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Bernardus Andreas “Dries” Riphagen, a Dutch criminal who collaborated with the Germans

31-01-2020

Dries Riphagen was born as the 8th child of an Amsterdam family. Riphagen’s father worked for the Navy, while his mother died when he was six years old. His father married a second time but did not take care of the children because he was an alcoholic. At the age of 14 Dries Riphagen was sent to the notorious merchant-navy training center “Pollux”, and from 1923 to 1924 went to sea as an ordinary seaman. Subsequently, he stayed in the United States for two years working for Standart Oil , during which time he came into contact with local criminal circles and learned their methods. His subsequent nickname Al Capone came from this time in the USA.

After his return from the United States, Riphagen

  joined the National Socialist Dutch Worker;s Party (NSNAP) , an extremely anti-Semitic minor party whose aim was that the Netherlands should become a province of the German Reich. He became one of the foremost figures of the Amsterdam underworld, known among the pimps on the Rembrandtplein, and developed a taste for jewelry, precious stones and gambling, also dealing in used — sometimes stolen — cars.

During World War II, Riphagen not only continued his criminal activities but expanded them in profitable co-operation with the German occupiers as a trustworthy ally of the German security service, SD , and later as a member of the Central Office for Jewish Emigration in Amsterdam. It was his task, together with his “colleagues” from the Amsterdam underworld, to uncover the black market as well as to track down Jewish property, which was being bypassed beyond the German foreign exchange regulations at the time. As a bonus, the men received five to ten percent of the confiscated goods, but they also slipped many valuables into their own pockets.

Dries Riphagen soon took part in the hunt for Jews (“Judenjagd”) together with members of the Olij family, who were feared “Jodenkloppers” (Jew beaters). From 1943 he was part of the Henneicke Column, a group of investigators who searched out Jews who had gone underground. This approximately fifty-strong group was founded in 1942 by Willem “Wim” Christiaan Heinrich Henneicke , the stateless son of a German immigrant. From March 4 to March 31, 1943, the Column, which consisted mainly of professional criminals, handed over 3190 Jews to the German authorities, who deported them to the extermination camps. A reward of between 7.50 to 40 florins per person was paid. The Column also coerced Jewish people with the threat of deportation to betray other Jews who had gone into hiding. By the end of 1943, Riphagen had collected a small fortune, which he deposited in various accounts in Belgium and Switzerland. Finally the Henneicke Column was dissolved on the grounds of corruption. Riphagen was employed in the last year of the war by the Hoffmann Group of the SD in Assen, which specialized in the detection of shot-down Allied airmen and weapons that had been dropped to the resistance.

Riphagen played an important role in 1944 in partially rolling-up the underground resistance organisation Identity Cards Centre (Persoonbewijzencentrale), in the course of which the German-Jewish resistance fighter Gerhard Badrian   was shot. Gerhard Badrian was a Jew who had fled Germany. He was an art photographer. He owned a SS uniform which he used for resistance activities, for example when freeing prisoners. He also used it on 29 April 1943, during the attack on the General Government Printing office in The Hague, during which thousands of blank identity cards were seized.

After the war

After the war Dries Riphagen was wanted by the police for the betrayal of Jews, and the public prosecutor considered him responsible for the death of at least 200 people. Riphagen contacted the former resistance fighter and head of police in Enschede, Willem Evert Sanders, who wanted to do a deal with him. Riphagen was not handed over to the official authorities, but was placed under house-arrest as a “private” prisoner in exchange of information on collaborators and German-friendly networks. In February 1946 he escaped; according to rumours, he was helped across the border by his underworld friends in a casket inside a hearse, but according to more recent findings, the escape was organized by two staff members of the Dutch secret service Bureau voor Nationale Veiligheid, Frits and Piet Kerkhoven. From Belgium he spent three months travelling to Spain by bicycle, according to his son Rob. 

In May 1946, Riphagen was held in Huesca, Spain, because he lacked the necessary personal papers. He was imprisoned, but on the intervention of a Jesuit priest he was released on bail, under the order to get his papers rectified. Thereupon he obtained a Nassau passport, and Frits Kerkhoven provided him with clothes and shoes in which diamonds that he had previously deposited with Kerkhoven were hidden. When he was about to be extradited to the Netherlands — he was now living in Madrid — he flew to Argentina on 21 March 1948 with a friend. His contact address there was also that of a Jesuit priest, but nothing is known of any connection with the so-called “ratlines”.

On 13 May 1973 1973, Dries Riphagen, age 63,  the “worst war criminal in Amsterdam”, died of cancer in Montreux.

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