One of the numerous Jewish victims of the Holocaust, Anne Frank gained recognition posthumously after her diary Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl was published. The diary, which has been widely read and translated into numerous other languages, details the lives of Anne Frank and her family when they went into hiding for two years, after Germany occupied Netherlands.
Somali-born Dutch-American activist, feminist, and scholar Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the founder of an organization for the defense of women's rights, the AHA Foundation. She actively opposes forced marriage, honor violence, and child marriage. A former Muslim, she now identifies as an atheist and is a vocal critic of Islam. She is a recipient of the Lantos Human Rights Prize.
Born in Surabaya (modern-day Indonesia), Xaviera Hollander grew up to work at the Dutch consulate in the US. However, she quit her job soon to become a prostitute and brothel keeper willingly. Her bestselling memoir, The Happy Hooker, details her journey as a leading call girl in New York.
Dutch actress, writer and film-director Halina Reijn started acting while she was still a student, playing lead roles in plays like Shopping and Fucking. In the ensuing years, she bolstered her acting career with plays like Mourning Becomes Electra and films like A Thousand Kisses and Black Book. She made her debut as a film director with the Dutch drama titled Instinct.
German-Dutch clergy Thomas à Kempis is largely believed to be the author of Imitatio Christi, or Imitation of Christ. Part of the Devotio Moderna, or the Modern Devotion movement, he was the son of a blacksmith and had moved from Rhineland to the Netherlands, where he was inspired by Gerard Groote’s followers.
Gerard Kuiper was blessed with an unusually sharp eyesight and could see stars clearly with the naked eye. The Dutch-born scientist later moved to the U.S., where he established the University of Arizona’s LPL. He also initiated research on the belt of comets surrounding the Sun, known as the Kuiper belt.
A nonconformist Dutch Jewish woman, Etty Hillesum left a huge repository of historical events in her diaries and letters in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Her works not only describe the horrors of the Holocaust but also her religious awakening and her relationship with God.
Max Euwe scripted history when he became the first chess Grandmaster from the Netherlands. A PhD in math, he also taught both math and computer programming, apart from publishing a mathematical analysis of chess. A chess world champion, he also served as the president of FIDE.
Born in the Netherlands, author Michel Faber grew up in Australia. He now lives in Scotland, where he has won countless awards, and mostly writes in English. Initially a nurse, Faber later soared to fame with bestsellers such as The Crimson Petal and the White.
Recognised as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, Dutch artist-author Willem Arondeus is most noted for his participation in bombing of the Amsterdam civil registry office that formed part of the Dutch anti-Nazi resistance movement during the Second World War. A self-proclaimed gay, his last words before execution were: "Tell the people that homosexuals are not by definition weak."
Eduard Douwes Dekker, better known as Multatuli, soared to fame with his anticolonial satire Max Havelaar. A colonial officer in the Dutch East Indies (modern-day Indonesia), he hoped to bring about a change in the Dutch colonial policy through his works. He is now regarded as the pioneer of contemporary Dutch literature.
Anna Drijver was six when she began her classical ballet lessons and was already modeling by 14. Known for films such as Bride Fight and series such as Heirs of the Night and Undercover, she is also a podcast maker and a novelist. She also supports the UNHCR and works for displaced people.
Karel Appel was a Dutch poet, painter, and sculptor. He is credited with co-founding COBRA, a European avant-garde movement that was active from 1948 to 1951. He is also credited with establishing the Karel Appel Foundation, which aims at preserving his artworks. Many of his works are displayed at museums all over the world, including the Museum of Modern Art.
Dries van Agt was once the prime minister of the Netherlands. He has also been the EU ambassador to the US and Japan. He began his career as a criminal defense lawyer and then joined politics, initially as part of the Catholic People's Party and later as a Christian Democratic Appeal leader.
