Willem Oltmans

An overview of the Willem Oltmans collection

  • Contents: diaries, photo albums, folders with press cuttings and other archive material belonging to the journalist Willem Oltmans.
  • Size: 100 metres, with 1,500 folders of diaries (1934-2004), 70 folios of press cuttings, 20 photo albums and 8 metres of archival materials.
  • Access: can be found via the KB catalogue. Available for inspection in the Special Collections reading room with the curator's permission; cannot be lent out. Publication of the material is allowed only with the permission of Willem Oltmans Stichting. The memoirs of Willem Oltmans were published by De Papieren Tijger publishers and can be accessed via DBNL.
  • More informationJeroen Vandommele.

About Willem Oltmans

Willem Oltmans (1925-2004) was one of the Netherlands' most notorious 20th-century journalists. He was born in Huizen and grew up in Bosch and Duin, in De Horst country house. He started a diplomacy course in Nijenrode in 1946, and studied Political Science and International Relations, among other subjects, at Yale. In 1953, he started working as a journalist in the foreign editorial department of the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Handelsblad, but moved on to De Telegraaf and United Press a year later. He worked all over the world, including in Rome, Indonesia, South Africa and the United States.

Controversial figure

Oltmans was not afraid of controversy. Interviews with President Dewi Sukarno (1956) and the Surinamese army leader Desi Bouterse (1984), as well as his interference in the independence of New Guinea (1957), made him a controversial figure. As a result, he was actively opposed by the Dutch state. Towards the end of his life, he was living on benefits in Amsterdam. He accused the Dutch state of robbing him of his livelihood, and following a protracted lawsuit, the court decided in his favour in 2000. He received a compensation of eight million guilders for lost income.

History of the Willem Oltmans collection

Willem Oltmans started keeping diaries at a young age. In these diaries, he kept accurate records of his activities, both professional and personal. The collection also includes the press cuttings, photos and letters to which Oltmans refers in his diaries. His own letters are also part of the collection. Willem Oltmans himself gifted the collection to the KB in 1992, although his final diaries only came into the KB's possession after his death in 2004.

  • Picture of a diary by Willem Oltmans.

Accessibility of the Willem Oltmans collection

The collection can be only be consulted with the permission of the curator, in the KB's Special Collections reading room. Oltmans' memoirs are available online at DBNL. They are based on his diaries, and include fragments from his writings.

Literature about the Willem Oltmans collection (in Dutch)


  • Meijer, W. Ze zijn gék geworden in Den Haag. Willem Oltmans en de kwestie Nieuw-Guinea. Elzevier, 2009.
  • Oden, E. De man van 8 miljoen. Vriend & vijand over het fantastische leven van Willem Oltmans (1925-2004). Uitgeverij Balans, 2010.
  • Oltmans, W. Memoires. De Papieren Tijger, 1925-nu.