Dries Riphagen was wanted in connection with the deportation of Jewish people in hiding and the deaths of at least 200 people. Prosecutor Paul Brilman considered Riphagen as one of the worst cases of Dutch collaboration with the German occupier.
Bernardus Andreas Riphagen (nickname: Dries) was born on 7th September 1909 as the eighth child in an unhappy family. His father worked in the navy and had married for the second time. Riphagen’s mother died when he was six years old and his father had difficulty supporting him since he was often drunk. At the age of 14, he entered Pollux, a training centre for merchants in the harbour of Amsterdam. In 1923 and 1924, after his training, he became a sailor. He spent two years in North America, working mainly with Standard Oil. In this period it is likely that he developed his American habits that lead to him receiving the nickname ‘Al Capone’.
When he returned to the Netherlands at the age of 18, he came into contact with the underworld of Amsterdam and therefore also with the police. He did not become a member of the NSB but rather the NSNAP, an extreme anti-Semitic group who wished to ‘promote’ the Netherlands to a province of the German Reich. In this period he became a procurer on the Rembrandtplein in Amsterdam and developed a penchant for jewellery. He joined a criminal circuit that profited from the black market. As well as restoring jewellery, he was involved in trading second hand cars and became involved in the gambling world of Amsterdam.
During the war, Riphagen continued with his trade and expanded his business by working with the Germans as an intermediary agent of the intelligence agency of the SS (the Sicherheitsdienst or SD) in The Hague. As more anti-Jewish policies were introduced, the collaboration between Riphagen and the Germans became more and more lucrative. When Jewish people were arrested, their goods and effects, jewellery and cash were taken before the arrestees and remaining household items were handed over to the Germans. Riphagen ran clandestine roulette houses and traded in currency, gold and diamonds on the black market with his old friends from the Rembrandtplein such as Joop Out, ‘Manke’ (Criple) Toon Kuijper, Harry Rond and Gerrit Verbeek. Having climbed the ladder from undercover agent to bona fide employee, Riphagen decided to join the Devisenschutzkommando (DSK), part of the Central Office for Jewish Emigration. The most important function of the DSK was to counteract the increasing instances of black market trading in shares. Another function was to gather the Jewish possessions that had escaped the German currency regulations. Members of the DSK received 5 to 10% of the possessions gathered in return for their work. In reality however, most of the goods discovered ended up in the hands of individual members.
Riphagen, together with Joop Out, worked as an undercover agent at the Jüdenreferat IV B 4, in the Sicherheitsdienst in The Hague. They combined their knowledge of the underworld of Amsterdam with their contacts with other undercover agents to increase their incomes. Their workplace remained Amsterdam. It is in this period that Riphagen made contact with the Olij family. Jan, Kees and Sam Olij were infamous for exposing Jews in hiding. From 1943 onwards Riphagen was part of the ‘Column Henneicke’. This was a group of bounty hunters who, with the help of anonymous tips, hunted down Jewish people in hiding at the height of Jewish deportation. This group was formed in mid-1942 by Willem Christiaan Henneicke and existed mostly of members of Amsterdam’s underworld, including members of the NSB who worked for the Central Office in the department Hausraterfassung.
For every Jewish person that was collected, they received a bounty of between 7.50 to 40 guilders. Riphagen’s expertise still lay with the trading of currency and jewellery which had brought him a small fortune by the end of 1943. Frequently he would take the jewellery to be stored in safes in Belgium or Switzerland. The Column Henneicke exploited the knowledge of captured Jews who, threatened with the potential deportation of family members, would reveal the location of other Jewish people in hiding or be forced to infiltrate resistance groups. The Jewish conspirators, Betje Wery and Ans van Dijk (possibly the same person under two different names), worked for Riphagen as undercover agents. The Column Henneicke came to an end due to corruption among the ranks but nevertheless, they had succeeded in arresting 3400 Jewish people between April and September of 1943. The Jews who were arrested were taken to the Hollandsche Schouwburg (a former Theatre in Amsterdam) from where they would later be transported to transit camp Westerbork and finally to extermination camps in Poland. During the final year of the war Riphagen was a member of the Hoffmann group of the SD in Assen. This group specialised in hunting down allied pilots in hiding and allied air dropped weapons.
