The history of Vrij Nederland
World War II
Vrij Nederland was founded as an underground resistance paper during the German occupation of The Netherlands. The first issue was released on August 3rd, 1940. The paper asked for ‘combat to free our country’. The Nazi Sicherheitsdienst called Vrij Nederland a ‘hatred paper’ and tried to prevent distribution. After the liberation by coalition forces in May 1945, teacher/poet Henk van Randwijk and his journalists continued the publication.
The sixties and seventies
In 1955 Mathieu Smedts became the new editor-in-chief. It was the start of a flourishing period. Smedts attracted talented young journalists that started to write about what was later called ‘the cultural revolution of the sixties’: protests on universities and the rise of leftwing groups such as Provo and the New Left movement. It made the paper grow. In the seventies, when Rinus Ferdinandusse was editor-in-chief, it was almost impossible for leftwing people in The Netherlands not to read Vrij Nederland – or at least be seen with it in the pub. Vrij Nederland set the standard for investigative journalism, social reports, disclosing interviews, columns special photography and a literary supplement.
In the nineties, Vrij Nederland gradually changed from a weekly newspaper to weekly magazine. Harsh competition in the newspaper market and the sudden death of editor-in-chief Joop van Tijn in 1997, marked the beginning of an uncertain period of trial and error. In 2001 the new editor-in-chief Xandra Schutte issued a restyling that shifted the focus of Vrij Nederland towards opinions and opinion making.
On October 7th 2009, Vrij Nederland issued a restyling. The old logo was replaced by a new one: Vrij Nederland, covering the full width of the page, with a font characteristic for the magazine during the eighties and nineties. In the weeks preceding the renewal, Editor-in-chief Frits van Exter prepaired the readers with a letter. In this letter he stated that the restyling is an investment in our conviction 'that in this time, the meaning of Vrij Nederland can only increase.'