Willem Oltmans


Willem Leonard Oltmans (10 June 1925 – 30 September 2004) was a Dutch investigative journalist and author active in international politics.

Willem Oltmans
Portret Willem Oltmans.jpg
Oltmans in the 1950s
Willem Leonard Oltmans

(1925-06-10)10 June 1925
Huizen, Netherlands
Died30 September 2004(2004-09-30) (aged 79)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
EducationNyenrode Business University
Yale University
OccupationInvestigative Journalist · Author · Interviewer
Years active1950–2004

Due to the highly critical stance he often took towards Dutch foreign policy, as of 1956 the Dutch government conspired to keep him out of work. A lengthy lawsuit (1991–2000) involving the Royal family led to the state having to pay him damages.[1]

Early lifeEdit

Oltmans was born into a wealthy family with roots in the Dutch East Indies. During the Second World War he was a member of the Dutch Resistance. "We blew up a German train," Oltmans told the Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad in 2003.[2] "Hitler called me a terrorist, but I saw myself as a freedom fighter."

He studied at Nyenrode Business University (1946) and Yale University (1948), without graduating. Originally intent on a career with the diplomatic corps of the foreign service, he ended up working in press offices in the Netherlands (1953–1955). He was a close confidant of both Beatrix and Gertrude Büringh Boekhoudt (March 24, 1893 – September 3, 1982) who had been Crown Princess Beatrix's tutor since April 1951.[3] He married in 1955 and worked as a freelance reporter in Rome in 1956 for De Telegraaf when he interviewed and befriended Indonesian president Sukarno during Sukarno's trip to Italy in 1956.[4] This started his career as a controversial journalist which the Dutch Security Service would closely watch for many decades.[1][5]

On June 10, 1958, he moved to United States.[6]

Convinced that a well connected and informed individual could play a decisive role in the international political arena, he assumed a pro-active part in global political developments, becoming both a news reporter and news maker.[citation needed]

Dutch state conspiracyEdit

Willem Oltmans in 1973

Against the will of the Dutch government, Oltmans interviewed Indonesian president Sukarno in 1956.[7] Once he became a confidant of Sukarno and part of his inner circle he took it upon himself to convince the broader public in the Netherlands of the legitimacy of Sukarno's viewpoints. In 1957 he pleaded for the transfer of Dutch New Guinea to Indonesia while in Indonesia. He claimed to have prevented a Dutch war against Indonesia over New Guinea by sending a memo to US president Kennedy. Subsequently Joseph Luns, Minister of Foreign Affairs, covertly tried everything to sabotage Oltmans' career, with considerable success: for a long time, Oltmans was forced to live off welfare. Luns, who now had become Oltmans' nemesis, called him a 'one engine mosquito'. In 1995 Oltmans published his book My friend Sukarno.[8]

He fought a long lawsuit (1991–2000) against the Dutch state, which he eventually won. In 2000 a commission awarded him eight million guilders (four million dollars) in damages, after taxes. Having paid two million guilders in lawyer's fees, Oltmans bought a penthouse on a canal in Amsterdam and a Steinway piano.

Kennedy conspiracyEdit

Willem Oltmans during his last public performance at the Universiteit Maastricht (22 April 2004)

Oltmans was based in the USA in the 1960s, where he worked as a reporter for Dutch TV broadcaster NOS and lobbied members of the President Kennedy's administration regarding New Guinea.[1] On April 5, 1961, he attended a meeting with the United States National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy at which he supported the transfer of New Guinea from the Netherlands to Indonesia which occurred on August 15, 1962, with support from the United States.[9] Joseph Luns, who was a prominent Dutch diplomat, vehemently opposed this transfer and subsequently had Oltmans declared persona non grata for life.[10]

After Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963, Oltmans interviewed the mother of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, Marguerite Oswald whom he met in March 1964 at JFK Airport and was seated next to her on a flight.[11] Further investigation led him to Oswald's acquaintance George de Mohrenschildt.[11] On 15 October 1967, Oltmans interviewed the de Mohrenschildts for NOS which resulted in a 40 minute film that was the only full-length filmed interview of George de Mohrenschildt.[12][13] However, the film, which was kept at Hilversum, disappeared in 1975.[12][13]

