Willem Drees

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For his son, see Willem Drees, Jr.. For his grandson, see Willem B. Drees.
Willem Drees
Drees, W. - SFA002019221.jpg
37th Prime Minister of the Netherlands
In office
August 7, 1948 – December 22, 1958
Monarch Wilhelmina
Juliana
Preceded by Louis Beel
Succeeded by Louis Beel
Member of the House of Representatives
In office
July 3, 1956 – October 3, 1956
Member of the House of Representatives
In office
July 15, 1952 – September 2, 1952
Minister of Finance
In office
July 1, 1952 – September 2, 1952
Prime Minister Willem Drees
Preceded by Piet Lieftinck
Succeeded by Johan van de Kieft
Minister of Colonial Affairs
In office
March 15, 1951 – March 31, 1951
Prime Minister Willem Drees
Preceded by Johannes Henricus van Maarseveen
Succeeded by Leonard Antoon Hubert Peters
Member of the House of Representatives
In office
July 27, 1948 – August 10, 1948
Minister of Social Affairs
In office
June 24, 1945 – August 7, 1948
Prime Minister Wim Schermerhorn (1945–1946)
Louis Beel (1948-1948)
Preceded by Dolf Joekes
Succeeded by Frans Wijffels
Deputy Prime Minister
In office
June 24, 1945 – August 7, 1948
Prime Minister Wim Schermerhorn (1945–1946)
Louis Beel (1948-1948)
Succeeded by Josef van Schaik
Member of the House of Representatives
In office
June 4, 1946 – July 4, 1946
Parliamentary leader - Social Democratic Workers' Party
House of Representatives
In office
August 19, 1939 – June 24, 1945
Preceded by Willem Albarda
Succeeded by Party Disbanded
Member of the House of Representatives
In office
May 9, 1933 – June 24, 1945
Personal details
Born Willem Drees
(1886-07-05)July 5, 1886
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Died May 14, 1988(1988-05-14) (aged 101)
The Hague, Netherlands
Nationality Dutch
Political party Social Democratic Workers' Party (1904-1946)
Labour Party (1946-1971)
Spouse(s) Catharina Hent (1888-1974)
Children 4
Alma mater Erasmus University Rotterdam (Dr.h.c.)
University of Maryland (Dr.h.c.)
Occupation Politician
Civil servant
Author
Accountant
Stenographer
Religion None (Agnostic/Humanist)[1]
prev. Dutch Reformed
Signature
Nickname(s) Little Father Drees

Willem Drees (About this sound Dutch pronunciation ) (July 5, 1886 – May 14, 1988) was a Dutch politician of the Labour Party (PvdA). He served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands from August 7, 1948 until December 22, 1958.

He previously served as Member of the House of Representatives from May 9, 1933 until June 24, 1945. And as the Parliamentary leader of the Social Democratic Workers' Party in the House of Representatives from August 19, 1939 until June 24, 1945 when he became Minister of Social Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister serving from June 24, 1945 until August 7, 1948 in the Cabinets Schermerhorn-Drees and Beel I. He served again a short periode as a Member of the House of Representatives, after the Dutch general election of 1946 from June 4, 1946 until July 4, 1946. After the Dutch general election of 1948, Drees became Prime Minister of the Netherlands, leading the Cabinets Drees-Van Schaik, Drees I, Drees II and Drees III. And as acting Minister of Colonial Affairs from March 15, 1951 until March 31, 1951 and as acting Minister of Finance from July 1, 1952 until September 2, 1952, following the resignations of Johannes Henricus van Maarseveen and Piet Lieftinck respectively. He again had two short stints as a Member of the House of Representatives after the Dutch general election of 1952 and 1952, serving from July 15, 1952 until September 2, 1952 and from July 3, 1956 until October 3, 1956.

After his premiership, Drees retired from active politics. He was already seventy-two and second oldest person who served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands after Johan Rudolph Thorbecke, who died in office at the age of seventy-four. On December 22, 1958 he was granted the honorary title of Minister of State. He remained a very active observer of Dutch politics, publishing a substantial number of books and articles until the age of ninety-seven.[2] Willem Drees died on May 14, 1988 at the age of 101 years, 314 days, and is one of the few longest lived state leaders who became a centenarian. He is praised by many as the most important Dutch politician after World War II for his important contributions and social reforms laws.[3][4] Drees was chosen as the best Prime Minister of the Netherlands after World War II after an opinion polling conducted by the VPRO in 2006.[5]

Early years[edit]

Willem Drees was born in Amsterdam on July 5, 1886. After completing his secondary education in 1903 he worked until 1906 for the Twentsche Bank in Amsterdam. This was followed by a period as a stenographer with the Municipal Council of Amsterdam and then between 1907 and 1919 with the States General of the Netherlands.

Willem Drees in 1908.
Willem Drees as Minister of Social Affairs in 1947.

