PhotoLexicon, Volume 1, nr. 1 (September 1984) (en)

Menno Huizinga

Evelyn de Regt


In the 1930s, Menno Huizinga was one of the better Dutch professional photographers. For a number of years, he ran is own studio for corporate photography in The Hague. Following the closing of this business, he worked for various large companies. In the years 1940-1945, he photographed everyday life under the German occupation. It is chiefly through the photos he took during the war that his work has achieved greater recognition.




Menno Huizinga is born in the village of Nes on the Dutch island of Ameland on 28 October, into a family of Dutch Mennonite preachers.


Menno attends the boarding school Klein Warnsborn in Arnhem, a school for children with learning disabilities. His practical and technical skills are notable: he wins awards in constructing with Meccano building sets in the United Kingdom.


About this time, Huizinga receives his first vocational training in professional photography under Ir. J. Van Dijk in Amsterdam.


It is likely in this year that Huizinga moves to The Hague to further sharpen his skills in professional photography under the direction of E. Van Ojen.


Huizinga takes a study trip to the United States. He works for a small photography studio in Baltimore, The Hughes Company. He also works for Lucus Kanarian, a large company in New York.


Having returned to the Netherlands, Huizinga starts up his own studio for corporate photography in The Hague at Irisstraat 20. Max Norden, as well a photographer, is Huizinga’s business advisor.


The studio shuts down. Huizinga is hired as a photographer for the Provinciale Gelderse Electriciteitsmaatschappij (‘Provincial Electric Company of Gelderland’). He dislikes the working atmosphere, however, and seeks employment elsewhere.


Huizinga works as a corporate photographer for Philips in Eindhoven.


Huizinga works as a corporate photographer for the airplane manufacturer Koolhoven in Rotterdam until 14 May 1940. On 26 June, he marries Saakje Jelgersma in The Hague.


In about June, Huizinga is hired as photographer for the Nederlandsche Vereeniging voor Luchtbescherming (‘Dutch Association for Air Defence’). He takes several photos showing the repercussions of the German occupation in The Hague.


Huizinga works as a film operator for the Dutch Red Cross.


From October on, Huizinga does photographic work for the resistance group ‘Packard’. Through Van Ojen, Huizinga is commissioned by the city of The Hague to photograph the most important buildings in the city’s historical centre in light of their possible destruction during the war. Huizinga becomes more actively involved in clandestine activities.


In March, Huizinga is commissioned by the Plaatselijk Interkerkelijk Bureau ‘s-Gravenhage en Omstreken (‘Local Interfaith Office of The Hague and Environs’) to photograph the starvation affecting the general populace. Following the liberation, he moves to Amsterdam and is hired by the Lichtbeeldeninstituut (‘Photography Institute’).


On 14 September, Huizinga dies unexpectedly of complications related to poisoning.


Huizinga initially learned the art of photography from Ir. J. Van Dijk in Amsterdam. Van Dijk was said to be a tough teacher, but an excellent professional photographer. Van Ojen, his next teacher, was a renowned professional photographer in The Hague, particularly specialized in architectural photography. It was in these two studios that Huizinga learned to fully master the technical aspects of photography. Huizinga’s own studio for corporate photography in The Hague was typical for a time when photographers were beginning to specialize. The folders he distributed with the text ‘A good photo presents your business in the right light’ demonstrate his awareness of photography’s growing commercial potential. Huizinga provided his clients—typically small local businesses—with photos of good quality that were perfectly lit and harmonious in composition. His skill was particularly evident in photographs of glass and shining metals. Although he is known to have occasionally experimented with his images, he generally preferred compositions that were balanced and serene.

Unfortunately, Huizinga lacked the necessary acumen to ensure the success of his business. To avoid bankruptcy, he was forced to close his studio around 1938. After this brief solo adventure, Huizinga went to work for several large companies, producing the same high quality achieved on his own. This came to an abrupt halt in May 1940, however, when the factory of his employer at the time, Koolhoven of Rotterdam, was bombarded by the Germans. With the exception of a single Leica camera, which he had by chance taken home with him, Huizinga lost all of his photographic equipment.

Huizinga’s next permanent position was with the Nederlandsche Vereeniging voor Luchtbescherming (‘Dutch Association for Air Defence’), which allowed him to conduct his work in the same manner as his corporate photography. For the magazine Luchtgevaar (‘Air Danger’), a monthly magazine published by the association, Huizinga produced photos taken primarily for instructional purposes: e.g. to show how homes could be blacked out at night or how to apply tourniquets. For these he sometimes used tabletop photography: he assembled various scenes with miniature figures and photographed with a macro lens, creating events that appeared life-size. Huizinga proved to be highly innovative in this area: a small book published on this topic in 1947 was dedicated in his name. A second aspect of his work for the air defence association was more morbid in character: whenever a bomb landed on Dutch soil, Huizinga was sent to document the damage and its repercussions. With this task in hand, he visited many sites in the Netherlands, including the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Gouda, Haarlem, Delft, Nijmegen and Delden. These shots feature mainly the ruins of houses. One exception is a reportage series on Haarlem, where he took numerous photos of the city’s inhabitants.

