The unique international medal group of Rotterdam police commisioner Van Vliet

thumb_img_4346_1024This is the history of F.N. van Vliet who, during his active life, was a police officer in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

His unique group of international medals was bought by a well known Dutch collector and author regarding medals in 1983 from the family. In 2003 a short article was written by this collector (Henny Meijer) for the the Dutch Order and Medal Study Association.

I was able to buy this group from his estate earlier this year and did some more research on the group and its original owner so I now can write some more regarding his career.

Frederik was born in 1885 finished his High School (HBS) in 1905 and got married in 1914. His first role as police officer (Inspecteur 3e klasse) was in 1917 this indicates that he went through the nco ranks as can be seen in the photo above. After 1917 he also moved quickly through the officers ranks in the immigration (alien) police of Rotterdam where he would rise to the head of this department in 1928.

Rotterdam was already one of the biggest ports of Europe at the turn of the 19th century so there were many ships, goods and people coming through the port of Rotterdam. That is why the immigration police was very important to the City of Rotterdam. Especially during world war 1 as the Netherlands were a neutral state. There was an enormous influx of refugees and also trade with the different countries in that war. This continued for quite some time after the war.

Some figures from a 1920 newspaper article: in that year more than 28.000 identity cards for foreigners entering the port were made. 7334 people were deported out of the Netherlands and 192 were put in prison….Also a total of 314 people got stranded in Rotterdam and those were helped by the Rotterdam alien police and the consulates there. Helping foreigners (especially important ones) in the port of Rotterdam as head of the alien police was the main reason for the award of the international medals.

Another reason can be found in the many children from the war zones that came to the Netherlands during and after the war. They were assisted in this by the Dutch Red Cross, the police and the military. It was the closest safe have for children of the belligerent countries. This is one of the main reasons that many Austrian and Hungarian Red Cross medals were awarded to Dutch citizens during and also after the war. These medals also can be found in military medal groups as they were accepted for wear in the military as can be seen in the example of General Van Hoogenhuyse further below.

The first medal he received was the Austrian Red Cross award 2nd class with war decoration. It was awarded as late as 1924 when there was officially already a new medal by the Austrian Red Cross that was no longer related to the Habsburg empire from before.

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The Hungarian red cross medal was awarded to him in 1926. This medal existed between 1922 and 1945 in three grades, a medal, a cross and a star. Of the medal a total of only 828 were awarded during these 23 years. Of the higher grade, the cross, a total of 1244 were awarded so considerably more than the lower grade. Of the star, the highest grade only 41 were awarded!

The medal in box is accompanied by the award decree (signed by the Hungarian Ambassador) and the statutes, both in French. All in mint condition as he never wore the medals he received.

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Policemen rarely wore medals but the military did as mentioned above. Here are the same two medals in a miniature group and the same group in full size being worn by the owner. General Van Hoogenhuyse RMWO4.

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Van Vliet continued to rise in the ranks and receive more foreign awards. In 1929 he became knight in the Italian order of the Crown. For this order he asked and received the formal permission to accept and wear the medal.

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In 1931 he received Czechoslovakian order of the White Lion 5th class which is quite rare and seldom seen in Dutch medal groups. The Head Commissioner of the Rotterdam police received the 4th class of the order at the same time. The amount of awardees was limited by the statutes of the order. For the 5th class the limit was 3000 awardees.

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By that time, 1931,  he was inspector 1st class as shown in the photo below – courtesy of the Historic Collection of the Rotterdam Police (https://www.historischecollectiepolitieeenheidrotterdam.nl/)

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Two more decorations would follow, he woud become: officer in the Greek order of the Phoenix  in 1934

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And finally knight in the Belgian Crown order in 1936:

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This would be his last award, he did not receive any other awards international or Dutch. But is was hardly the end of his career! By 1935 he had moved from the immigration police to the criminal investigations department.

There he would become commissioner of the department of criminal investigations in 1939. In Februari he received the temporary role which was formalized in August of that year. He was one of the two commissioners at that time in Rotterdam and above them one there was one head commissioner. Below is his badge for this rank. He will have received it in 1939 and formally they stopped using these in 1943 but by the looks of the badge he continued to wear it.

He stayed in this position until his honorable discharge in early 1947, so a total of almost 8 years. This most have been the most difficult years of his career. The the wartime started with the shocking bombing of Rotterdam by the Germans in 1940 and with 5 years of occupation that followed after that.

The German influence was strong during the war and the head commissioner was working with the Germans. The co-operation with Germans obviously was investigated after the war ended. Leading to many measures including dishonorable discharges and even imprisonment depending on the degree of co-operation with the Germans.

His war time record came up clean, I was able to read all papers regarding him in the closed National Archives where you can view these only with permission as a researcher.

His performance during the war must have been aimed at his main task of criminal investigations. When there were actions of resistance against the occupying forces they were not handled by the local police.

Frank van Riet wrote a very interesting book about the wartime Rotterdam police for his promotion to Dr in History. It is called “Handhaven onder de nieuwe orde” the dissertation (in Dutch) can be found here: http://dare.uva.nl/document/2/55321

So he remained a proud policeman even under the most difficult circumstances. I could not trace any Dutch order for his retirement but it would have been normal to receive one upon his honorable discharge in 1947. I cannot find a date for the photo below but it is probably in the ’40s. He is wearing the combined ribbon of  the Italian order of the Crown and the Czechoslovakian order of the White Lion.

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Coincidence? During the war Van Vliet lived on the following address: Statenweg 146b. On the same street but straight across was number 147, the location of the Dutch Military Command for the defense of Rotterdam in 1940. this was also the location of the surrender of the Dutch forces in Rotterdam to the German General Kurt Student. During that surrender there was a shooting incident in which Student was shot in the head. What exactly happened has never been fully clarified…it seems that German troops were shooting in the street and Student went to a window to see what was happening. As he was looking outside he got shot in the head. The Germans first thought it was a Dutch attack on Student. They wanted to execute the Dutch officers present at the surrender but chose to complete the formal surrender. After this was completed no further measures were taken by the Germans. Student survived and recovered fully and was active during the entire war period.

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The full set as it came into my collection. All medals unworn and complete with boxes and all paperwork.

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