Willem Drees

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His Excellency
Willem Drees
Drees, W. - SFA002019221.jpg
Willem Drees in 1952
Prime Minister of the Netherlands
In office
7 August 1948 – 22 December 1958
Monarch Wilhelmina (1948)
Juliana (1948–1958)
Preceded by Louis Beel
Succeeded by Louis Beel
Leader of the Labour Party
In office
9 February 1946 – 22 December 1958
Preceded by New creation
Succeeded by Jaap Burger
Minister of Finance of the Netherlands
In office
1 July 1952 – 2 September 1952
Prime Minister Willem Drees
Preceded by Piet Lieftinck
Succeeded by Johan van de Kieft
Minister of Colonial Affairs of the Netherlands
In office
15 March 1951 – 31 March 1951
Prime Minister Willem Drees
Preceded by Johan van Maarseveen
Succeeded by Leonard Antoon Peters
Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands
In office
24 June 1945 – 7 August 1948
Prime Minister Willem Schermerhorn (1945–1946)
Louis Beel (1948)
Succeeded by Josef van Schaik
Minister of Social Affairs of the Netherlands
In office
24 June 1945 – 7 August 1948
Prime Minister Willem Schermerhorn (1945–1946)
Louis Beel (1948)
Preceded by Dolf Joekes
Succeeded by Frans Wijffels
Leader of the Social Democratic Workers' Party
In office
14 May 1940 – 9 February 1946
Preceded by Willem Albarda
Succeeded by Party dissolved
Parliamentary leader of the Social Democratic Workers' Party in the House of Representatives of the Netherlands
In office
5 September 1939 – 24 June 1945
Preceded by Willem Albarda
Succeeded by Party dissolved
Member of the House of Representatives of the Netherlands
In office
3 July 1956 – 3 October 1956
In office
15 July 1952 – 2 September 1952
In office
27 July 1948 – 10 August 1948
In office
4 June 1946 – 4 July 1946
In office
9 May 1933 – 24 June 1945
Personal details
Born Willem Drees, Sr.
(1886-07-05)5 July 1886
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Died 14 May 1988(1988-05-14) (aged 101)
The Hague, Netherlands
Nationality Dutch
Political party Labour Party (1946–1971)
Other political
Social Democratic Workers' Party (1904–1946)
Spouse(s) Catharina Hent
(m. 1910–1974; her death)
Children 2 sons and 2 daughters
Occupation Politician
Civil servant
Signature Willem Drees's signature

Willem Drees, Sr. (About this sound Dutch pronunciation ) (5 July 1886 – 14 May 1988) was a Dutch politician of the Labour Party (PvdA). He served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 7 August 1948 until 22 December 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.[1] 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.[2][3] 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.[4]

Early years

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.

File:Willem Drees 1908.jpg
Willem Drees in 1908.
Willem Drees as Minister of Social Affairs in 1947.

Political career

Early political career

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.[1]

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

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,[5][6] 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.[7] In 1950, works councils were established,[8] and in 1957 the dismissal of female civil servants upon marriage was abolished.[9]

In the field of housing, the Implementation for Rent Act (1950) fixed rents and rent increases, while the Regional and Town Planning Act (1950) regulated the planning of house building. In addition, the Reconstruction Act of 1950 established housebuilding programmes,[10] and legislation was passed on house building standards (1951), the uniformity of buildings (1954), and uniform building standards (1956).[11] In education, measures were carried out such as increased expenditure on the system, a reduction in registration fees at State universities and at the institute of technology,[10] and the granting (in January 1956) of a special benefit to primary school teachers and to certain categories of vocational teachers, “particularly those who risk being unemployed and who cannot lay claim to a retaining fee.”[12] Other initiatives included secondary schools for girls and special primary education in 1949, teacher training colleges in 1952,[13] the extension of compulsory education to 8 years in 1950,[14] and the Nursery Education Act of 1955, which introduced the option of kindergarten for children from the age of four upwards, while also establishing regulations for nursery-school teachers.[7] A department of social welfare was also established (1952), while laws were passed on unemployment benefits (1952) and a widows’ and orphans’ pension (1956).[11]

