December 1934 – the Kuijt Case

Up until the beginning of the 1930s, it was relatively easy for foreigners to settle in the Netherlands. That changed, however, when the number of communist and Jewish refugees fleeing from the national socialist regime in Germany increased after the Reichstag fire on 27 February 1933.

Loopholes in the law

Although the refugees were soon forbidden to work in the Netherlands, because there were good connections between the Dutch and the German film industries they were able to find loopholes in the law. For the young Dutch film industry, the un-Dutch quality of these German professionals was too good to ignore, and in the mid-1930s, every Dutch film had had several Germans help work on it.

The Nederlandse Vakvereeniging van Filmkunstenaars (NVF) decided at the end of 1934 that it was time to sound the alarm. The reason was De big van het regiment, a film by producer Monopole-DLS that had four immigrants working on it: the German-Polish director Max Nosseck, Austrians Adolf Schlasy (cameraman) and Erwin Scharf (set design), and the German editor Hanna Kuijt.

The Kuijt case

The first three were granted work permits, but Kuijt (who had worked in Germany under her own name, Hanne Kuyt) was the proverbial last straw: she was denied a work permit. When it turned out during an inspection that she was indeed working for Monopole and the Rijksdienst der Werkeloosheidsverzekering en Arbeidsbemiddeling decided to intervene, Monopole brought the production of the film to halt, saying she was indispensable.

The Kuijt case was widely discussed in the professional trade papers and other media during the last weeks of 1934. The NVF’s position was reason for Max de Haas, Simon Koster and Gerard Rutten to cancel their NVF memberships via an angry letter to the editor that was published in ‘Het Vaderland’, among other publications.

Reaching a compromise

Ultimately, a compromise was struck: for every immigrant who was hired for a crucial job such as director, screenplay writer or set construction, a native Netherlander also had to be hired. The idea was that no Dutch jobs would be lost to immigrants and, en passant, the Dutch would also acquire more professional expertise by working alongside their more experienced peers.

Kuijt did end up getting her work permit in the end – as well as a Dutch co-editor, Bernard Keulen. Her immigrant colleagues were assisted by Jan Teunissen (direction), Henk Alsem and Otto van Neijenhoff (cameramen) and Henk Wegerif (set design).

Short-lived promise

This thriving phase in Dutch film production that had started up so promisingly in 1934 was alas all too short. It did, nevertheless, enable several Germans to claim a place for themselves in the Dutch film industry. The producer Rudolf Meyer is one of the best known of these, and he was active up until the 1960s. Many of those in the film trade who fled Germany, however, went to countries with more favourable film climates, such as France or England; those who could fled to the United States. Many of those who remained in the Netherlands were persecuted during WWII; the Jewish Hanna Kuijt was killed in a concentration camp.


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