Prince Bernhard's membership card for Hitler's party found in his own archives
Prince Bernhard’s original membership card to the NSDAP, Adolf Hitler’s party, was found in the prince’s private archives. Flip Maarschakerweerd revealed that he found this convincing evidence that the Dutch prince had belonged to the Nazi party in his book De achterblijvers, which will be published on Wednesday.
Maarschakerweerd, the former director of the Royal House Archives, found the membership card in the prince’s private archives in Soestdijk, which he had to inventory after Bernhard’s death in 2004. In 1996, historians Gerard Aalders and Coen Hilbrink published De affaire Sanders in which they revealed that they had found a copy of Bernhard’s membership card in the United States and correspondence about the cancellation of his membership in 1936 - the year that he became engaged to Juliana.
Bernhard always denied that he was a member of the Nazi party, even when confronted with evidence to the contrary. In a series of interviews with the Volkskrant before his death, the prince said: “I can declare with my hand on the Bible: I was never a Nazi. I never paid for a party membership. I never had a membership card.”
Maarschalkerweerd said he was surprised to find the NSDAP card and correspondence about terminating said membership. “Those were German pieces,” he said. “You would expect them to be in Germany.”
But he also quickly found an explanation - a note from 1949 from Lucius Clay, the military administrator of the American zone in Germany. “Dear Prince Bernhard. I kept this in my safe for years. As I was about to destroy it, I thought you have earned the right to destroy it yourself.” The Americans must have found the documents in Germany, made the copies Aalders and Hilbrink found in the U.S., and sent the originals to Bernhard.
The King gave Maarschakerweerd access to all documents in the Royal House archives relating to the war. He made his discovery a few years before his retirement in 2019. Bernhard only plays a supporting role in his book, which is mainly about Wilhelmina.
Historian Aalders is pleased that the original membership card has surfaced. “For me personally, this is very nice to hear,” he told NRC. “I was accused of all kinds of things at the time. A week before his death, Bernhard called me from his deathbed to deny everything. He was trying to deny something that couldn’t be denied.”
Aalders thinks it is implausible that Bernhard’s membership card to the Nazi party is a forgery. “I don’t think that’s possible because there is also correspondence from friends of Bernhard who had to ensure that his membership was canceled. No, that is really beyond any conspiracy theory.”