Narratives of Decline in the Dutch National Socialist Movement, 1931-1945

17 Aug 2017

Generic fascism scholarship, which has turned strongly towards cultural political history in recent years, has focused heavily on themes of rebirth in fascist culture, but rebirth's counterpart of decline remains under-researched. After emphasizing the existence of several distinct and even mutually exclusive ideological strands in the NSB, this article shows how ideological difference was marked by narratives of decline. But they were equally used to generate a coherent political message about the contemporary state of the Netherlands. Central to their functionality as a unifying tool was party newspaper Volk en Vaderland, which served to promote a patriotic, news-focused, and peculiarly Dutch narrative of decline that overarched ideological difference. Yet more than just tying ends together, one narrative in particular served as a crucial ideological constant in the Movement, namely the Leider Anton Mussert's narrative of decline since the early modern Golden Age of the Dutch Republic, which tied traditional liberal patriotic themes into fascist discourse. Where other historians have emphasized Mussert's lack of moral and ideological leadership, the article impresses how narratives of decline functioned as moral support, and rallied NSB loyalists throughout the German occupation of the Netherlands, until Mussert's own death.