In 1942, there were major events that took place in The Hague, the city where Huizinga lived. In order to build a line of coastal defence (the ‘Atlantic Wall’), various neighbourhoods were torn down. Huizinga’s own home at the time, as well as his childhood home, were both torn down. From this point on, he began photographing life under the German Occupation. In 1940-41, he had already photographed nine single street scenes. By the end of 1942, however, he had started working more systematically. In a desire to photograph the demolition of these houses on a clandestine basis, Huizinga developed a special technique. He hid his Leica camera inside a cheese container, with a diagonal strip on its cover bearing the word ‘KOMEET’ (‘Comet’). Huizinga had cut a hole in the ‘O’ with a saw and placed his camera lens behind it. At the same time, he added a mechanism that allowed him to release the shutter without being noticed.

Huizinga took many photos from his bike: one can frequently see part of the bike’s handlebars in the lower portion of the image. As the German occupation progressed, he gradually went from being a meticulous photo professional to a fast-operating photographer making illegal reportages. For live events, such as ‘Dolle Dinsdag’ (‘Mad Tuesday’) or various evacuations of the city, Huizinga was at the right place at the right time. When the electricity for private citizens was shut off during the hunger winter, Huizinga built an enlarger that was powered by sunlight, so that he could continue his picture-taking activity. Even during the war, Huizinga’s technique remained professional. Despite the difficulties and the dangerous circumstances under which he worked, he was able to produce work of sound technical quality.

In the winter of 1944-45, Huizinga produced an impressive reportage on The Hague’s inhabitants, who had begun tearing down their own city due to a lack of fuel. By the end of the war, he had taken approximately 750 images of everyday life in The Hague, right up to city’s liberation. After the war, he selected the best material, approximately 420 photos, and organised them into the following seventeen themes: the demolition of the city, the chopping down of the Haagse Bos (‘The Hague Forest’), the evacuations of Wassenaar and the Marlot neighbourhood, buildings used by the Germans, means of transport, ‘Mad Tuesday’, the fuel shortage, food, the Scheveningse Bosjes (woods at Scheveningen), V-2 strikes, garbage disposal, street signage, the entry of the Canadians and the Princess Irene Brigade, the Germans’ departure, the aftermath of the liberation, the queen’s entry, and finally, the food shortage. This last series is the only one that Huizinga made on assignment. The series was ordered by the Plaatselijk Interkerkelijk Bureau ‘s Gravenhage en Omstreken (‘Local Interfaith Office of The Hague and Environs’), which hoped to convince the government in London of the seriousness of the food shortage in the western part of the Netherlands. The text that accompanied the reportage was provided by B. Hunningher (a teacher of the Dutch language at the time, who later became a professor at the University of Amsterdam). The reportage had a medical character, but showed the dire living circumstances experienced by families and individuals suffering from cold and hunger. The reportage arrived in England prior to the liberation and appeared in Vrij Nederland, which was then being published in London.

It is only in recent years that Huizinga’s wartime photos have received broader attention. Prior to this time, he was viewed solely as a corporate photographer. In 1980, Huizinga’s widow donated his entire photo archive to the Print Room of Leiden University. Only at this time did it become apparent that the archive also included all of his work from during the war. It also marks the occasion of Huizinga’s ‘rediscovery’, as it were.

During the years of the German occupation, photos were also taken in other Dutch cities. De Ondergedoken Camera (‘The Illegal Camera’), a semi-organised group of photographers in Amsterdam, has become known both nationally and internationally. Menno Huizinga, by contrast, was never a participant in any association or movement. It is for this reason that his achievement is special. He took photographs for his own purposes: the photos of The Hague were the product of a ‘solo adventure’. Thanks to his personal drive and motivation, a picture of everyday life during the German occupation has been preserved for posterity—one that will continue on as a ‘document humain’. This is largely due to the sincere nature of Huzinga’s photos, with images that were never made just for effect.


Primary bibliography

Pasfotojacht, in Bedrijfsfotografie XXII (1940), p. 388-389.

Donkere kamer-verlichting, in Focus XIX (1932), p. 673-675.


images in:


XIV (1932), p. 222.

XV (1933), p. 425-427.

XVII (1935), p. 205-208.

XVIII (1936), p. 169-172.

XIX (1937), p. 30-32.

Achtergronden, XXI (1939), p. 461-469.

Industrie-opnamen, XXI (1939), p. 485- 487.



XIX (1932), p. 685.

XXI (1934), p. 136.

XXII (1935), p. 443.


Jaarboek VANK 1931, afb. 37, 38, 57.

Jaarboek VANK 1932, afb. 14, 15, 56, 57, 128.

Photography Yearbook 1938, p. 153.

