Although it had declared neutrality when war broke out in September of 1939, the Netherlands was invaded in early May of 1940. Rotterdam was bombed on 14 May and the Dutch soon surrendered. Many government officials and the royal family escaped to the UK. The country fell under German Occupation. The majority of the Jews were sent to Nazi concentration camps and, for the most part, the people, including the Dutch police and civil service collaborated with the Nazis. “Riphagen” is about a sly and slimy opportunist who, according to the movie, played both sides for his own material gain.
The movie is based a 2010 book by Bart Middleburg and René ter Steege (“Riphagen: The Amsterdam Underworld 1940-1945”) as well as accounts by his son, Rob Riphagen.
Bernardus Andreas Riphagen (here played by Jeroen van Koningsbrugge) was born in 7 September 1909. By the time of World War II, he was married to Greetje (Lisa Zweerman). Yet according to accounts, he was a pimp in the 1930s, nicknamed Al Capone.
The film, written by Paul Jan Nelissen and Thomas van der Ree, isn’t in the least comforting. There are no heroes, or at least, even the heroes have to compromise their beliefs. Some truly good people die because they can’t be ruthless even for the sake of justice. In the end, we learn what happens to all the main players. Riphagen escaped justice, but not without help. When justice finally stretches out her arms to catch him, he is already gone and in God’s hands, if you still believe in him. I do and there is comfort in that.
“Riphagen” is currently streaming on Netflix. In Dutch with English subtitles.