Leiden Law Blog

Banker to the Resistance

Banker to the Resistance Agaath / Wikimedia

Not all bankers are bad. During World War II, when the Netherlands was suffering under the German occupation, Dutch banker Walraven van Hall and his brother Gijs van Hall committed the biggest banking fraud in Dutch history, taking millions of Guilders out of the Dutch Central Bank and using the money to finance the Resistance. Walraven van Hall paid for this with his life. His story is the subject of an impressive motion picture which was released in Dutch cinemas on 8 March 2018. 

After the Germans had occupied the Netherlands in 1940, Walraven van Hall became involved in the funding of the Resistance. At first, this was done by borrowing money from banks and high net worth individuals. This had to be done in the utmost secrecy. The lenders were provided worthless shares and bonds in consideration of their investments, this under the understanding that the loans would be redeemed after the war in exchange for these shares and bonds. In setting up these schemes Walraven van Hall used his connections in the financial sector and within a few years he was able to provide millions to the Resistance to fight the Germans and to help and feed refugees and persons that had gone into hiding.

In order to be able to finance the 1944 railway strike Walraven van Hall succeeded in taking 50 million Guilders out of the Dutch Central Bank, which at that time was presided by the infamous Rost van Tonningen, a Dutchman who collaborated with the Germans. Walraven van Hall and his resistance group raised this amount by replacing a package of promissory notes held in the vaults of the Central Bank by falsifications and subsequently selling the real notes to investors. This was all done with the approval of the Dutch government in exile. Repayment was guaranteed by the government. After the war all loans were redeemed in a proper manner.

Unfortunately, Walraven van Hall paid the highest price for his activities: he was arrested and executed by the Germans. After the war he was awarded the Dutch Cross of Resistance and in 2010 a small monument was erected in his memory near to the Dutch Central Bank. This week a motion picture about Walraven van Hall was released in the Dutch cinemas, starring the actors Barry Atsma as Walraven van Hall, Jacob Derwig as Gijs van Hall and Pierre Bokma as Rost van Tonningen.

The film is really impressive because it shows the dilemmas between becoming involved and taking huge risks on the one hand and standing aside and living a comfortable life on the other. Walraven van Hall had it all. He was a successful banker, came from a good family and was happily married with two children. He put everything at risk to save the lives of others and paid the highest price. This is something we should all reflect on. The financial manipulations are interesting enough for financial lawyers, but that is of course not the essence of this film.

5 Comments

Frank
Posted by Frank on November 11, 2018 at 07:58

As a retired Swiss Banker, l would like to place a flower on the small monument to Wally. Where is it located? Please tell me in which City & l will do the rest ...

Yvonne
Posted by Yvonne on September 23, 2018 at 19:51

I happened to run across this movie by accident while looking for something to watch on Netflix!  I am so happy and grateful Netflix carried this wonderful film about a part of the Dutch Resistance History I was totally not aware of.  I am always interested about anything that chronicles the heroism of the Dutch Resistance Fighters as my father went underground as a young man to work with the Resistence.  I was born in Amsterdam in 1949 and so lived through this horrible time through my parents’ memories of fighting bravely for their survival.  I am always in complete awe of their strength to stand for what is right and their bravery.  Neither of my parents barely survived.  My father was caught and thrown into a German Slave Labor Camp and my mother lost both of her parents and was down to 90 pounds and very sick when the War ended.  Neither were Jewish but risked their lives for the values of a morality or the simple act of being “human”.  Thank you to everyone involved in bringing this part of long forgotten history to light and the story of these brave men who risked everything for what they believed in.

richard
Posted by richard on September 15, 2018 at 15:45

A great story, amazingly not publicized for nearly 75 years.  There is so much to admire in the heroic behavior of the Dutch, and their resistance to the Nazis.  Particularly when compared to what is happening in today’s political and financial environs.

Phil
Posted by Phil on September 14, 2018 at 05:07

His heroism and his sacrifice along with so many who stood up against evil is why we can rightly say, they were the greatest generation.

Chris
Posted by Chris on September 11, 2018 at 23:38

A truly epic account of heroic acts that the Dutch banking resistance carried out during WW2. Such bravery and commitment. Very moving film, great piece of work that acts as a reminder that hero’s such as these gave everything including their lives for our freedom.

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