Mussert, Anton

Mussertís youth


The young Mussert

Anton Adriaan Mussert was born on 11th May 1894 in Werkendam of the marriage between headteacher Johannes Leonardus Mussert and his wife Frederika Witlam. Anton was the fourth child in the Mussert family. Eventually, five children would grow up in the Mussert household: sons Jo, Max and Anton and daughters Leni and Coby. Through his profession as a headteacher, Johannes Mussert and his family belonged to the elite of their village. Johannes Mussert was a man of distinction who had two sides to his personality. For the outside world he seemed to be an endearing man who was always there to help children who had trouble learning. Within his family he showed a completely different side and would not shy away from using corporal punishment to establish his authority. He did, however, pay sufficient attention to his family. His wife Frederika was rather a different sort of person. She was a snob who exploited her privileged position. These opposing personalities led the marriage into heated arguments which were fought in public and sometimes even in the classroom.

Their son Jo joined the army and quickly climbed to the rank of officer. The later activities of his brother, Anton, would prove problematic during the Battle of the Netherlands. When the young Anton started primary school, his brotherís position in society gave him prestige. Their older brother Max had followed in the footsteps of his father and had become a teacher. Their older sister Leni was studying to become a teacher.

At primary school, Anton was a loner. He was short in stature and became the victim of bullying by the local youth. He was an average pupil who was most interested in the history of the Netherlands, an interest that would remain with him until his death. After primary school, Mussert attended secondary school in Gorinchem. Here, he was also certainly not an outstanding student. His achievements were satisfactory but that was all. He remained the smallest in the class, a disadvantage that Anton compensated for with an athletic and well-built body. In 1912, he received his diploma. Inspired by his brother Jo, Anton wanted to become a naval officer but was rejected due to his height. His youth had made him ambitious, a trait that would be useful later in his career.

When his father Johannes was fired in 1912 after 33 years of trusted service, it caused big changes in the Mussert family. Following the advice of his father, Anton went to study at the Technical College in Delft. The family moved with him on 25th October 1912 to reduce his study costs. The house was located on the ground floor of 15 Kanaalweg. At the Technical College, Anton developed into a hardworking student with perfectionist tendencies. He was considered a serious student who did not become involved in the usual student parties. He remained just as reclusive as before. The only contact he had was with a fellow student, Willem Schermerhorn, who incidentally became the first prime minister after the war. The young Musset did not drink or smoke, he concentrated on his education.

On 8th January 1913, Antonís father died suddenly. Anton was considerably affected by this and his education was to suffer. He was taken under the wing of Technical College assistant, Ploeg, and slowly climbed out of his melancholy. Mussert finished the year with excellent grades.

Mussert the military man

At the beginning of the First World War, Anton Mussert voluntarily signed up with the Dutch army. When he entered the barracks in Amsterdam, they did not know what to do with the short young man they were presented with. After being inspected, the 20-year-old Anton became a soldier within the artillery. After his very first exercise he was transferred to Schoonoord for corporal training. In the autumn of 1914 he earned his stripes. Shortly after, he was struck by kidney disease and released from service in 1915. After his illness, he went back to the Technical College in Delft to finish his education.

During his illness he was cared for by his aunt, Maria Witlam, who was 18 years older. The two fell in love. In spite of protests from the rest of the family and a fall out with his mother, they decided to marry. According to the law it was illegal for people as closely related as this to marry without an exemption from the Queen. They asked for an exemption and it was granted by Queen Wilhelmina. After receiving this approval, they married on 19th September 1917. They moved into a house in The Hague on the Rijswijkseweg.

During the course of his education, he befriended a Jewish student, Josephus Jitta who would later become a housemate of Mussert and his wife. The same Anton Mussert would later join the national socialists who sought to destroy the Jewish population. Anton Mussert graduated and received his diploma in civil engineering on 5th July 1918.

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Anton Adriaan Mussert
(Source: Stiwot Archive)


Translated by:
Rachael Darwin
Article by:
Wilco Vermeer
Published on:
Last edit on:
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