The Press: Therapeutic Pen

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On Amsterdam's ancient, influential, and conservative Algemeen Handelsblad (literally "general commercial newspaper"), the convictions of a stocky displaced German named Fritz Behrendt stick out like battle flags. To hear Behrendt tell it, the whole world is sick, and he is just the doctor it needs. "There are a lot of things wrong with our Western free world," said Behrendt last week, "not the least of which is the God-damned attitude of slow motion, indifference, shortsightedness toward political problems. But that's whooping cough compared with the cancer from the Soviet Union. One can cure whooping cough, but one dies of cancer."

Occasional Damper. In his dedicated effort to excise this international growth, Behrendt is not content with mere angry words. For the last seven years, as the Algemeen Handelsblad's editorial cartoonist, he has thrust repeatedly at world Communism with one of the sharpest and most therapeutic pens in all of Europe. He attacks his favorite target, Khrushchev, with such passion that the paper occasionally feels it necessary to put the damper on Fritz: last week his editors vetoed a Behrendt proposal to draw two Dutchmen convicted in Kiev as spies, beneath a bed occupied by a snoozing Khrushchev. Most of the paper's 70,000 subscribers are delighted with Behrendt's daring lance work—with one notable and royal exception. In 1959, after Behrendt showed Khrushchev changing from angel to devil and back again, former Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, horrified at what she considered sacrilege, canceled her subscription.

Behrendt's special skill lies in his capacity to unravel the most labyrinthine international maze, and to explain the most convoluted international personality, with a few deft lines. His Castro is a bellower whose gaping mouth reveals a hammer-and-sickle tongue. Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser is a perspiring sphinx; West Germany's tough old Chancellor Adenauer, an uncrackable walnut. As depicted by Behrendt, France's De Gaulle wears spectacles that reflect the Gaullist cosmos: a double image of Charles de Gaulle himself.

Flirtation & Favor. Berlin-born Fritz Behrendt's caricaturing skill, as well as his hostility to the Reds, had improbable origins. His father wanted him to be a pastry cook. But Behrendt boned up instead on Upton Sinclair and Karl Marx, spent part of his youth flirting with the left. He worked on road-building projects for Marshal Tito in Yugoslavia, took a free course at a Zagreb art school, moved to East Berlin on a job illustrating books for prospective young Communists. But after Stalin denounced Titoism, Behrendt became disillusioned.

He made wild public comment in defense of his Yugoslav pals, was picked up in 1949 by East Berlin Vopos and imprisoned for six months. On release, he drifted to the Netherlands, began freelancing anti-Communist cartoons that found quick favor in the Dutch Press.

Behrendt's wallop can no longer be measured by its impact in Amsterdam. Without any help from his paper, he has managed to syndicate himself on a global scale. His work appears regularly in 40 papers from West Germany to Japan, including two in New York (the Herald Tribune and the Sunday Times), and obviously will soon spread farther.