Amsterdam’s Robin Hood gave stolen millions of guilders to the poor, but also lived wildly

Amsterdam’s Robin Hood gave stolen millions of guilders to the poor, but also lived wildly
Amsterdam’s Robin Hood gave stolen millions of guilders to the poor, but also lived wildly

For ten years, accountant Kees van Harreveld played the benefactor with stolen money. In the 1950s, he withdrew two million guilders from the cash register of the bank where he worked. Like an Amsterdam Robin Hood, he gave it to whoever needed it, but also lived like God in France. Until he walked into the lamp.

Kees van Harreveld worked as an accountant at the bank Berger & Co on Herengracht from 1941. He was called ‘The Good Lord’ because he spent the stolen money like water, often on others. Edwin Schoon and Arjan Dijksma wrote a book about him. Schoon: “He was well dressed, people took off their hats to him. He was cheerful.” Dijksma: “Taxi drivers fought to get him into their car, because a ride only cost one euro and sixty, but he gave a tenner.”

Saint Nicholas

It couldn’t be done. Van Karreveld walked through the city like a golden rooster and often made rounds in his local café on Thorbeckeplein. He bought forty tickets on the black market for every match of the Dutch national team and handed them out. Like a real Robin Hood, he also gave a lot to the poor. “He asked the Salvation Army for the addresses of the fifty poorest people in the city and they all received a package with Sinterklaas,” says author Edwin Schoon. “And he delivered it himself.”

Edwin Schoon and Arjan Dijksma, authors of Het Goede Heertje – AT5

He handed out tickets for the Dutch national team and the fifty poorest people in the city received a package with Sinterklaas

Edwin Schoon and Arjan Dijksma, authors of Het Goede Heertje

What no one knew was that the man who pretended to be Robin Hood had taken money from his employer’s coffers to pay a fine of 750 euros. He received that fine after the war because he had been a member of the NSB. He discovered that stealing came so easily to him that he could no longer stop it. Arjan Dijksma: “He was a cashier and an inspector at the same time, which made it so easy for him to get the money. Inspectors would come every now and then, but during their break he would change the numbers. At one point he spent the entire night crunching numbers. changing his typewriter.”

Spoiled to the core

Kees lived wildly with his wife Mies for ten years. There were months when he stole as much as 10,000 guilders from his employer, the bank Berger & Co. His niece Mieke Hendriks remembers well how her uncle managed the money. “He was my rich uncle. A jovial man. I was picked up from Utrecht, where I lived, in a luxury taxi when I came to stay in Amsterdam. I remember the large hall in their house on Rooseveltlaan and the enormous sofa. They Even had television. I had never seen that before. I thought there was a man in a box.” Mieke Hendriks and her sister were showered with gifts. “I was given dolls that were as big as you were, and they spoiled you to the core. And were cuddled to death.”

No one in the family asked how they got the money, says Mieke Hendriks. “He worked at a bank on the Herengracht and we thought that was quite something. And he was in securities. My mother always said that they had won the football pool.”

Mieke Hendriks and her sister with the dolls she received from her uncle – private collection

How did he get the money? My mother always said they won the football group.

Mieke Hendriks, niece of fraudster Kees van Harreveld and his wife

When the bank’s treasury started to run out, Van Harreveld ran into trouble. He could no longer conceal his theft and ended up in prison. His trial in 1959 became a true media spectacle. “That trial was very humiliating for him,” says author Edwin Schoon. “He was a man from a simple background and thought: poverty will never happen to me again and he worked his way up – albeit with stolen money. He finally turned a dime into a quarter. He enjoyed that, and others did too. more than himself. But the public prosecutor actually pushes him back. He says: you think you can also belong to the elite, and that is not going to happen.”

Arrest of Kees van Harreveld – National Archives

The authors came across all kinds of information about Van Harreveld during the lawsuit. “Inside he was an insecure man, which is also evident from psychiatric reports. He needed people to admire and appreciate him for who he was. He said: “If I can’t give, then I can’t live.”

After his prison sentence, Amsterdam’s Robin Hood lived another 30 years. But unlike his ten ‘golden years’, in anonymity.


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