Apart from studying Chinese literature in the Netherlands, Dutch author Ian Buruma also studied Japanese cinema in Tokyo. His cultural experiences while working as a reviewer and documentary maker in Japan and then as a freelance author in other parts of Asia inspired him to write books such as Inventing Japan.
Dutch journalist Marga Minco was the only survivor from her family in World War II and spent the entire war hiding. Her Vijverberg Prize-winning book, The Bitter Herb, spoke about the protagonist’s war experiences. Her works mostly narrate the horrors of the Holocaust and have won her numerous awards.
Swedish-born Dutch actor Amanda Ooms is best known for her appearance in the Swedish TV show Stjärnorna på slottet. She was also seen in The Expendables 2 and has been part of countless Swedish shows and movies. An author, too, she has penned books such as Tåla mod.
Born to Belgian migrants who had moved to Germany and then to the Netherlands, because of their Mennonite origins, Joost van den Vondel grew up to be one of the most celebrated Dutch authors and dramatists. He not only translated Greek tragedies such as Electra, but also penned masterpieces such as Lucifer.
Part of the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame, Fons Trompenaars is a globally renowned cross-cultural communication consultant and an award-winning writer of the bestselling book Riding the Waves of Culture. His works have made a significant contribution to the development of organizational culture. He also founded the firm Trompenaars Hampden-Turner.
Former EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, Frits Bolkestein also led the Dutch political party People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, or VVD. His job at the Shell Group took him to places such as Honduras, France, and Indonesia. He has also penned countless books, mostly related to politics.
Dutch entertainer Josje Huisman is best known as a member of the Belgian-Dutch girl group K3, which was formed by the winners of a TV talent contest. She has also written a book and appeared as Belle in a production of the musical Beauty and the Beast.
One of the first Dutch authors to come out as gay, Gerard Reve was known for his ironic and humorous manner of writing about homosexuality. Known for works such as The Evenings, he used the format of epistolary autobiography and won many awards such as the P.C. Hooft Prize.
One of the most respected hedge-fund managers of Europe, Lex van Dam began his career as a trader for Goldman Sachs. He is now associated with the London-based Hampstead Capital. Known for his BBC2 reality show Million Dollar Traders, he now runs a trading academy, teaching people investment tactics.
A pragmatic Dutch political leader, Joop den Uyl studied economics and worked as a civil servant before serving as the country’s prime minister in the 1970s. The Labour Party member is remembered for his social-welfare programs. An anti-military campaigner, he reduced the Dutch military budget and supported international disarmament.
A professor of Hittite and Anatolian languages at the University of Chicago, Theodore van Hout has also edited the Chicago Hittite Dictionary. His countless articles and books such as The Elements of Hittite reveal his interest in Hittite history and culture and Late Bronze and Iron Age Anatolia.
Harry Mulisch and his Jewish mother escaped a Nazi concentration camp owing to his father’s Nazi links, though he lost his maternal grandmother in the Holocaust. His writings, such as The Assault and Last Call, narrated the loss and betrayal in war-torn backdrops, making him one of the greatest Dutch post-war authors.
Born in the Dutch East Indies, Tonke Dragt was 12 when she was interned at a Japanese prisoners’ camp, where she began writing using a pseudonym. She later moved to the Netherlands and emerged as one of the best authors of children's books, including The Letter for the King.
A qualified lawyer who also taught law, Jacob Israël de Haan has gained more fame as an author and a journalist. His Lines from De Pijp, which suggested he was gay, led to him being dismissed from his job in the Netherlands. He later moved to Palestine, and was assassinated in Jerusalem.
Known as the queen of children’s literature in the Netherlands, Annie M. G. Schmidt was the winner of the first Dutch State Prize for Children’s and Youth Literature. Initially a librarian, she later worked for Het Parool. She is perhaps best remembered for her Jip and Janneke series.
Born to a painter father and a novelist mother, Tim Krabbé was not just a competitive cyclist but also a talented chess player. He has authored numerous volumes on chess and is also known for his novel on cycle-racing, The Rider. His book The Vanishing was made into a Dutch film.
