Scouting and Guiding in the Netherlands

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Scouting is one of the largest youth organisations in The Netherlands. There are about 90.000 youth members, 25.000 staff members and 3600 adult members. Almost all scoutgroups are associated to Scouting Nederland, the Dutch scouting organisation. Scouting Nederland is associated to the three world organisations World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM), World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and International Scout and Guide Fellowship (ISGF).

Need tips and tricks for camping? See Camping in The Netherlands

Founding of Scouting in The Netherlands

Scouting starts in The Netherlands in 1910. In that year a man called W.J. van Hoytema translates and moderates the book "Scouting for Boys" into "Op, Hollandsche jongens naar Buiten", which means something like "Come on, Dutch boys, go outside". This book leads to the start of the first scout group in december 1910, with the Irish teacher Griffin Moriarty as their leader. The journalist Gos de Voogt starts a scout group in Amsterdam, with M.W.D. den Ouden as their scouts leader. De Voogt translates Scouting for Boys again, under the title of "Baden Powell's Handbook". De Voogt was to a large extent inspired by the visit of British Scouts of the 16th Oxford Troop, with Scoutsmaster Bernard Blyth as their leader, who made a tour through The Netherlands from 3 to 17 august in 1910. They visited Rotterdam, Den Haag, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Nijmegen and Tilburg, and later on they also visited the Belgian cities Antwerp and Brussels.

In many cities and villages through The Netherlands different scout groups are starting from that time, and now and then also groups for girls start. Some of these oldest groups are still existing at the beginning of the 21st century. Several national organisations are created. The most important ones are:

  • for boys (but girls were allowed)
the Nederlandsche Padvindersorganisatie (Dutch pathfinder organisation, NPO) founded in 1911;
the Nederlandsche Padvindersbond (Dutch pathfinder union, NPB) founded in 1912
The NPO and the NPB are joining forces in De Nederlandsche Padvinders (The Dutch Pathfinders, NPV) in 1915, the NPV was boys only.
  • for girls
the Eerste Nederlandsche Meisjes Gezellen Vereeniging (First Dutch girl guides association, ENMGV) founded in 1911;
the Nederlandsche Meisjesgilde (Dutch girl guild, NMG) founded in 1916

In september 1911 Baden-Powell visits The Netherlands. On his arrival on the central station of Amsterdam he is received by board members of the NPO. In an open carriage and escorted by scouts on bikes he drives through the streets of the capital city to the pavilion in the Vondelpark. There were several hundreds of scouts ready for the inspection.

The Dutch copy the English example of age categories. In the old days, the storyline is exactly copied, and names are translated literally into Dutch. For example Cub Scouts (welpen), Rover Scouts (zwervers) and Brownies (kabouters) are created. Besides from that, also initiatives are starting for disabled scouts. Amsterdam starts in 1918 its first group for disabled scouts. The troop was formed by twenty youngsters from the local institute of blind scholars.

The first scout groups were secular or protestant, but also among Roman-Catholics there was an urge to create scout groups. The first groups started in 1920, although the Dutch bishops were not very happy with it. In 1930 this lead to a new national Scout movement, called Katholieke Verkenners (Catholic scouts). Catholic girl groups could only unite in a national movement from 1945, by the opposition they found from the Church. By then they founded the Nederlandse Gidsenbeweging (Dutch guide movement).

Scouting during the war

When the Nazi's conquered The Netherlands in 1940, there was much uncertainty among youth organisations in the Netherlands. It was already known that scouting (as well as all other youth organisations) was forbidden in Germany after Hitler took over the power in 1933. The youth was forced to join the Hitler Jugend (for boys) or the Bund Deutscher Mãdel (for girls). In the by Germany incorporated country of Austria, scouting was banned immediately and the scout leaders were send to the concentration camp in Dachau. In Czechoslovakia scouting suffered from the same, while in Poland scouting became made impossible and forbidden. In fact, scouting in The Netherlands did not expect something else. However, the first months stayed quiet. The Dutch scouting organisations were tolerated, but activities outside were not very easy anymore. Camping became forbidden, as well as camp fires and the use of maps and compasses out in the open.

The Nazi's had the opinion that The Netherlands were in fact to be a part of the German Empire, because of their collective german roots. In the years 1940/1941 the oppressor started to create unity within the Dutch society, which was by that time very segregated by religion and ideologies. The thought was, that when Dutch society would be more of a unity, it would be much easier to incorporate it within Germany later on. To create this unity, first all political parties and their youth organisations were forbidden (except the Black Front and the Pro-Nazi party NSB and their National Youth Storm of course). After this, it was planned to form unity within the Dutch youth as well, by creating only one national youth organisation. However, scouting (together with the other organisations) was absolutely not happy with these plans and did not want to cooperate. As a retaliatory measure the oppressor decided to forbid scouting activities from the 9th of april in 1941. Reasons as they appeared in the media, however, were for example related to the British enemy; scouting was called "an active instrument of the British cultural and political propaganda". National scoutsleaders and leaders of the small group of other still existing youth organisations were interrogated, administrations and archives were destroyed and the troop houses were closed or confiscated by the National Youth Storm. Some scout groups who had foreseen that this would happen, had already hidden a lot of their own material. Some scouts secretly continued their meetings.

When the Nazi's had forbidden the scout organisation, and eliminated the structure and the board of the scouts movement, they thought they had eliminated the entire scout movement. However they did not count on the scouting system, where orders would not come from someone in the top layer, but where young people can decide with their own small group what to do. When the south of the Netherlands was liberated, this became clear because scouting and guilding was immediately alive in cities were the oppressor was conquered.

After the war

Originally boys and girls were strictly separated within scouting. But in 1970, the Wessel group in the city of Vlaardingen, started its first Cub Scouts troop for boys and girls together.

In 1973 the four different scouting and guiding organisations formed one national scouting organisation, by the name of Scouting Nederland. From that time on, it was officially possible to start mixed age groups.

After an article in a Dutch scouting magazine about Beaver scouts in Canada (for children from 5 to 7 years old), on several places in the Netherlands scout groups spontaneously started their own "Beaver scouts troop". In 1985 this became an official new age group of scouting in The Netherlands.

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