In 1977 De Mohrenschildt agreed to disclose information to Oltmans, but disappeared from their meeting place and was found dead in Florida a few weeks later.[14] On March 3, 1977, De Mohrenschildt and Otlmans flew to the Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands where De Mohrenschildt had left his luggage, money and keys at Oltmans home and then, a few days later, flew together to Brussels where they had a 12:30 lunch date with a Soviet diplomat with whom De Mohrenschildt conversed with in Russian and abruptly left the table but Oltmans never saw De Mohrenschildt again.[15]

On 29 March 1977, De Mohrenschildt was found dead at his daughters home in Florida due to an apparent self-inflicted shotgun wound via the mouth.[16] Oltmans stated that a taped recording of the event existed in which footsteps can be heard, followed by the sound of a shotgun discharging, and then footsteps heard again.[15] L. Richardson Preyer of the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigating the assassination of Kennedy stated that De Mohrenschildt was "a crucial witness, based on the new information that he had".[16] A few days later, Oltmans told the HSCA that de Mohrenschildt had implicated himself in the conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. And Pat S. Russell, who was De Mohrenschildt's attorney said "I definitely feel there was a conspiracy and that definitely was the opinion of George."[17] Oltmans testified for three hours behind closed doors and told the committee that De Mohrenschildt told him he had discussed the assassination of Kennedy with Lee Harvey Oswald from A to Z. "De Mohrenschildt told me that Oswald acted at his (De Mohrenschildt's) instructions and that he knew Oswald was going to kill Kennedy," Oltmans said.[18] Although Oltmans had given information to the Committee shortly before, De Mohrenschildt's death had released Oltmans from his promise not to divulge certain information. Oltmans revealed that De Mohrenschildt, whom he had known for ten years, had told him that there had been a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy and that he had played a role in the conspiracy. De Mohrenschildt said that CIA and FBI personnel were involved as well.[19]

Oltmans played the role of De Mohrenschildt in Oliver Stone's 1991 film about the assassination, JFK.[20]

In the Soviet UnionEdit

In the 1980s Oltmans endeavoured to create a more balanced opinion in the West about the Soviet Union. Looking for a more poised perspective on the one sided bad image of the evil empire's communist power, he often traveled to Russia. Together with the Kremlin's foreign expert Georgi Arbatov, he wrote the book 'The Soviet position', elaborating on Moscow's perspective on the East-West issues in 1981. The book received much attention and was published in several languages.[1]

In SurinameEdit

Also in the '80s, Oltmans actively interfered with the postcolonial Dutch-Suriname relationship. He recognised a bilateral relationship based in negative sentiments similar to the Dutch-Indonesian relationship. Intent on playing a mediating role Oltmans traveled to Suriname to interview military dictator Bouterse. He published a book that was banned in Suriname and misunderstood in the Netherlands.[1]

In South AfricaEdit

Due to the ban imposed on him by Minister Luns, Oltmans was forced to help support himself through his family's inheritance; the death of his parents (1966 and 1974) and some bad investments caused him financial difficulty. In the late eighties he intended to use his large global network as a consultant to introduce entrepreneurs to Eastern European business opportunities. Through a string of quarrels with his stakeholders this initiative failed completely and Oltmans left for South Africa.[1]

Both his brothers had settled in South Africa in 1948. He had visited the country regularly and in 1990 decided to settle there permanently. In South Africa he continued his tendency of actively intervening in local politics. His investigative reporting was not appreciated by the shaky South African regime of the time and in August 1992 he was deported to Jordan on charges of espionage.[21] Oltmans always insisted the Dutch Security Service was involved in his deportation.[1]

Publications (selected)Edit

  • Persona Non Grata (Papieren Tijger, Breda, 1994) ISBN 978-90-6728-081-5
  • Mijn vriend Sukarno (Spectrum, Utrecht, 1995) ISBN 90-274-4762-4
  • De staat van bedrog (Papieren Tijger, Breda, 1998) ISBN 978-90-6728-095-2
  • Cry for war (Papieren Tijger, Breda, 2003) ISBN 978-90-6728-151-5
  • Laatste wapenfeiten (Papieren Tijger, Breda, 2009) ISBN 978-90-6728-239-0
  • Reporting on the Kennedy Assassination (University Press of Kansas, 2017) ISBN 978-07-0062-378-5


