One doesn’t normally think of bankers or financiers as resistance leaders. Usually we picture them on the other side, always siding with power. Certainly not on the side of people and liberty. Wealthy and privileged, they usually work to hold on to their perks.
Today we will meet an exception.
Our future banker to the resistance was born into a prominent Dutch family of bankers and directors in 1906. Wally however wished to go to sea and studied to become an officer in the merchant marine. After serving three years as a 3rd mate he was ultimately unable to do so. Young Wally’s vision was quite poor, particularly without his glasses and he was unable to stare for long periods at the horizon.
Having been rejected by the merchant marine, he moved to New York in 1929 where his brother Gijs, a future Mayor of Amsterdam, worked in a bank. A few strings were pulled and young Wally, a bankers son, was able to get a job with a Wall Street banking house.
. Having thus been introduced to banking, van Hall returned to the Netherlands and became a banker and stockbroker.
On returning to the Netherlands he married Tilly den Tex, the love of his life. They had three children and in March 1940 he became a partner and Director in the banking house Wed J te Veltrup & Zoon. When war broke out the young family was living in Zaadam.
Each Day Wally would visit the Amsterdam Stock Exchange on business making the contacts, unaware of this benefit to his future work.
After the Germans invaded the Netherlands in May 1940, the Dutch resistance decided a fund should be established to help families of merchant-sailors who were stranded abroad when war broke out. Van Hall was asked to help set up the Amsterdam chapter together with his brother Gijs.
Because of his banking experience, van Hall was able to provide funding with the help of guarantees by the Dutch government in London. Soon thereafter, the Germans began taking anti-Jewish and forced labor measures, and resistance against these measures increased.
Van Hall expanded his fund-raising activities for all kinds of resistance groups, and he became known as the banker to the resistance.
Through illegal loans and a fraud involving millions at the central bank, the fund was able to distribute some 83 million guilders to victims of the occupation and countless resistance groups. It is the modern equivalent of over three quarters of a billion Euros. The organization, the National Steunfonds, (the NSF) was unique in Europe during WW II and Wally was its undisputed leader in the Netherlands.
As more and more people and resistance groups needed financial help, Wally decided to expand the assistance provided by the NSF. Hardly anyone knew where all that money came from. Income and expenditure were strictly separated, so that if one was discovered the other would not be endangered. Only Wally van Hall knew everything about both sides of the bank and he concentrated his efforts on the income side – raising the money.
Throughout the country there were 23 NSF districts, with district heads, cashiers, administrators and collecting clerks. They were mainly concerned with expenditure – where the money was going. Some 2,000 workers transported suitcases full of money, brought wage packets to homes, helped resistance groups and did all of the bookkeeping.
One of the ways in which van Hall raised funds for the resistance was the “robbing” of De Nederlandsche Bank (Dutch National Bank). With the approval of the Dutch government-in-exile, the van Halls managed to obtain as much as 50 million Dutch guilders.
Together with his brother, van Hall counterfeited bank bonds and exchanged them surreptitiously for the real bonds in the vault of the central bank. With these real bonds paper money was collected. This was done behind the back of Rost van Tonningen, President of the bank and a notorious member of the Dutch Nazi party National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands (NSB).
Another way of collecting money was borrowing from wealthy Dutch people. As a proof of their investments, they received a worthless old stock certificate, but after the war they could get their money back in exchange, with the guarantee of the Dutch government in exile.
To keep the money flowing, Wally van Hall argued that only large amounts of at least 25,000 Guilders should be loaned. He hoped that this would reduce the risk of being caught. For this reason, he and his brother devised a system for the intricate web of illegal loans, all administered in code.
On 27 January 1945, the weekly meeting place of the group was given away by a member of the resistance who had been arrested the day before and who wrongly believed the members of the meeting would know he had been arrested and wouldn’t attend the meeting.
Although the Germans had a vague idea there had to be somebody who coordinated the finances for the resistance, they never found out it was van Hall. In January 1945, Teus van Vliet, a founding member of the Dutch resistance, was betrayed by the Dutch collaborator Johan van Lom. Van Vliet broke under torture and, as a result, the Germans were led to several leading members of the resistance, including van Hall.
Wally Van Hall was subsequently executed in Haarlem on February 12, 1945 as revenge for the death of a high-ranking police officer. In two and a half months the war would be over. After the war, he was buried in Overveen in the Erebegraafplaats Bloemendaal, an honorary cemetery.’
In March 1945 the resistance newspaper .Vrije Gedachten published an In Memoriam which described him as “one of the leaders of the resistance whose authority was unchallenged.”
Immediately after the war the process of clearing up all the wartime financial transactions began. Loans to the NSF were repaid by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the fraud with the fake treasury bonds was set right. After the war the NSF still had 22 million guilders in cash and the money was used toward building the national monument in Amsterdam and for the founding of the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation. In 1954 the NSF was finally dissolved.
Wally van Hall was posthumously awarded by the Dutch government with the Dutch Cross of Resistance. The United States awarded him with the Medal of Freedom with Gold Palm. . Israel recognized him as “Righteous Among The Nations” in 1978 for supporting and funding for between 800 and 900 Jews in hiding during the war.
In honor of his deeds in the resistance, a monument was erected in the fall of 2010 near the Nederlandsche Bank in Amsterdam – a bronze tree lies like a fallen giant opposite the Dutch central bank. He was the bridge builder between the resistance groups and those in need; a leading figure in the resistance.
So you see, it is possible. Even a banker can be a hero to his countrymen.