elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Willem Oltmans (1925 - September 30, 2004)

Willem Leonard Oltmans (June 10, 1925 - September 30, 2004) was a Dutch investigative journalist and author who did not hesitate to pro-actively intervene in international politics.

Due to the highly critical and opposite stance he often took towards Dutch global politics, as of 1956 the Dutch government conspired to keep him out of work. During a lingering lawsuit (1991–2000), involving the Royal family, parties agreed to a binding arbitration in which the state had to pay him 8 million guilders in damages in 2000 (approx. 4 million in 2000 US dollars, 3.6 million euros, over 5.6 million dollars these days). As an erudite orator Oltmans' straightforward and uncompromising behaviour made him a striking media personality and unique phenomenon in Dutch society.

Oltmans was born into a wealthy family with roots in the Dutch East Indies. During the Second World War he was a member of the Dutch Resistance. "We blew up a German train," Oltmans told the Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad in 2003 "Hitler called me a terrorist, but I saw myself as a freedom fighter."

He studied at the prestigious Nyenrode Business University (1946) and Yale University (1948), without graduating. Originally intend on a career with the diplomatic corps of the foreign service, he ended up working in press offices in the Netherlands (1953–1955). He married in 1955 and worked as a free lance reporter in Rome in 1956. There he befriended Indonesian president Sukarno, which started his remarkable career as a controversial journalist.

Convinced that a well connected and informed individual could play a decisive role in the international political arena, he assumed a pro-active part in global political developments, becoming both a news reporter and news maker.

Against the will of the Dutch government, Oltmans interviewed Indonesian president Sukarno in 1956. Once he became a confidant of Sukarno and part of his inner circle he took it upon himself to convince the broader public in the Netherlands of the legitimacy of Sukarno's viewpoints. In 1957 he pleaded for the transfer of Dutch New Guinea to Indonesia while in Indonesia. He claimed to have prevented a Dutch war against Indonesia over New Guinea by sending a memo to US president Kennedy. Since then Joseph Luns, minister of foreign affairs covertly tried everything to sabotage Oltmans' career, with much success: for a long time, Oltmans was forced to live off welfare. Luns who now had become Oltmans' nemesis called him a 'one engine mosquito'. In 1995 Oltmans published his book 'My friend Sukarno'.

He fought a long law suit (1991–2000) against the Dutch state, which he eventually won. In 2000 a commission awarded him eight million guilders (four million dollars) in damages, after taxes. Having paid two million guilders in lawyer's fees, Oltmans bought a penthouse on a canal in Amsterdam and a Steinway piano.

Oltmans was based in the USA in the 1960s, where he worked as a reporter for Dutch TV broadcaster NOS and established ties to president Kennedy's closest circle of advisors. After US president John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963, Oltmans interviewed the mother of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald: Marguerite Oswald. Further investigation led him to Oswald's babysitter baron de Mohrenschildt. According to Oltmans, baron George de Mohrenschildt, who had ties to the CIA, was the architect behind the killing. In 1977 de Mohrenschildt agreed to disclose information to Oltmans, but disappeared from their meeting place and was found dead in Florida a few weeks later. Intent on irony, Oltmans played the role of de Mohrenschildt in Oliver Stone's 1991 film about the assassination, JFK.

In the eighties Oltmans endeavoured to create a more balanced opinion in the West about the Soviet Union. Looking for a more poised perspective on the one sided bad image of the evil empire's communist power he often traveled to Russia. Together with the Kremlin's foreign expert Georgi Arbatov he wrote the book 'The Soviet position' elaborating on Moscow's perspective on the East-West issues in 1981. The book received much attention and was published in several languages.

In the eighties Oltmans also actively interfered with the post-colonial Dutch-Suriname relationship. He recognised a bilateral relationship based in negative sentiments similar to the Dutch-Indonesian relationship. Intend on playing a mediating role Oltmans traveled to Suriname to interview military dictator Bouterse. He published a book that was banned in Suriname and misunderstood in the Netherlands.

Due to the ban imposed on him by Luns Oltmans was forced to help support himself through his family's inheritance. With the death of his parents (1966 and 1974) and after some bad financial investments he was to seek additional means of livelihood. In the late eighties he intended to use his large global network as a consultant to introduce entrepreneurs to Eastern European business opportunities. Through a string of quarrels with his stakeholders this initiative failed completely and Oltmans left for South Africa.

Both his brothers had settled in South Africa in 1948. He had visited the country regularly and in 1990 decided to settle there permanently. In South Africa he continued his tendency of actively intervening in local politics. His investgative reporting was not appreciated by the shaky South African regime of the time and in August 1992 he was deported on charges of espionage. Oltmans always insisted the Dutch Security Service was involved in his deportation.

Burial: Begraafplaats en Crematorium Den en Rust, Bilthoven, De Bilt Municipality, Utrecht, Netherlands. Plot: Begraafplaats en Crematorium Den en Rust

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willem_Oltmans

Further Readings:

Memoires, 1961-1963 (Dutch Edition) by Willem L. Oltmans
Perfect Paperback: 333 pages
Publisher: Papieren Tijger (1997)
Language: Dutch
ISBN-10: 9067280836
ISBN-13: 978-9067280839
Amazon: Memoires, 1961-1963

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Tags: essayist: willem oltmans, gay classics

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