Piet Snijders

After Hitler had overwhelmed the Netherlands in May 1940, every Dutch person was faced with a choice: resist against the Neuordnung (New Order), accept the situation, or collaborate. This choice would later be seen to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ with a thousand shades of grey in between. Anyone who sided with the Germans would have to justify themselves after the war. This led to a bitter feud in the town of Deurne which attracted nationwide attention.

Antoon Coolen (1897-1961) was a respected writer in the Netherlands and Germany and lived in Deurne until 1937. He was one of the elite of the town, as was Hub van Doorne, the founder of DAF. Before the war both men knew and liked each other well, and when Coolen moved to Waalre that did not change.

Then came the German invasion. Antoon Coolen despised the Nazis and their practices. They tried to gain control of the press and artists with their Kulturkammer (Chamber of Culture) which all artists and writers would have to join. Coolen evaded that pitfall with a ‘ruse’: he declared himself to be no longer a writer, which meant his source of income dried up. In 1943 he tried to find a way out of this situation by applying for the office of mayor in Waalre. The Dutch authorities approved but the Germans found him unsuitable. In May 1944 forced labour in Germany threatened Coolen and he went underground. As a punishment his family were thrown out onto the street and his home was ransacked.

Manufacturer Hub van Doorne was not inconvenienced by such things. He entertained the Germans in his Lido Restaurant in Mierlo and won many lucrative orders during the war. Things were going well for the industrial magnate and this annoyed Coolen. He was also upset about the fact that Van Doorne had appointed a pro-German editor to the Nieuwsblad van Deurne newspaper in 1941. Coolen joined De Vrije Pers (The Free Press), a paper that from 1943 was published by the resistance in Deurne.

After liberation in 1944 the Nieuwsblad van Deurne was banned and De Vrije Pers continued under the new name of the Deurnesche Courant, with Antoon Coolen as publisher. But just before the presses started running, a powerful trio in Deurne challenged the new paper with another new weekly, Het Licht (The Light). The forces behind this were H. van Doorne, manufacturer; R. Lambooy, mayor and A. Witlox, pastor. When ‘Mr Hub’ went on to become president of the local ‘Orange Committee’, Coolen blew a fuse. In a controversial newspaper battle he accused the manufacturer of collaboration during the occupation. ‘Those who maintained their integrity have lost everything, while the captains of industry have become rich,’ he grumbled.

Coolen repeated this so intensely that Hub van Doorne and his staff took him to court for defamation and slander. He demanded damages of one hundred thousand guilders in total. But during the court proceedings in 1946 Coolen substantiated his accusations with written evidence which had been leaked to him by DAF workers. He also showed that Van Doorne had befriended German army officers. Court president Mr. Schellenbach rejected the charge of defamation and slander and reprimanded Coolen for ‘simple’ insult. On the advice of highly influential friends, Hub van Doorne did not appeal

Encouraged by the verdict, Antoon Coolen set his sights in the Eindhovense Zuiveringsraad (Purification Board) – where he had been a member for some time – onto Van Doorne, but in vain. He resigned from the board in 1947, disillusioned. Coolen refused to condemn collaboration by ‘little people’ while ‘great industrialists’ had their own way.

Antoon Coolen died in 1961 from a heart attack, having fallen out of a train a month earlier.  Dr. Hub van Doorne died in 1979 as honorary citizen of Deurne and of North Brabant.

Antoon Coolen

dr. Hub van Doorne