Astrid Holladeer – A Brother’s Crimes and a Sister’s Betrayal
AMSTERDAM — When he read the 40-page sample of Astrid Holleeder’s memoir, “Judas,” in the spring, the Dutch publisher Oscar van Gelderen said he knew he had sensational material in his hands.
A gangster boss who has become a celebrity criminal. A sister who knows his secrets, and fears for her life. A criminal justice system unable to keep him behind bars without her help. And the back story of a childhood that was “dysfunctional to the max,” Mr. van Gelderen said.
Ms. Holleeder is the sister of Willem Holleeder, convicted of the 1983 kidnapping of the Dutch beer millionaire Freddy Heineken. He has been in and out of prison for years, but never for murder, though Ms. Holleeder calls him a “serial killer” in her book. Because she got close enough to tape him and agreed to testify against him, he is on trial again, this time facing six counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder.
Mr. van Gelderen’s instincts were right. The book, released in early November, has been the No. 1 best seller in the Netherlands for eight straight weeks, according to the Dutch book-publishing association CPNB. Rights have already been sold for publication in Danish, German and Swedish, and Little, Brown and Company in New York bought worldwide English-language rights this month.
“Judas” is not a recounting of Mr. Holleeder’s famous misdeeds, but the story of a childhood that included regular beatings by an alcoholic father, and, later, of Mr. Holleeder’s mafia-style hold on his family.
“In the writing, there’s this strangling feeling of a guy who is controlling everybody,” Mr. van Gelderen said.
Ms. Holleeder, 51, a successful criminal-defense lawyer, describes in chilling detail how, a year after their father’s death in 1991, Mr. Holleeder was released from prison and took his place as the family abuser. She recounts how painful it was to interact with him after the murder of her brother-in-law, Cor van Hout, Mr. Holleeder’s longtime friend and co-conspirator in the Heineken kidnapping. She contends that Mr. Holleeder ordered that killing, and plans to testify to that effect in court.
Ms. Holleeder has been observing the success of her book from the secret location where she has been living under protection since February, after an inmate in a maximum-security prison described being contracted by Mr. Holleeder to arrange for the killing of Ms. Holleeder; their sister, Sonja Holleeder, who was married to Mr. van Hout; and a Dutch crime reporter who helped Astrid establish contact with the police. (Another brother, Gerard, has remained uninvolved in the case.)