About Lodewijk Ernst Visser

A letter has been preserved by a daughter of Lodewijk Ernst Visser in which she reports on the family Visser. About her father, she wrote for example that Lodewijk Ernst Visser obtained his doctoral degree in Political Sciences in December 1894 with a thesis on 'The territorial sea'. On the same day, he obtained his masters degree in law on propositions. After studying in Paris, he established himself as a barrister in Amsterdam in the office of Mr. Boas. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was in need of an international lawyer and Visser was appointed assistant administrative officer there.

On 15 September 1898, he got married to Cornelia Johanna Sara Wertheim. The couple settled at 1 Rijnstraat in The Hague.

Visser managed to become administrative officer in the department. Since further promotion was not forthcoming, which he attributed to the reigning anti-semitism, he resigned in 1903, which was very unusual in those days.
He returned to being a barrister in the office of Mr Boas in Amsterdam. He was given leave as lecturer at the Municipal University of Amsterdam to give lectures in international law. At the end of 1903, Visser was appointed judge in the District Court of Rotterdam, of which he also became vice-president in 1909. In 1939, Mr Visser was appointed President of the High Council of the Netherlands by Queen Wilhelmina. A copy of the Appointment Order dated 3 January 1939 still remains.

A letter that was preserved signed by J.C. Tenkink, general secretary of the Department of Justice, dated 21 November 1940, states the following: 'In accordance with the order of the Reich commissioner for the occupied Dutch region on the subject of non-Aryan civil servants and those placed on the same footing as civil servants, I inform you that you are discharged from your post as President of the High Council of the Netherlands starting from 23 November 1940'.

In the Jewish community, Lodewijk Ernst Visser had been active during and immediately after the First World War as chairman of the Central Committee for Jewish Transmigrants and Refugees in the Netherlands. Furthermore, he was chairman until 1924 of the Keren Hajesod - Palestine Building Fund. When the Triumvirate of the Nederlandse Unie expressed the wish at the beginning of the war that Jews should withdraw from public functions, Visser dismissed their request.

In December 1940, Visser accepted the chairmanship of the Jewish Coordination Committee. The committee had been set up as an advisory body for Jews in the Netherlands and it set out to defend the interests of Jews with the Dutch authorities rather than with the Nazi occupier. This contrasted with the Jewish Council, an institute which Visser had condemned. In 1941, the Coordinatiion Committee was disbanded by the Nazis.

Visser opposed the anti-Jewish measures taken by the Nazis. He wrote about it to the general secretaries of the Dutch Cabinet offices. He denounced the activities of the Jewish Council. Visser refused to take possession of his identity card because it was marked with a J: he considered the distinction between citizens unconstitutional. In protest, he co-operated for some time with the illegal publication 'Het Parool'.

Visser, although not religious, was chairman of the Jewish community in The Hague. When its schul had been plastered with swastikas, he demonstratively walked to the shul with his prayer book and tallit. At the request of the Nazi authorities, David Cohen, chairman of the Jewish Council, wrote to Visser asking him to suspend all his actions for fear of being deported to a concentration camp. On 14 februari 1942, three days before his death, Visser replied to Cohen: 'I have taken note, and I am very impressed by the humiliation you, who knows the background to these events, have been submitted to by this task.'

The original of the painted portrait of mr. L.E. Visser (see photo on this page) is hanging in the room of the president of the High Council/
Addition of a visitor of the website

Visser's wife, Cornelia Johanna Sara Wertheim, died on 20 March 1944 in Westerbork.
Jewish Historical Museum, Documents collection, inv. nr 2945, 2946 and 3134;
B. Braber, Zelfs als wij zullen verliezen. Joden in verzet en illegaliteit in Nederland 1940-1945 (Amsterdam, 1990) 47;
M.H. Gans, Memorboek. Platenatlas van het leven der joden in Nederland van de middeleeuwen tot 1940(6e bijgewerkte druk; Baarn 1988) 806-807