The Dutch government has officially verified the legitimacy of a party card that shows Prince Bernhard, the long-serving prince consort post-World War Two, was a member of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party.
Prince Bernhard, a German nobleman who married Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, vehemently denied any ties to the NSDAP party – which later became known as the Nazi party – up until his death in 2004.
In an interview published shortly after his passing, he said: ‘I can declare with my hand on the Bible: I was never a Nazi. I never paid for party membership, I never had a membership card.’
He admitted to being part of two Nazi organizations after 1933 – including Hitler’s notorious paramilitary group the SS – but argued that initial participation was a necessity, and later went on to lead elements of the Dutch resistance forces after the Royal Family fled to Britain.
But in 1996, researcher Gerard Aalders at the Dutch institute for war studies uncovered a copy of his party membership card in a US university archive, sparking major speculation over his Nazi affiliations that dogged the Prince’s later years.
Then in 2010 – six years after the Prince’s death, historian Annejet van der Zijl discovered another membership card in a German archive showing he’d joined the Nazi party as a student in April 1933.
Now, it has emerged that former head of the Dutch royal family‘s palace archives, Flip Maarschalkerweerd, found the original membership card in the Prince’s personal effects – and its authenticity has been officially verified by government officials.
In the wake of the revelation, Aalders asserted on social media that ‘Prince Bernhard lied to the bitter end about his Nazi past.’
And Dutch King Willem-Alexander said: ‘I can well imagine that the news has a major impact and evokes many emotions, especially among the Jewish community.
‘But I am convinced that we have to face the past, even the less beautiful parts of the past.’
Married to Dutch Princess Juliana in 1937, Bernhard escorted the Dutch royal family in exile after the Second World War broke out, yet he was never fully trusted by British security services.
Despite participating in a Dutch royal broadcast via the BBC in 1943, performing duties as an RAF pilot and ultimately leading the unified Dutch resistance forces in 1944, Bernhard was never able to shake the suspicions he was involved with the Nazis.
Juliana’s ascension to queen in 1948 saw Bernhard become prince consort, but his credibility remained tarnished.
The revelation of the Nazi party card, seen as final confirmation of the Prince’s past affiliations, will send shockwaves through the Dutch military community, particularly among aged veterans those who had participated in the Dutch resistance and commemorated the liberation alongside the prince.
The Prince regularly took part in commemorative processions and was pictured in May 2004, just months before his death, greeting WWII veterans at a Victory Day event.