Year Title Role Notes
1991 JFK George DeMohrenschildt

See alsoEdit


Notes & citationsEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Biography at the 'Netherlands Institute of History' (ING)". Inghist.nl. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  2. ^ de Wreede, Jaap (24 May 2003). "Publicist Willem Oltmans kan het dwarsliggen niet laten". Reformatorisch Dagblad. Digibron.nl. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  3. ^ Oltmans 1996, pp. 4–7, 9, 12–13, 18.
  4. ^ Oltmans 1996, p. 8, 20.
  5. ^ Oltmans 1996, p. 8, 19-20.
  6. ^ Oltmans 1996, p. 8.
  7. ^ Ze zijn gék geworden in Den Haag. Willem Oltmans en de kwestie Nieuw-Guinea by Wouter Meijer (2009), pp. 33-38, from dbnl.org website. Translation at They have become gék in The Hague. Willem Oltmans and the issue of New Guinea
  8. ^ "Reporter Who Testified Spent a Decade Studying Kennedy's Assassination". The New York Times. 4 April 1977. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  9. ^ Oltmans 1996, p. 8, 20, 23.
  10. ^ Oltmans 1996, p. 8, 18.
  11. ^ a b Een reportage over de Kennedy-moordenaars’ by Willem Oltmans (1977) from dbnl.org website. Translation at A report on the Kennedy assassins
  12. ^ a b Oltmans, Willem (April 1978). "Willem Oltmans. An Gallery Investigative Report: The Missing General. Somewhere in the world, if he has not yet been killed, there is an American General who could testify that J EDGAR HOOVER, ALLEN DULLES and RICHARD NIXON conspired in the assassination of PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY" (PDF). Gallery. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  13. ^ a b "Gallery". April 1978. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  14. ^ "Oltmans, Willem "Reportage over de Kennedy-moordenaars." (1977)". Boekenroute.nl. 30 April 1990. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  15. ^ a b Willem Oltmans’ zoektocht naar de ware moordenaars van JFK: ‘De man achter Lee Harvey Oswald’ by Stef Ketelaar (24 November 2020) from Historiek website. Translation at Willem Oltmans' search for JFK's true killers: "The Man Behind Lee Harvey Oswald"
  16. ^ a b "A Mystery Suicide: A Key Oswald Witness; Friend Reported to Have Known of Death Plot" (PDF). San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco. UPI. 30 March 1977. p. 1. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  17. ^ "Lawyer Says Texan Told Him Oswald Had Aid in '63 Plot", The New York Times, April 3, 1977
  18. ^ "Journalist tells of JFK Plots", The Ledger (Lakeland, Florida), April 4, 1977"
  19. ^ Lane, Mark (November 1977). "The Mysterious Death of a Key JFK Witness". Gallery Magazine. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  20. ^ "Article about Oltmans cameo in the movie on the JFK website". Jfk-online.com. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  21. ^ Oltmans 1996, pp. 18–21.


  • Oltmans, Willem "Mijn vriend Sukarno" (Spectrum, Utrecht, 1995) ISBN 90-274-4762-4
  • Oltmans, Willem "Liegen Tegen Beatrix" (Papieren Tijger, Breda, Netherlands, September 25, 1996) ISBN 978-9067280846
  • Oden, Edwin "De man van acht miljoen" (Balans, Amsterdam, 2010) ISBN 978-94-6003-283-7 [1]

External linksEdit

  • Official website Willem Oltmans Foundation
  • Various works - Digital Library of Dutch Literature
  • Willem Oltmans, The Eight Million Dollar Man – Documentary
  • Jaap de Wreede, 'Publicist Willem Oltmans kan het dwarsliggen niet laten', In: Reformatorisch Dagblad, 24 May 2003
  • Biography – Dutch Institute of Netherlands history
  • National Library of the Netherlands Official website
  • Online dossier – National library of Netherlands.
  • Online selection of essays.
  • Online selection of TV interviews.
  • Online portrait by newspaper 'de Volkskrant'.
  • IMDb profile