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After the war

The history of music during the war continued to shape much of the period following liberation. Purges were carried out in the musical world almost immediately after liberation, with the conduct and attitude of musicians closely scrutinized. And however loathsome the Nazi ideology that had produced them, a number of new regulations introduced by the government during the war proved irreversible. 

There was no going back to the situation of before the war. The notion that art should also be a matter for the government had become entrenched. The first post-war art budget listed a large number of items and budgetary figures inherited from the now-defunct Departement van Volksvoorlichting en Kunsten ["Department of Public Education and the Arts"]. For orchestras alone, subsidies of around 1.3 million guilders (equivalent to around 590,000 euros) were allocated. To compare: in 1943, the department had budgeted over 900,000 guilders. And it was ten times the sum allocated to orchestras in 1939. The post-war government also continued to support arts through subsidies, grants and awards. The establishment of Donemus, the publishing and documentation center for Dutch music, provided for the collective promotion of Dutch music.

Honorary Council for Music to Judge Musicians
Immediately after the war, efforts were focused on a thorough purge of the artistic scene. Artists in the resistance had already planned for this during the war, as they believed that such a purge should be launched at the earliest possible date. The purge of the musical world already got underway in June 1945. The purge was conducted by the Ereraad voor de muziek ["Honorary Council for Music"], composed of five lay judges. As musicians and professors that were acknowledged as being ‘on the right side’, they had to judge the conduct of (peer) musicians over the preceding years. Musicians sometimes were heard, sometimes not, which did not stand in the way of a judgment or verdict. Lawyers were not permitted, and there was no right of appeal against a sentence by the Honorary Council. Willem Mengelberg, residing in Switzerland at the time, was sentenced to a lifelong banishment from Dutch concert venues for his attitude during the war. Henk Badings, not heard but suspected of supporting the Dutch national socialist party NSB, and Jan Goverts were banned from all forms of participation in public music life for a period of ten years.

Chaotic Purge Process
The purge process proceeded in a chaotic manner, and it lost the public’s interest in just a few months’ time. It was not only poorly structured, but it also lacked a proper legal basis. It therefore did not rise above the level of lay jurisdiction. The right to appeal was only established in the spring of 1946, when a legal appeal institute, the Central Honorary Council, was established by law. Many sentenced musicians filed an appeal. The Central Honorary Council performed its legal duty judiciously, often arriving at considerably more lenient sentences. Nevertheless, the verdicts of the initial Honorary Council continued to tarnish the convicted musicians for many years, particularly the verdicts pronounced in the summer of 1945. That these had been ‘reviewed’ by the Central Honorary Council made little difference.

Author: Pauline Micheels