Pieter Oud

Pieter Oud in 1959

Pieter Jacobus Oud (December 5, 1886 – August 12, 1968) was a prominent liberal Dutch politician who served held numerous political offices, including member of the House of Representatives, Minister of Finance and Mayor of Rotterdam. He was one of the founding member of the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) and the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). Before the war he was member of the left-liberal Freethinking Democratic League (VDB).



Life before politics

Oud came from a middle class family, his father traded in tobacco, wine and, later, stocks and served as alderman in Purmerend. Oud attended HBS in Amsterdam graduating in 1904. He continued to study to become notary between 1904 and 1907. During this time he had become member of the board of the League of Freethinking Propaganda Associations, the freethinking liberal youth organisation. He took a private courses in registration in Gorinchem between 1907 and 1909. Between 1909 and 1911 he was civil servant within the ministry of Finance responsible for registration and government possessions. In 1911 he became a tax collector on Texel. In 1912 he took his matriculation in order to study law at the University of Amsterdam. He combined his work as tax collector with his study of law. In the same year he married Johanna Cornelia Fischer, from this marriage they got one son. In 1914 he became tax collector in Ommen. Meanwhile he was mobilized as Sergeant of the seventh regiment infantry, which was stationed near Amsterdam between 1914 and 1916. Between 1915 and 1919 he was member of the national board of the VDB. He graduated in 1917 on basis of a disputation.

Political Life

For the VDB

Oud was elected in 1917 elections for the VDB, the last election with runoff voting, in the second round he beat the Staalman of the left-wing Christian Christian Democratic Party for the district of Den Helder. He retained his legal position as tax collector, but was given a leave for undetermined time. he was even promoted to inspector of finances in 1921, while on leave. In 1918 Oud stood for elections again and was elected with 5,000 preference votes, mainly from the district of Den Helder. While MP, Oud also served as secretary of the VDB national board and editor of the De Vrijzinnige Democraat, the party's magazine. In parliament Oud took a particular interest in military matters and education, and served as the party's finance spokesperson. As MP he served as member of the Committee on the Navy between 1923 and 1933 and the Committee on the Army since 1925. He was chairman of the Association for the promotion of Public Education "People's Education" for many years.

In 1933 Oud became Minister of Finance in the second cabinet led by Colijn. As minister he was responsible for a large scale operation of budget cuts, during a time of economic crisis. In 1935 he proposed the Bezuigingswet 1935 (the Budget Cut law 1935) which involved many budget cuts and financial reorganisations: salaries of civil servants were cut, the old age pensions were financed in a different way and for budgetary reasons, soldiers were to become civil servants after a certain period. Although his proposals lead to a political crisis, they were nonetheless carried by parliament. In the same year, after Marchant left the VDB after a scandal, Oud succeeded him as political leader of the VDB. Oud led the VDB in the 1937 elections and returned to the House of Representatives as chair of the parliamentary party. He also served as chair for the Committee on government expenditure.

In Rotterdam

He left the House of Representatives in 1938 to become mayor of Rotterdam. As mayor he also served in the College of Curators of the University of Rotterdam and as chair of the Association of Dutch Municipalities. After he stepped down in 1952 he became honorary chairman of that association. In 1939 he was elected into the provincial legislative of South Holland. In August 1939 he was offered the position of Minister of Finance in the cabinet of De Geer, but declined.

Controversially, Oud stayed mayor after German invasion of 1940, although he was not a member of the national-socialist NSB. During his period as mayor, he was heavily involved in the reconstruction of the centre of Rotterdam which heavily destroyed by the German bombings. He was heavily criticized by Dutch politicians for cooperating too much with the NSB, while the NSB criticized him for being uncooperative. In the spring of 1941 he was harassed brutally by members of the NSB, twelve party-members invaded the City Hall, gagged Oud, adorned him with Freemason-like symbols and made pictures of him. In the autumn of 1941 he left his post at his own request, he also stood down as member of the provincial legislative of Rotterdam. He was succeeded by Frederik Ernst Müller. In the summer of 1942 he was briefly held in Sint Michielsgestel, where many prominent Dutch politicians were held captive. During the war Oud kept far from the resistance movement and instead committed himself to writing several books on parliamentary history. Meanwhile he kept close contact with important people from the business and the political world of Rotterdam.

