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 drew 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 "revenge" 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. Thomassen cancelled his studies after one year to enroll at the Academy of Fine Arts in Liège, Belgium. In 1914, he had to return home; the First World War broke out and he was mobilized by the Dutch army. For five years, Thomassen served as First Lieutenant, but the Netherlands managed to remain neutral during the conflict. After the war Thomassen returned to the arts and cooperated with illustrator Rob Graafland for a year. One of his best-known creations during this period was a 1919 anti-Bolsjewism drawing in commission of the Dutch government, earning him praise from Minister of the Interior Ruijs de Beerenbrouck.

Illustration for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 23 May 1924.

Illustration career
Thomassen subsequently worked for the newspaper Het Nieuws van den Dag in Amsterdam and then headed for the United States. He found employment with the McClure Syndicate in New York City, 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 between 1925 and 1931 for the New York American. Thomassen eventually returned to Europe and spent some time with the French Foreign Legion, before going 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 (present-day Indonesia), 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 electronics. 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, Thomassen 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 on rhyme. The work suggested that the Netherlands would definitely not benefit from an Allied invasion. On 27 July 1944 it appeared as a supplement of the pro-Nazi satirical paper De Gil. 

Flits de herder by MathoFlits de herder by Matho

Flits de Herder
Under the pseudonym Matho, Thomassen 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. The color drawings were accompanied by text captions on rhyme. Adolf Hitler is depicted as 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 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 never appeared. 

'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. Several teachers actually refused to do so, making the booklet a present-day rarity. Under the pen name Claudius, Thomassen also illustrated several propaganda posters for the same department.

Long Tau game
Thomassen also made a very obscure 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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