Life outside politics

Drees in 1981

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.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17][18]

Further reading

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



  1. 1.0 1.1 (Dutch) Biography Willem Drees BWSA
  2. (Dutch) Geschiedenis VPRO Geschiedenis 24
  3. (Dutch) Willem Drees beste crisismanager Geencommentaar.nl
  4. (Dutch) Willem Drees gekozen tot ‘Dé premier na WO II’ Geschiedenis 24
  5. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=b_fe3zrZIP0C&pg=PA120&dq=netherlands+willem+drees+achievements&hl=en&sa=X&ei=C1NRU_rRMsXKPbvTgVA&ved=0CE8Q6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=netherlands%20willem%20drees%20achievements&f=false
  6. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=D6HKAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA578&dq=netherlands+willem+drees+social+reforms&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6VJRU4XPIYj_OaTVgLAN&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=netherlands%20willem%20drees%20social%20reforms&f=false
  7. 7.0 7.1 Growth to Limits: The Western European Welfare States Since World War II, Volume 2 edited by Peter Flora
  8. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Cd9nAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA68&dq=netherlands+works+councils+1976&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CD0Q6AEwBGoVChMI-aSP-f71xgIVrJrbCh2Qcg1H#v=onepage&q=netherlands%20works%20councils%201976&f=false
  9. http://nidi.knaw.nl/shared/content/output/2002/ssm-54-05-fokkema.pdf
  10. 10.0 10.1 https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=eMDUAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA60&dq=netherlands+compulsory+education+1950&hl=en&sa=X&ei=WT2iVdqAHYOM7AaCt7jIDQ&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=netherlands%20compulsory%20education%201950&f=false
  11. 11.0 11.1 https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=TBhJCAAAQBAJ&pg=PT103&dq=netherlands+unemployment+benefits+1952&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CEwQ6AEwBmoVChMI2sT9qL7kxgIVIwnbCh3PJAwh#v=onepage&q=netherlands%20unemployment%20benefits%201952&f=false
  12. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001329/132929eo.pdf
  13. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=lsXQ10o4ROMC&pg=PA202&dq=netherlands+Teacher+Training+School+Act+of+1952&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CDwQ6AEwAmoVChMIsseXvozgxgIVVAnbCh23rApH#v=onepage&q=netherlands%20Teacher%20Training%20School%20Act%20of%201952&f=false
  14. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=lrKec5YTVYAC&pg=PA635&dq=netherlands+years+of+compulsory+education+1950&hl=en&sa=X&ei=pj2iVcPABNOP7AaA3pSADw&ved=0CCQQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=netherlands%20years%20of%20compulsory%20education%201950&f=false
  15. UEA: Reta Muzeo. Materialoj el Biblioteko Hector Hodler. 1947-1974 World Esperanto Association
  16. (Dutch) Willem Drees 20 jaar dood Tweedekamer.blog.nl
  17. (Dutch) 'Pim Fortuyn toch niet de Grootste Nederlander' NU.nl
  18. (Dutch) Zoektocht naar ‘Grootste Nederlander’ begint Geschiedenis24

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Dolf Joekes
Minister of Social Affairs
Succeeded by
Frans Wijffels
Preceded by
Louis Beel
Prime Minister of the Netherlands
Minister of General Affairs

Succeeded by
Louis Beel
Preceded by
Johan van Maarseveen
Minister of Colonial Affairs
Succeeded by
Leonard Antoon Hubert Peters
Preceded by
Piet Lieftinck
Minister of Finance
Succeeded by
Johan van de Kieft
Party political offices
Preceded by
Willem Albarda
Leader of the Social Democratic Workers' Party
in the House of Representatives

Party disbanded
Leader of the Social Democratic Workers' Party
Party established Leader of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Jaap Burger