In 1945, after the liberation of the Netherlands, he returned to Rotterdam as mayor, although he was also asked to become mayor of Amsterdam, and he was officially re-appointed in 1946. In the same year the VDB fused with the social democratic SDAP and the leftwing Christian CDU to from the Labour Party. Oud was one of the co-founders of this party and served on the party's board between 1946 and 1947. Meanwhile he served on many government, business, international and civil society committees, he chaired the government committee for municipal finances between 1946 and 1954, he was member of the board of trustees of the banker Staal, he was member of the pension council of the Dutch Reformed Church since 1946 and he served as chair of the International Union of Municipalities and Local Governments between 1948 and 1954.

For the VVD

On 3 October, 1947 Oud sent a letter to the board of the PvdA with which he resigned as a member. The reason he gave for the split was that the PvdA was moving too much into socialist waters, instead of being committed to progressive politics. The fact that he was refused a position on the party list for the Senate is generally seen as the political reason for Oud's split. Oud never felt at home in the new social-democratic party.

He immediately founded the Committee of Preparation of the Foundation of a Democratic People's Party, which prepared the foundation of the VVD. He negotiated the merger of the remnants of the old VDB with the newly founded Freedom Party. On January 24, 1948 he became one of the founding members of the liberal VVD, together with Stikker and Korthals and served in its first national board as vice-chair. In 1948 he was elected to the House of Representatives for the VVD, and became chair of the VVD parliamentary party, he combined this position with the position of chair of the party's organisation.

In parliament he mainly spoke on issues of administrative and constitutional law. He was a very influential member of parliament. When the law concerning the decolonisation of Indonesia, a very controversial issue, was voted on the two-thirds majority was only reached because of amendment proposed by Oud, which was taken over by the government, ensured the support of the VVD. In 1950-51 Oud came into conflict with the VVD's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stikker, over the policy concerning New Guinea. Between 1950 and 1953 he was a member of the Government Committee Van Schaik, which prepared a constitutional change. In 1952 he did not seek to be reappointed as Rotterdam's mayor, and instead became extraordinary professor of Constitutional Administrative law at the University of Rotterdam, which he remained until 1957. Between 1953 and 1963 he was chair of the Justice Committee of the House of Representatives. As such he was heavily involved in the preparation of many laws, and served as chair on the committees preparing the laws on the provinces, the police, archives, patents and many more. In 1959 he came into conflict with Van Riel, the chair of the VVD's parliamentary party in the Senate, because Van Riel wanted to become minister, but Oud denied him this.

In the last years of his period in the House of Representatives, Oud was the eldest member of the House and on many times functioned as President, when a new president was elected for instance. Before the 1963 elections Oud announced that he would not continue as MP, he was succeeded by the Minister of Home Affairs Edzo Toxopeus. In the same year he was appointed as Minister of State, an honorary title.

Life after Politics

After 1963, Oud retired from Dutch political life. He was only asked upon at times of great crisis. In 1966 he was member of the committee, which advised government on the ministerial responsibility towards members of the royal house, together with Willem Drees. In the same year, he co-authored a book on a new constitution.

When Oud died in 1968, his family wanted to announce his death after the burial. His GP did not know this, and told a patient that evening that Oud had died that afternoon. The father of this patient happened to be a journalist for the socialist paper Het Vrije Volk, which published a large In Memoriam the next morning.


  • "Om de Democratie" (1929; "For Democracy")
  • "Het jongste verleden: Parlementaire geschiedenis van Nederland, 1918-1940" (1946; The recent past: parliamentary history of the Netherlands, 1918-194-)
  • "Honderd jaren: Hoofdzaken der Nederlandsche staatkundige geschiedenis, 1840-1940" (1946; One hundred years, Important matters of the Dutch political history 1840-1940)
  • "Het constitutionele recht van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden" (1947-1953; The constitutional law of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)
  • "Proeve van een Grondwet (1966; Attempt at a constitution)


  • Oud was respected for his memory. During debates he could make remarks like: "You're saying this now, but eight years ago you said something totally different."
  • When asked whether the VVD would cooperate with the PvdA the coalition in a new government he showed his aversion to the party he had been a member of for one year like this: "Normal people don't cooperate with alcoholics in fighting alcoholism?"


  • Although Oud was registered as latitudinarian Dutch Reformed, he also was a Freemason.
  • Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud, a famous Dutch architect, was his brother.
  • Oud was a respected voice in parliament, not only because he spoke with a soft high pitched voice, but also because he was the House's conscience when it came to constitutional issues and administrative laws.
  • He was made Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion in 1925 and received the Grand Cross of the Order of Orange-Nassau in 1957.
  • Oud was a livelong member of the freethinking Protestant broadcasting organisation, VPRO.

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