as an editor in the turbulent 1960s. Journalists from the magazine, who often already knew one another from the student movement and the metropolitan cafes, included activists such as Max Arian (activist for Chile) and Maarten van Dullemen (activist for Vietnam). Both men, icons of left-wing journalism, eventually clashed seriously with Gortzak. The war, the CPN, and the girlfriends of these men formed the backdrop against which highly contentious debates took place. The CPN was a major issue. What attitude should De Groene take towards the party? Could De Groene editors also be members of the CPN? Gortzak was very much aware of how, twenty years earlier, acrimony between communists and non-communists had led to the demise of the weekly magazine De Vrije Katheder.

The Wouter Gortzak papers, transferred to the IISH in 2014, have now been organized and made accessible for research. The papers were inventoried by Karlijn van Wijk, an intern at the IISH in 2015, for her minor in Archive Studies, part of the Bachelor’s course in Cultural Heritage at the Reinwardt Academy, Amsterdam School of the Arts.

Bouwe Hijma

25 August 2015