Flits de herder by Matho
'Flits de Herder'.

Marius J.G. Thomassen was a Dutch illustrator for advertisements and books, active in the first part of the 20th century. He became notorious for his pro-Nazi artwork during World War II under the pen names Matho and Claudius. He most notably made the picture book 'De avonturen van Flits, de herder en Bull, de dog' (1943), which portrays the German people as a caged German shepherd, justifying his war against the other garden animals.

Early life and career
He was born in 1889 as Marius Jacques Gérard Thomassen in Utrecht, and initially studied Medicine. He cancelled his studies after one year to enroll at the Academy of Fine Arts in Liège, Belgium. The 1914 mobilization forced his return to his home country, where he served as First Lieutenant in the Dutch Army for five years. He returned to the arts after World War I, cooperating with the illustrator Rob Graafland for a year. One of his best-known creations during this period was an anti-Bolsjewism drawing in commission of the Dutch government in 1919, earning him praise from Minister of the Interior Ruijs de Beerenbrouck.


Illustration for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 23 May 1924.

Illustration career
He subsequently worked for the newspaper Het Nieuws van den Dag in Amsterdam, then headed for the United States. He found employment with the McClure Syndicate in New York, while also working for Alfred Erickson's advertising agency (which later became McCann Erickson). By 1923, he worked for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, illustrating articles and serials, and then worked for the New York American between 1925 and 1931, before returning to Europe. After spending some time with the French Foreign Legion, he came back to the Netherlands. He was an illustrator for newspapers like De Telegraaf and Haagsche Post, for which he made a "linguistic picture book". This 'Taalkundig Prentenboek' was published in book format by H.P. Leopold in 1932. Thomassen spent part of the decade in the Dutch Indies, heading the art department of the Batavia division of the Amsterdam advertising firm De Globe. Among his notable work was the design for the worldwide "Current Eater" campaign of Philips. Between 1932 and 1943, Thomassen also illustrated children's books for the publishing houses Van Goor, Malmberg, Leopold, Kluitman and Roskam.


The booklet 'Zeg, weet je 't al?' (1944), presumably with illustration by Thomassen, predicted what would happen if the allied forces invaded the Netherlands.

Fascist literature
During World War II, he gained notoriety for illustrating national-socialist children's literature. He designed the cover and interior illustrations for the book 'Stormers in de branding' (1943) by Jac. Roelofs, a naval adventure with members of the national-socialist youth movement Jeugdstorm. For publisher Westland, he made the illustrations for 'Valschermjagers overal' by Walter Gericke, a book supporting the German war effort. Thomassen presumably also made the drawings for 'Zeg, weet je 't al?', an illustrated wartime propaganda booklet in rhymme, suggesting the Netherlands would definately not benefit from an Allied invasion. It appeared as a supplement of the pro-German satirical paper De Gil on 27 July 1944.

Flits de herder by MathoFlits de herder by Matho

Flits de Herder
Under the pseudonym Matho, he drew the antisemitic propaganda booklet 'De avonturen van Flits, de Herder en Bull, de Dog' (1943). The picture story was an allegory of the First World War and the build-up to the Second, portraying the major players as animals, in favor of the national-socialists. The color drawings were accompanied by text captions in rhyme. Adolf Hitler is represented by the role of the caged German shepherd (Little) Flits, whose bowl is eaten empty by hook-nosed rats, shamelessly referring to the Jewish population. Flits is determined to break free, but is forced back by the English bulldog (Winston Churchill), the French goose and the American donkey. The booklet ends with Flits deciding to take on the battle... A second volume was announced, but didn't appear. 

'Flits de Herder' was published by the Propaganda section of the Department of Information and Arts ("Departement voor Volksvoorlichting en Kunsten"), a government department founded by the oppressor to bring the Dutch arts in line with the Nazi standards. Released in May 1943, the booklet was intended for distribution at primary schools. It is known that several teachers refused to do so, making the booklet a present-day rarity. Under the pen name Claudius, he also illustrated several propaganda posters for the same department.

Long Tau game
Very obscure is a prototype for a game design, called 'Long Tau', based on an old Chinese game. In May 1943 he sent it to Hausemann & Hotte (now Jumbo) for a review, but the company never took it into production. The prototype is now in the collection of the Amsterdam Historical Museum, and a version of the game can also be seen in the Toy Museum in Deventer.

Later life
During the war, Thomassen lived in Amsterdam. After 1943, no further work by Marius Thomassen is known. It is also unknown if he was penalized for his wartime activies after the liberation. In 1956 he divorced his second wife and married his third in Dortmund, leading to believe he spent a large part of his post-war life in Germany. He passed away in Maastricht in 1971. He was 81 years old.

Marius Thomassen
Marius Thomassen (De Indische courant, 20 May 1933).

Read 'Flits de Herder' on the Delpher site of the Dutch Royal Library

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