Political career[edit]

Early political career[edit]

In 1904 he joined the Social Democratic Workers' Party, which later was absorbed into the Labour Party in 1946. From 1910 to 1931 he was chairman of The Hague branch of the Social Democratic Workers' Party and between 1913 and 1941 a member of the Municipal Council of The Hague. During that period he was alderman for social affairs from 1919 to 1931 and for finance and public works through to 1933.[2]

For 22 years between 1919 and 1941 Drees also held a seat on the Provincial Council of South Holland and for 19 years between 1927 and 1946 one on the Social Democratic Workers' Party executive. Between 1933 and 1940 he represented the Social Democratic Workers' Party in the House of Representatives and from 1939 as the Chair of the Parliamentary Party in the House of Representatives

Thereafter, from June 24, 1945 to August 7, 1948 Drees was Minister of Social Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister in the Cabinet Schermerhorn/Drees.

Prime Minister and Later Career[edit]

From August 7, 1948 to December 22, 1958 he was Prime Minister of the Netherlands in four successive cabinets Drees I, Drees II, Drees III and Drees IV .

Drees's period in office saw at least four major political developments: the traumas of decolonization, economic reconstruction, the establishment of the Dutch welfare state,[6][7] and international integration and co-operation, including the formation of Benelux, the OEEC, NATO, the ECSC, and the EEC. When his Cabinet broke up in December 1958, he was appointed to the honorary position of Minister of State, the Dutch Labour Party appointed him a member of its Executive Council for life in 1959. Due to impaired hearing he stopped attending its meetings in 1966. He strongly disagreed with New Left tendencies in the membership and strategies of the Dutch Labour Party. He eventually gave up membership of a party he had served for close to 67 years.

A wide range of social reforms were carried out during's Drees' tenure as prime minister. The Occupational Pensions Funds Act of March 1949 made membership of industry-wide pension funds compulsory, while the General Old Age Pensions Act of May 1956 introduced universal flat-rate old age pensions for all residents as a right and with no retirement condition at the age of 65. The Retired Persons’ Family Allowances Act of November 1950 established a special allowance for pensioned public servants with children, a law of November 1950 extended compulsory health insurance to cover other groups, such as old-age and invalidity pensioners, and a law of December 1956 introduced health insurance with special low contributions for old-aged pensioners below a certain income ceiling. A law of August 1950 established equal rights for illegitimate children, and introduced an allowance for disabled children between the ages of 16 and 20. The Temporary Family Allowances Act for the Self-employed of June 1951 entitled self-employed persons with low incomes to family allowance for the first and second child, and a law of February 1952 introduced an allowance for studying and for disabled children until the age of 27. In addition, the Nursery Education Act of 1955 introduced the option of kindergarten for children from the age of four upwards, while also establishing regulations for nursery-school teachers.[8]

Life outside politics[edit]

During the German occupation he was taken hostage in Buchenwald concentration camp in October 1940. Freed one year later, he played a prominent role, as vice-chairman and acting chairman of the illegal Executive Committee of the SDAP, and as a prominent participant in secret interparty consultations. In 1944 he became chairman of the Contact Commissie van de Illegaliteit and a member of the College van Vertrouwensmannen which the London government in exile charged with the preparation of steps to be taken at the time of liberation.

Drees was an Esperantist and addressed the 1954 World Congress of Esperanto, which was held in Haarlem.[9]

Both his sons Jan Drees and Willem Drees Jr. were active members of the Dutch Labour Party, but left the party around 1970 to join the Democratic Socialists '70. The cause was a row with younger party members who wanted to plot a more radical leftwing course for the party. Drees himself left the Dutch Labour Party in 1971 leaving them without their icon, but he never joined the Democratic Socialists '70.

Drees was a Teetotaler.[10] Willem Drees died on May 14, 1988 in The Hague, two months before his 102nd birthday.

In 2004 he ended in third place in the election of The Greatest Dutchman.[11][12]

Further reading[edit]

  • W. Drees, Gespiegeld in de tijd. De nagelaten autobiografie (Amsterdam 2000). (Memoir by Willem Drees, Jr.)

Decorations[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Willem Albarda
Party leader
Social Democratic Workers' Party

1940-1946
Succeeded by
Party Disbanded
Preceded by
First
Party leader
Labour Party

1946-1958
Succeeded by
Jaap Burger
Preceded by
Willem Albarda
Parliamentary leader - Social Democratic Workers' Party
House of Representatives

1939-1945
Succeeded by
Party Disbanded
Government offices
Preceded by
Dolf Joekes
Minister of Social Affairs
1945-1948
Succeeded by
Frans Wijffels
Preceded by
Johannes Henricus van Maarseveen
Minister of Colonial Affairs
1951
Succeeded by
Leonard Antoon Hubert Peters
Preceded by
Piet Lieftinck
Minister of Finance
1952
Succeeded by
Johan van de Kieft
Preceded by
Louis Beel
Minister of General Affairs
1948-1958
Succeeded by
Louis Beel
Political offices
Preceded by
Louis Beel
Prime Minister of the Netherlands
1948-1958
Succeeded by
Louis Beel