Major Bosshardt was a well-known officer who worked in the Red Light District (aka ‘De Wallen’). She could be described as “one of a kind” and became a national hero through her work in Amsterdam.
From her 20th on she operated in the Salvation Army as a social welfare worker, first in Utrecht, later Rotterdam and finally Amsterdam.
When Amsterdam North was bombarded in July 1943, she fled to Hilversum, some 30 miles away, with Jewish children she kept hidden from the cruel German invader. From 1948 onwards Bosshardt held X-mas meetings for prostitutes and was always giving them a helping hand. “Should I feel myself higher than these girls? ” “No, in essence I could have been one of them ” her motto was.
She established her Head Quarters on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, right in the middle of De Wallen area, in a house she rented. Although she was promoted to Luit.Colonel, Holland knew her as ‘Major Bosshardt’. On national television she could say sharp and true things, but was never offensive, a virtue not many people have. She also loved to laugh.
Major Bosshardt took crown Princess Beatrix to Amsterdam’s Red Light District, to show her the scene, the women and her own work for the sex workers. Although Beatrix went incognito, dressed as a civilian woman with a scarf over her hair, a picture was published in De Telegraaf – a Dutch newspaper – of the event.
In the tv program ‘Villa Felderhof’, she could be seen together with co-guest Herman Brood – Dutch rockband leader and artist. Brood was addicted to alcohol and drugs. The tv program was filmed in a luxurious mansion near St. Tropez, not exactly a background to expect from the Salvation Army.
Sitting in an expensive boat off the coast, the question was raised if someone could go to heaven. “Well, I don’t know whether this will happen to me”, Major Bosshardt said modestly and in earnest. Her companion, the naughty and speed addicted Herman Brood had to laugh so hard, he almost fell off the boat. “If you don’t go, my chances are zero!!” Brood giggled. “If a saint like you can’t come in, who can?” Not long after this, Herman Brood – who was on a diet of one bottle Cointreau per day plus several shots of speed – jumped off the roof of Amsterdam’s Hilton Hotel and was found dead 12 floors below on the pavement in front of the hotel.
Alida Margareta Bosshardt died in 2007, 94 years of age. She was knight and officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau and furthermore distinguished with many prices and awards, among which the Israeli Yad Vashem distinction for brave and excellent citizenship for her actions in WWII.
Major Bosshardt was immortalized in a bronze statue on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal there where most of her life had taken place. It shows this amazing woman sitting on a bench, in her simple Salvation Army uniform.