Part of the Dutch Golden Age, Constantijn Huygens was at the same time a composer and a poet. A diplomat, too, he went to England multiple times, where he was introduced to New Science by Francis Bacon, which he then popularized in the Netherlands. He also translated John Donne’s poems.
Best known for his Pegasus Prize-winning novel Rituals, Dutch author Cees Nooteboom has also been an oft-mentioned candidate for the Nobel Prize. He has also worked as a travel columnist for various Dutch periodicals. Roads to Santiago remains one of his best travel-oriented works and has inspired a musical.
Dutch Literature Prize-winning author Willem Frederik Hermans was one of his country’s most versatile writers and one of the most significant from the post-war era. His satirical works focused on social evils. An Untouched House and The Darkroom of Damocles remain 2 of his best-known works.
Youp van 't Hek was 12 when he decided to be a comedian. Born Joseph, or Joep, he changed his name to Youp at 17 and later co-founded Cabaret NAR. He soared to fame with De alles is anders-show and his signature style of self-deprecating humor. He also penned columns for NRC Handelsblad.
When Teun van de Keuken read a book about illegal child labor in the cocoa industry, he got determined to make a difference and launched his slave-free chocolate brand, Tony's Chocolonely. A columnist, too, he later penned a novel, Goed Volk, which was largely semi-autobiographical.
Author Louis Couperus was one of the most significant figures of the Dutch literary revival in the 1880s. Born in the Dutch East Indies, he later lived in Italy, the Netherlands, and parts of Asia and Africa. He experimented with styles and themes such as French realism, the occult, and Oriental culture.
A respected diamond merchant, moral philosopher and poet, Joseph de la Vega spent most of his life in Amsterdam, occupying important positions in several literary academies. Author of seven published works, most significant of which is Confusion of Confusions, a book based on Amsterdam Stock Exchange, he is also credited with writing more than 200 letters to different European statesman.
An adventurer at heart, Jan de Hartog apparently ran away from home twice, to work at sea, and was also part of the Dutch resistance during World War II. He is best known for his Nobel Prize-nominated historical novel, The Peaceable Kingdom, and his Tony Award-winning play The Fourposter.
Apart from being a physician and the first Dutch psychiatrist to gain international fame, Frederik Willem van Eeden was also an author. Known for inventing the term lucid dream, he later penned books that revolved around themes such as symbolism and psychiatric experiences. He also translated Tagore’s works into Dutch.
Dutch painter and poet Karel van Mander was a significant part of the Mannerist movement. Best known for his Het Schilder-boeck, or The Book of Painters, a biographical work on artists and painters of northern Europe, he was patronized by the Haarlem city council.
A professional engraver and lithographer like his father, Jan Luyken illustrated books such as Martyrs Mirror with his etchings. He later had a spiritual awakening and focused on religious poetry, writing pieces such as Jesus and the Soul. He died a poor man, in spite of his talent.
Dutch poet Herman Gorter was part of the literary revival of the 1880s and of the group Tachtigers, or the Eightiers. He is best remembered for his epic poem Mei, which consisted of 4,000 verses. He later deviated to communism, which is clearly reflected in his epic poem Pan.
Isabelle de Charrière was born to a Dutch noble family but later married her brother’s Swiss teacher and settled in Switzerland. A fine novelist, known for works such as Trois Femmes and Caliste; ou, lettres écrites de Lausanne, she critiqued social conventions and aristocratic privilege.
Regarded as the Grand Dame of Dutch literature, author Hella Haasse is remembered for her historical fiction, such as In a Dark Wood Wandering. She had lived in France, resulting in many French versions of her works. She was also the first from her country to have an online museum dedicated to her.
Libris Prize-winning Dutch author Connie Palmen is best known for her bestselling novels such as De wetten, or The Laws, and De vriendschap, or The Friendship. She was also nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award and has published several essay collections, such as A Short Philosophy of Murder, too.