Utrecht, The Netherlands (wartime occupied): The Busy Bee, or De Bezige Bij (Geert Lubberhuizen), 1944. Paperback. This remarkable Second World War artifact was published in Nazi-occupied Holland, testifying to the hope, courage, and peril of an occupied people. This is a numbered and limited publication of the Atlantic Charter, published by De Bezige Bij (The Busy Bee), which began during the Second World War as a clandestine publishing house, run by Geert Lubberhuizen and a group of students in the city of Utrecht. The press took its name from Lubbrhuizen’s nickname, given to him for his efforts to save and support Jewish children.
Nazi Germany had invaded The Netherlands on 10 May 1940, the day Winston Churchill became Britain’s wartime prime minister. The Netherlands surrendered on 15 May 1940, beginning five years of German occupation. The Busy Bee published this edition of The Atlantic Charter in 1944. It is noteworthy not only for being clandestinely produced in a Nazi-occupied nation, but also for exquisite production given the circumstances.
The pamphlet measures 6.625 x 5 inches (16.8 x 12.7 cm) string-bound in heavy, laid card printed in blue and gray on the front cover. The contents, comprising seven leaves on heavy stock, are likewise printed in gray and blue, the text in gray with “Joint Declaration”, each of the eight-point number headings, and Roosevelt and Churchill’s names in blue. Both this beautiful artifact and its publisher survived the war; The Busy Bee was founded officially in December 1944, in the waning days of the war, becoming – and still today – a leading literary publisher in the Netherlands.
Condition of this striking, clandestine, wartime publication is very good plus. The wraps are complete, the original string binding intact. The wraps show light soiling and toning. The contents are lightly toned but otherwise notably clean with the sole exception of some transfer browning the blank front free endpaper recto from a beautifully illustrated, clearly vintage, previous owner bookplate (“Ex libris Mr. L. Hartkamp”) tipped onto the front cover verso. The pamphlet is protected with a clear, removable, archival sleeve.
In August 1941, British Prime Minister Churchill braved the Battle of the Atlantic to voyage by warship to Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, where he secretly met with U.S. President Roosevelt. Their agenda included setting constructive goals for the post-war world, even as the struggle against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan was still very much undecided and the U.S. had yet to formally enter the war. The eight principles to which they agreed became known as the Atlantic Charter. “That it had little legal validity did not detract from its value… Coming from the two great democratic leaders of the day… the Atlantic Charter created a profound impression on the embattled Allies… a message of hope… and… the promise of a world organization based on the enduring verities of international morality.” (UN)
“Support for the principles of the Atlantic Charter… came from a meeting of ten governments in London shortly after Mr. Churchill returned from his ocean rendezvous. This declaration was signed on September 24 by the USSR and the nine governments of occupied Europe: Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Yugoslavia and by the representatives of General de Gaulle, of France.” (UN) Nonetheless, Atlantic Charter principles were remote from the realities of war in August 1941. They must have been tantalizing to the Dutch of the occupied Netherlands in 1944, when this edition was published. In October 1945 the United Nations was established, embodying the lofty principles of the Atlantic Charter. Even then, the Cold War was already nascent, ensuring that a geo-political reality based on those noble principles would remain as remote as it was in Placentia Bay in August 1941. As it remains today.
Reference: Not found in either Cohen or Woods. See Simoni, Publish and be free: a catalogue of clandestine books printed in the Netherlands, 1940-1945, The Hague / London, 1975. Item #006783