About Vrij Nederland

Vrij Nederland is an online publication and monthly magazine, founded as a resistance-paper in World War II. We aim to tell the stories of our time. Stories that clarify, deepen, surprise, inspire, move and entertain. Stories that open the world. Stories that enrich.

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.

The nineties

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.


In 2018 Vrij Nederland issued yet another restyling. The old logo returned to our monthly magazine and website. We aim to publish less in order to increase impact. Everyday, we offer one story of the day on the subject of power, culture or the future. Our current editor-in-chief Ward Wijndelts explains why (in Dutch):