Hans Hirschfeld

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Person.png Hans Hirschfeld  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(economist, diplomat)
Died1961 (Age 61)
Alma materNederlandsche Handels-Hoogeschool
Interests • Marshall Plan
• civil service
Dutch economist/diplomat. Rapporteur in the attendance list of the first Bilderberg.

Hans Max Hirschfeld was a Dutch economist. Before and during the German occupation, he was secretary general in the Department of Trade, Industry and Shipping (Ministry of Economic Affairs), and remained so until liberation in 1945. Despite being investigated collaboration, his name was cleared on all counts after the war. He was part of the impementation of the Marshall Plan and a rapporteur in the attendance list of the first Bilderberg.

Early Career

Hirschfeld studied economics at the Nederlandsche Handels-Hoogeschool (currently Erasmus University), where he obtained his doctorate in 1922 on a historical study of the investment bank. In 1920 Hirschfeld started working at Rotterdamsche Bankvereeniging (now included in ABN-AMRO). In 1925 he transferred to the Javasche Bank in Batavia (the central bank for the colony Dutch East Indies), where he became chief of the economic-statistical department. In 1931, he was appointed director-general of Trade and Industry.

In the 1930s, the Dutch government tried to steer the economy through the severe economic crisis. It was decided to implement quotas and levies to protect the Dutch business community against the aggressive trade policy (dumping) of trading partners such as Germany. Hirschfeld, who was of German Jewish descent, increasingly took over bilateral trade policy negotiations with Germany during the 1930s. Although Germany was led by a the Nazi regime after January 1933, the country was of central importance to the Dutch economy and therefore good trade relations were necessary, according to Hirschfeld. And in Nazi Germany, there were still sensible senior officials to talk to, according to Hirschfeld.


Shortly before the German invasion of the Netherlands (on May 10, 1940), Hirschfeld became acting secretary-general of the Department of Trade, Industry and Shipping (i.e. Economic Affairs). After the blitzkrieg and subsequent flight of the government to London, the secretaries-general were given ultimate responsibility for their departments.

According to the order of the departed government, as long as it was in the interest of the Dutch people, the secretaries-general had to cooperate loyally with the German occupation authorities. Hirschfeld was now ultimately responsible for the food supply and the economic sector. Hirschfeld was one of three secretaries-general to remain in office throughout the occupation. This was remarkable, as he had a Jewish father, so the Nazis considered him a "half-Jew."

In mid 1940 (when an important part of Dutch imports and exports had disappeared due to the German invasion) Hirschfeld was partly responsible for 'advice' to the business community that was the prelude to the involvement of a large part of the Dutch industry in the German war effort. Historian Arie van der Zwan [1] regards Hirschfeld as a willing tool of the occupying forces. According to Van der Zwan, Hirschfeld ensured that the Nazi regime could involve the Netherlands in its war economy and exploit it economically.

Hirschfeld was a staunch opponent of armed resistance and strikes because they were to be met with harsh reprisals. Because of this and his cooperation with the occupier, Hirschfeld came under fire from the illegal press during the occupation.

Collaboration Investigation

After the liberation, Hirschfeld was 'purified' by an investigation committee. It published its final report in January 1946, where it concluded that Hirschfeld's actions had been of great importance for the food supply, but that he had ignored the spiritual value of the resistance and that "by the manner in which he carried out his task he had done more harm to the spiritual resistance of our people than was necessary."

Hirschfeld was dismissed, in grace, from his post on May 10, 1946. He appealed to the Council of State against his dismissal. The new government, which took office in July 1946, had Hirschfeld's forced resignation destroyed by Royal Decree in November. Hirschfeld, at his own request, was dismissed as acting Secretary-General of Economic Affairs and Agriculture on 1 January 1947, with thanks for his services.

Career After WW2

Within a week, his appointment as 'Government commissioner in general service' followed; he was now a government advisor to the foreign ministry. His first job was advising on the post-war politics of the Netherlands with regard to Germany (occupied by the Western Allies and the Soviet Union). He was therefore present at the Six Power Conference in London in 1948 (not including the Soviet Union), which prepared the way for the creation of (West) Germany

After the war, Hirschfeld was closely involved in Indonesian decolonization. On December 14, 1949, he was appointed temporary High Commissioner in Indonesia. He held this post for eight months, to arrange transfer of the sovereignty to independent Indonesia under President Sukarno.

He was also requested by the government to prepare the U.S. economic program the Marshall Plan for the Netherlands. In this context, he chaired the Dutch official delegation to the Paris conference in July 1947; was Leader of the Interdepartmental Commission of Experts to coordinate all actions related to the Marshall Plan and finally Leader of the Bureau in preparation for the preparation of the Marshall Plan.

On October 1, 1951, he also became a member of the NATO Commission of Twelve, an international committee set up to overcome the budgetary difficulties that arose for several Member States from the U.S demand for an increased military effort.

In 1952 he had to quit his civil service functions after a heart attack.

From 1955 to 1958, he was chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Reactor Centrum Nederland, a Dutch nuclear research organization.


Events Participated in

Bilderberg/195429 May 195431 May 1954Netherlands
Hotel Bilderberg
The first Bilderberg meeting, attended by 68 men from Europe and the US, including 20 businessmen, 25 politicians, 5 financiers & 4 academics.
Bilderberg/195611 May 195613 May 1956Denmark
The 4th Bilderberg meeting, with 147 guests, in contrast to the generally smaller meetings of the 1950s. Has two Bilderberg meetings in the years before and after
Many thanks to our Patrons who cover ~2/3 of our hosting bill. Please join them if you can.


  1. Arie van der Zwan, "H.M. Hirschfeld. In de ban van de macht. Biografie" (Amsterdam 2004