Jacobus Oldenbroek

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Person.png Jacobus Oldenbroek  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(union official)
Jacobus Oldenbroek.jpg
Born10 November 1897
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Died7 March 1970 (Age 72)
London, UK
Interests • Arthur Goldberg
• Office of Strategic Services

Jacobus Hendrik Oldenbroek was a Dutch trade union leader and politician. He attended the Bilderberg as General Secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.

Early Life

Born in Amsterdam, Oldenbroek became a clerk and joined the Dutch Confederation of Trade Unions. Through this, he met Edo Fimmen, and the two began working closely together. Along with Fimmen, he began working for the International Federation of Trade Unions in 1919, and then the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) in 1921.[1][2]

Oldenbroek also joined the Social Democratic Workers' Party (SDAP), and was elected as a local councillor. However, in 1932 he was part of the left-wing split which formed the Independent Socialist Party (OSP), serving as its first treasurer. He continued working for the ITF, although the federation insisted that he put forward more centrist views in this role, and eventually required him to resign from the OSP, returning to the SDAP.[1][2]

In 1937, Oldenbroek became assistant general secretary of the ITF. In this role, he devoted significant time to Germany, where trade unions had been made illegal. He established an underground network of sailors based in the country, and planned to remain in Amsterdam to further this activity even once it became clear that World War II was imminent.

World War II

He decided to stay in Amsterdam to lead the anti-Nazi work when Fimmen and other ITF leaders left for London on August 29, 1939 (The Netherlands was invaded in May 1940). Three weeks later, however, he was called to the new ITF headquarters to take over the day-to-day management of Fimmen, who was struggling with poor health and was therefore less and less able to exercise his powers. This made Oldenbroek the de facto leader of the ITF. In 1940, he gained great respect from the British government for his decision to call on the officers and naval crews of the states threatened by the Nazis to send their ships to Allied ports.[1][2]

Fimmen died in 1942, and Oldenbroek succeeded him as acting general secretary of the ITF. A few months after Fimmens' death, Oldenbroek was appointed acting general secretary of the ITF in 1943. One of his first achievements as a leader was the founding of the Belgian, Danish, Dutch, French and Polish Central Transport Workers Organization (BDNFP). [1][2]

In May 1941, the ITF opened an office in New York and decided to intervene in the unrest on the ships in American ports as a result of the Second World War. Oldenbroek was sent to make contact with the local trade unions and in this way came into contact with an agent of the OSS Labor Branch, a special division of the American secret service Office of Strategic Services (OSS) led by Arthur Goldberg.

For the sake of mutual interests, both decided to cooperate and exchange information. Oldenbroek, who could still rely on the virtually intact union resistance, obtained travel and communication facilities for the ITF, and Goldberg had access to the secret information smuggled out of the German Reich by the union resistance. To safeguard the independence of the ITF, Oldenbroek opened an ITF bank account to cover the expenses of the two union representatives who travelled with the allied armies in Italy. For example, the International Transport Workers' Federation succeeded in early re-establishing the transport workers' unions in Italy.

In March 1942 he joined the Extraordinary Advisory Council (BRA), which had been set up by the Dutch government in exile. In the BRA he was mainly involved in the Social Affairs Committee and the Traffic and Transport Committee. For example, he was involved in a report that was preparing social security and he played a leading role in the extraordinary council for decision-making on the post-war administrative provision in the Netherlands. He also became an active member of the board of directors of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and attended the 1941 (New York) and 1944 (Philadelphia) sessions established by this institution as a workers' delegate. He ardently advocated the fundamental right to trade unions.

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions

At the first post-war International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) congress (May 1946), Oldenbroek was elected general secretary. In 1948 Oldenbroek strongly opposed the World Trade Union Confederation (WVV) because of his mistrust of the communist-dominated secretariat. This made him the ideal embodiment of the desired anti-communism in view of the new international relations after WWII. He succeeded in his intention and the WVV was split. In 1949 the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFT) was founded. With American support, he was nominated and elected general secretary of the fledgling organization and relinquished leadership of the ITF.

Oldenbroek became the ICFTU's first general secretary, but encountered increasing opposition from the more right-wing (and more openly CIA-affiliated) George Meany of the American AFL-CIO. This came to a head in 1960, when Meany argued for the ICFTU to adopt a top-down approach to trade unionism in Africa, while Oldenbroek wished local activists to take the lead. Meany threatened to withdraw the AFL-CIO from the ICFTU unless Oldenbroek resigned. Faced with the potential loss of a major affiliate, Oldenbroek stood down, but continued to work for the federation. In 1970, while on federation business in the Philippines, he contracted an infection and died.[1][2]


Events Participated in

Bilderberg/1955 September23 September 195525 September 1955Germany
The third Bilderberg, in West Germany. The subject of a report by Der Spiegel which inspired a heavy blackout of subsequent meetings.
Bilderberg/195611 May 195613 May 1956Denmark
The 4th Bilderberg meeting, with 147 guests, in contrast to the generally smaller meetings of the 1950s. Has two Bilderberg meetings in the years before and after
Many thanks to our Patrons who cover ~2/3 of our hosting bill. Please join them if you can.


  1. a b c d e https://socialhistory.org/bwsa/biografie/oldenbroek
  2. a b c d e Docherty, James C.; van der Velden, Sjaak (2012). Historical Dictionary of Organized Labor (3 ed.). Lanham: Scarecrow Press. pp. 201–202.