Universiteit Leiden

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Dossier

World War II

In 1940 the  Germany occupiers ordered the dismissal of all Jewish staff of the university. This resulted in protest speeches by fellow academics.

Professor Rudolph Cleveringa delivered an inflammatory speech against the dismissal of his Jewish colleagues, and on the same day Professor of Medicine Ton Barge devoted his lecture to the unsustainability of the theory of racial doctrine. Students went on strike and a number of them joined the Resistance. The university was closed by the Germans.  

In the subsequent years many members of staff, students and alumni lost their lives in death camps and while carrying out Resistance activities, as well as through sickness, famine and exhaustion. The university opened its doors again in September 1945, several months after the country was liberated.

To commemorate the suffering and the Resistance, the university appoints a Cleveringa professor every year, who gives an inaugural lecture on 26 November on the theme of war and oppression. Around the same time, many Cleveringa lectures are given by Leiden professors in the Netherlands and throughout the world.  

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