Lou de Palingboer

A charismatic Dutchman who claimed divinity, captivating followers and sparking media frenzy in the mid-20th century.

Lou de Palingboer, born Louwrens Voorthuijzen on February 19, 1898, in Breezand, Netherlands, was the founder and central figure of a new religious movement in the mid-20th century. Growing up in a devoutly religious family, Lou developed a strong interest in religion from an early age. His life took a significant turn after he met Mien Wiertz, following a mystical experience and a failed marriage, leading him to proclaim himself the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and later, God.

Lou’s early career as a fisherman ended as he embraced his newfound spiritual calling. He became known as “Lou de Palingboer” (Lou the eel vendor) after selling eels at the Dappermarkt in Amsterdam, where he began preaching to the public. His charismatic presence and unorthodox claims quickly gathered a following. Lou and his disciples, including a rich supporter who bought a large house in Muiderberg for communal living, became known for their distinct beliefs and practices. They rejected conventional medicine in favor of spiritual healing and shared a strong conviction in Lou’s immortality​​​​​​.

Lou’s teachings and life attracted considerable media attention, often polarizing public opinion. His followers believed in his divine nature, participating in rituals and communal living arrangements that underscored their devotion. The group, peaking at around 600 members, faced scrutiny and controversy, especially regarding their rejection of medical treatment, which led to legal troubles for Lou. Despite the controversies, Lou maintained a significant influence over his followers, with his teachings permeating through lectures, meetings, and a dedicated magazine that spread his message beyond the Dutch borders to Belgium and Germany​​​​.

In the late 1960s, Lou’s health declined, and despite his and his followers’ belief in his immortality, he died of pneumonia on March 23, 1968, in Belgium. His death left the movement in disarray, with some followers continuing to believe in his spiritual presence. Despite the dissolution of the core group, Lou’s legacy persisted in the memories of those who were part of the movement and in Dutch cultural history as a unique and controversial figure who challenged conventional religious and societal norms​​​​.

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