It was a coincidence that in these May days I got the biography Free from all things – The life of JC Bloem was reading by Bart Slijper. The book dates from 2007 and I had only read it fragmentary so far. I thought at the time that I was thanks Living with JC Bloem, the 1977 memoirs of his wife Clara Eggink, and other publications already knew enough about Bloom’s life.
Even though Eggink wrote little about it in her book, it was known that Bloem had held reactionary political views and that he had even been a member of the NSB for a while. On April 30, 1933, he wrote to his friend Jan Greshoff: “I’ve been a Nazi for a few days now, albeit Dutch too.” Bloem mainly had an aversion to democracy and socialism.
In the course of 1933 he also had a conversation with NSB leader Anton Mussert. That turned out to be a disappointing experience for Bloem, who afterwards said to Eggink: “That guy doesn’t even know who Maurras is.” Charles Maurras, admired by Bloem, was the leader of the nationalist reactionary movement Action Française and was later convicted of collaboration.
I had forgotten that Bloem also expressed himself strongly anti-Semitic, something that Professor AL Sötemann had already stated in 1979. Four essays about JC Bloem noted. Sötemann left it with a brief mention, but Slijper gives a number of poignant examples in his fascinating book. Bloem writes to writer Herman Robbers in 1923 that within ‘democracy’ nothing is done “against the elusive, migratory international swindle money (in which the Jews play such a great role because of their shrewdness and unscrupulousness)”. A year later he wrote to JWF Werumeus Buning: “I am against every Jew, whoever.”
In 1930 he mentions to Jan Engelman of a humiliating democracy, in which socialist workers are set by their leaders against their employers, whereby they are “sacrificed to the filthiest capitalism there is, that of the modern Jewish swindler.” In 1934 – he remains faithful to his views for a long time – he complains that he will not get a job. “That goes to the Jews. But as an ‘intellectual’ you can’t say anything about that in this plague country. ”
Apparently there was already such a thing as ‘unheard of Netherlands’.
Slijper, like Sötemann, rightly points out that this outspoken aversion to Jews was widespread in the 1920s. He gives as an example a quote from a letter from Jany Roland Holst to H. Marsman in which the poet is pleased that the high season in Bergen with many Jewish visitors from Amsterdam is over: “I thank the bright gods of my race that the season is over. of the Jews-with-Schiller Collars has been blown away. ”
Yet such quotations continue to hurt almost a century later, precisely because the horrors that resulted from this aversion and hatred still have to be recalled every year. It seems as if that never goes away forever.
Should we stop reading poems by Bloem, or by Lucebert, that other poet prince who turned out to have cherished blatantly anti-Semitic views in his early years? I would not like to argue that. Good artists should always be honored, as artists that is.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of May 5, 2021