After the war, Riphagen came into contact with Wim Sanders, a former member of the resistance. Sanders was an ex-police chief in Enschede with a questionable history, particularly in connection with the transportation of Jewish people to the extermination camps. He set up a private service for pursuing those who had collaborated with the Germans. His intelligence service used peculiar methods. They did not, for example, arrest Riphagen since he was the one who had approached them to make a deal. Via old friends from Amsterdam, Harry Rond and Joop Out, he met Jan Schouw. Joop Out was not presented to the authorities but was under house arrest for as long as he worked for Sanders’ intelligence service. In exchange for information, Riphagen was safe from being handed over to the authorities but was also put under house arrest. He worked with detective and former member of the resistance, Frits Kerkhoven in the Zuider Amstellaan in Amsterdam. Riphagen had to collect information about other collaborators and to help unravel the German intelligence network in The Netherlands. At this time he was a private-arrestee of Sanders and was protected from being discovered by other intelligence services.
It is unsurprising that Riphagen ‘escaped’ from Kerkhoven’s house in February 1946. It was speculated that he escaped with help from Frits Kerkhoven’s chauffeur business that, among other things, was specialised in funeral services. According to this speculation, Riphagen was smuggled over the Dutch border in a coffin, inside a hearse. There, he was met by other members of Amsterdam’s underworld who steered him through Belgium and France. When they reached the Spanish border they took a group photo. Next to Riphagen stood ‘Manke’ Toon Kuijper, Piet Herculeins and Willem Okkelenburg. Joop Out had been arrested and sent to prison. No one knows what happened to the group in the photo but Riphagen was eventually seen with bunker builder, Van Vuuren. In May 1946 Riphagen was arrested in Huesca because he did not have a residence permit. He was put in the provincial prison in Huesca where he was released on bail on the condition that he would obtain the necessary documents. Riphagen eventually managed to get a Nansen-passport, an identity card for stateless refugees. By the time that the department of justice was informed of his whereabouts in Madrid, he had flown to Argentina with Jan van ’t Hof on 21st March 1948.
In Argentina, Dutch ambassador F.C.A. Baron van Pallandt tried to have Riphagen extradited. Extradition was not possible since he could only be charged for old offences such as car theft and robbery. There was too little evidence which meant that Riphagen could no longer be sought after. The extreme right newspaper, La Razón, stated on 21st May 1951 that ‘the Supreme Court had decided that the offences of theft and fraud were statute-barred’. This public pardoning was down to Riphagen’s connections with the leading member of the Argentinean Supreme Court, Rodolfo Valenzuela, the private secretary of president Juan Perón. He also had contact with Perón himself and his wife that he maintained until his death. Riphagen had settled in Buenos Aires, in the neighbourhood of Belgrano and ran a press photo agency. He worked for the secret service under Perón and organised boxing matches in Luna Park for his old friend Jan Olij. After the Revoluciòn Libertadora in 1955, Riphagen roamed around Europe, chiefly in Spain, Switzerland and Germany. He surrounded himself with wealthy ladies who could support him financially. Finally, he died from cancer in 1973 in Montreux.
In Riphagen’s Nansen-passport that was taken in by the Dutch ambassador in Argentina, it stated that his address in Spain was: Calles Padilla 4, 2da puerta á la derecha, where he lived rent-free courtesy of a woman called Alicia Lopéz Garcia. The information about Riphagen’s stay in Madrid came from the Intelligence Office of C.L.W. Fock in London. Dutch envoy in Madrid, S.G.N. van Voorst tot Voorst, was informed by the Tribunal Supremo that all efforts to arrest Riphagen had failed.