Het Veerwerk 1938, p. 3.

De Schakel, Orgaan der N.V. Provinciale Geldersche Electriciteitsmij. III (1938).

Cosmorama 1939, p. 120.

Nederlands Jaarboek voor Fotokunst 1941 (LIII), 1943/1944 (XXIV).

Luchtgevaar, regelmatig van juni 1941-juni 1944.

Londense Vrij Nederland, 28 april 1945, p. 392-395, 397.

L. Winkel, Toen…’40-’45, Den Haag 1960, p. 40, 92.

Paul van ‘t Veer (samenst.), De Tweede Wereldoorlog, Amsterdam 1960, afb. 325, 236.

Maandblad ‘s Gravenhage 1965, nr. 5, p. 5, 6, 7, 16, 21, 23.

Dr. L. de Jong (samenst.), De Bezetting dl. 2, Amsterdam 1965, p. 52, 85, 88, 106, 108.

Nederlanders in bezet gebied, Amsterdam/ Brussel 1970, p. 98, 100, 102, 107.

L. de Vries, A.H. Paape, H. de Vries, De jaren ’40-’45, Amsterdam 1975, p. 256, 208.

Ch. Whiting, W. Trees, Van Dolle Dinsdag tot Bevrijding, Bussum 1977, p. 11, 12.

K. Groen, Er heerst orde en rust, Nijmegen 1980, p. 10, 62, 70, 78, 94, 104, 180, 196.

E. Werkman, M. de Keizer, GJ. van Setten, Dat kan ons niet gebeuren, Amsterdam !980, p. 53, 93, 108.

L. de Jong, Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog, Den Haag, deel 6 tweede helft, 1975, nr. 80; deel 7 eerste helft, 1976, nr. 6, 16; deel 10a eerste helft, 1980, nr. 26; deel 10b eerste helft, 1981, nr. 39, 42, 45, 50-55, 57, 64, 73; deel 10b tweede helft, 1982, nr. 116.

Secondary bibliography

Auteur onbekend, Uit de B.F. Donkere Kamer, Studio voor bedrijfsfotografie Huizinga in Bedrijfsfotografie XIII (1931), p. 188, 189.

Auteur onbekend, Uit de B.F. Donkere Kamer, Bij de foto’s van Menno Huizinga in Bedrijfsfotografie XVIII (1936), p. 166.

Flip Bool en Kees Broos (red.), Fotografie in Nederland 1920-1940, Den Haag (Staatsuitgeverij) 1979 (met foto’s).

John N. Gielis, Table-top-fotografie, Hengelo 1947 (boek opgedragen aan M.H.).

Evelyn de Regt, Menno Huizinga, fotograaf in bezettingstijd, in Plaatwerk 1983, nr. 2 (met foto’s).

Evelyn de Regt, Menno Huizinga 1907-1947, Fotograaf van de bezetting in Den Haag, 1940-1945, in jaarboek Die Haghe 1983, p. 100-173 (met foto’s). Overdruk van dit artikel gebruikt als catalogus bij de tentoonstelling in het Haags Gemeentemuseum in 1984.

Evelyn de Regt, De Hongerwinter gefotografeerd door Menno Huizinga, Bijvoegsel Vrij Nederland nr. 5, 5 februari 1984 (met foto’s).


NFPV, vanaf ca. 1930.


1934, tweede prijs wedstrijd Architectuurfotografie, Groningen.

1941, eerste prijs wedstrijd Bloemen en Beelden, Zuiderpark Den Haag.

1947, postume onderscheiding Ministerie van Oorlog voor illegaal fotografisch werk.


1932 (g) Rotterdam, NFPV.

1933 (g) Amsterdam, BNAFV, Nieuwe Richtingen in de Fotografie.

1933 (g) Groningen, Ver. ter Bevordering van de Bouwkunst, Architectuurfotografie.

1935 (g) Den Haag, Pulchri Studio, NFPV.

1937 (g) Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, foto ’37.

1938 (g) Amsterdam, Kerstsalon AAFV.

1940 (g) Amsterdam, Kerstsalon AAFV.

1980 (g) Amsterdam, Paleis op de Dam, De ondergedoken camera.

1984 (e) Den Haag, Gemeentemuseum, Menno Huizinga, fotograaf van de bezetting in Den Haag 1940-1945.


Mevr. S. Huizinga-Jelgersma, mondelinge informatie.

Leiden, bibliotheek en documentatiebestand Prentenkabinet.

Amsterdam, Rijksinstituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie


Amsterdam, Rijksinstituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie (negatieven Den Haag 1940-1945, foto’s Den Haag 1940-1945).

Leiden, Prentenkabinet van de Rijksuniversiteit (foto’s 1940-1945, bedrijfsfotografie).

Den Haag, Gemeente-archief (foto’s Den Haag 1940-1945).

Den Haag, Gemeentemuseum (foto’s Den Haag 1940-1945).