Film about crime in Oss, the Netherlands


This is the trailer of the Dutch film De bende van Oss (The Gang of Oss), directed by André van Duren.

The movie is loosely based on crime and related social and political issues in the Dutch town Oss in the 1930s.

The central (fictional) character in the film is Ms Johanna van Heesch, played by actress Sylvia Hoeks. Her sources of income: working in a meat processing plant, an illegal pub where criminals meet, and prostitution. She is married to Ties, a violent drunk minor criminal; her pimp.

In the film, things end reasonably well for Johanna van Heesch, as she is on her way to the USA by ship. However, meanwhile her (half-)sister and her husband have died violent deaths. One of her lovers has committed suicide, another one is in jail for murdering her pimp/husband jointly with her.

The background of the film is the history of Oss, which from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century developed from a mainly small-scale farming village on sandy soil to an industrial town, playing a role in the rise of big Dutch multinational corporations like Unilever.

A Dutch site says about this (translated):

The transition from an agrarian-based society to the controlled factory life brought in addition to regular income and a more settled life, a number of disadvantages. The work in the factories was hard and the working days were long, often dangerous and the wages were very low.

Such an unjust class society led to tensions, which one might expect to erupt, one way or another.

How would they erupt?

In elections in Oss, traditionally, over 90% of voters, élite or poor, voted for the Roman Catholic political party. Leftist political opposition tendencies, like the social democrats or the communists, were weak to non-existent in Oss.

So, the tensions tended to express themselves in outlets like crime, rather than politically. Local police tended to be corrupt and in the pay of crime gangs. This brought national military police to Oss. Many of them were Protestants from the western Netherlands. Many people in Oss and the surrounding southern Roman Catholic Dutch Noord-Brabant province resented that, as Noord-Brabant had a history of being treated like a conquered country by the mainly Protestant West.

This worked against the social tensions being fought out as a social and political conflict of the capitalist élite versus workers and small peasants.

Religion, in the form of hatred of Protestant military police against local Roman Catholics, whether criminal, ordinary worker, priest or élite, and vice versa, played a role. One of the meat processing plant owners, Sally Zwanenberg (called Sal Hedeman in the movie) being Jewish led to anti-Semitic agitation by the Dutch nazis of the NSB around Oss crime issues.

In one of the last scenes of the film, Meinoud Rost van Tonningen, leader of the nazi parliamentary caucus, speaks in parliament, blaming everything on “kikes and papists”.

There is a parallel here to present political situations in the Netherlands and elsewhere. Geert Wilders, leader of the present xenophobic party in the Dutch parliament does not blame “kikes” (that would ruin his relationship with nationalist far Rightists in Israel; though some of Wilders’ supporters are anti-Semitic indeed) or “papists” (he himself was born a Roman Catholic and maybe still is). Wilders blames Muslims. Different scapegoat than in the 1930s. However, there is also a similarity: instead of attacking the real causes of injustice in the capitalist economic system, putting the blame on vulnerable groups.

In Oss today, unlike in the 1930s, a Leftist party is the biggest party in elections. The Socialist Party, originally Maoist, now the second biggest opposition party, had its first electoral successes in Oss, with voters and politicians from traditionally Roman Catholic backgrounds.

The last two text lines of the film De bende van Oss note those recent electoral Socialist Party successes. Will this provide a victorious alternative making for social tensions finding a way out in genuine opposition to capitalism, instead of in crime or in scapegoating Muslims, Jews, Roman Catholics, or Protestants? Only time will tell.

1 thought on “Film about crime in Oss, the Netherlands

  1. Pingback: Julius Caesar’s genocide in the Netherlands discovery | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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