DREES, Willem

(1886–1988)
   Politician. In 1904, Drees became an active member of the Sociaal Democratische Arbeiderspartij (SDAP, Social Democratic Labor Party). He not only served long terms as a representative in town and provincial councils (e.g., at The Hague) but also acquired practical experience as an alderman. After a career in localand provincial councils, he became a member of Parliament in 1933. Following World War II, Drees assumed the leadership of a movement that aimed at political renewal, and a new Labor Party (Partij van de Arbeid [PvdA]) was created. He became a member of the cabinet in 1945, and as minister of social welfare, he achieved fame for his legislation on pensions for elderly people. As prime min ister, Drees was at the head of broad coalition cabinets supported by the Socialists and the Katholieke Volkspartij (KVP, Catholic Peo ple’s Party) until 1958, during the difficult postwar years of recon struction and decolonization (Indonesia). In 1971, he resigned from the PvdAbecause of its radical left-wing orientation. Drees, who was one of the most popular and respected politicians of the 20th century, published his memoirs in several volumes (Van mei tot mei, 1958; Zestig jaar levenservaring, 1962; and Drees,neer slag van een werkzaam leven, ed. by Paul van ’t Veer, 1972). His son Willem Drees Jr. (1922–1998) was the leader of the moderate left wing political party Democratisch Socialisten 1970 (DS’70, Demo cratic Socialists 1970), which had minor importance as one of the coalition parties in the Barend Biesheuvel cabinet (1971–1973). Within this government, the younger Drees was minister of transport and communications.

Historical Dictionary of the Netherlands. . 2012.

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