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Hiltje Cleveringa given first copy of her father’s biography

Hiltje Cleveringa seemed moved when on 16 January she was given the first copy of the biography of her father, Rudolph Cleveringa. Peppering his speech with a few cliff-hangers – including an incident concerning Churchill – biographer Kees Schuyt encouraged his audience to actually go read his book.

Kees Schuyt talks a bout the biography.

‘This is an emotional moment for us children,’ Hiltje Cleveringa said after Schuyt handed her the first printed copy of the book in a full Academy Building. Almost forty years after his death, there is now a biography of her father for the first time. She quickly turned her attention to Rudolph Cleveringa’s other side, as a family man. ‘Our father was a down-to-earth man who took pleasure in everyday things like reading to his grandchildren. He was a walking encyclopaedia for whoever dropped by the house, be that the baker, the stationmaster, children...’


In his speech, biographer Kees Schuyt emphasised that Cleveringa would not have been able to function without the support of his wife Hiltje and of some committed colleagues, including professors Eduard Meijers, Ben Telder, and various others. Schuyt used cliff-hangers to entice his audience to go read his book, entitled Recht, onrecht en de vlam der gerechtigheid  (Justice, injustice, and the flame of justice). ‘Read the book to discover whether Churchill really uttered the words I feel tremendous forces in this room at the Minerva society.’

Various members of the Cleveringa family were present.

Others stuck their necks out too

Rector Carel Stolker reflected on another historic event: it was exactly one hundred years ago that Cleveringa received his doctorate in the Academy Building, under the tutelage of Meijers. Professor Rick Lawson, a former dean of the Faculty of Law, praised Cleveringa as a standard-bearer, but like Schuyt, he also pointed to others who stuck out their necks in defiance of the Nazis on 26 November 1940, such as professors Barge and Van Hold in Leiden and Koningsberger in Utrecht.

Rector Carel Stolker and Mayor Henri Lenferink also receive a copy.

Not a personality cult

Dean of the Faculty of Law Joanne van der Leun referred to a conversation that she had had earlier with Cleveringa’s daughter Hiltje, in which Hiltje remarked that all this should never be or become a personality cult. ‘That's why it’s good that Kees Schuyt adds nuance, background information, peripheral issues, and context.’ Tijn Boon from Boom publishing house embraced Lawson’s idea to produce a student edition of the biography in English so that foreign students ‘can also take this piece of Leiden’s history back with them in their suitcase.’

Exhibition in the Old University Library

To mark the publication of the biography, there is also an exhibition entitled On the trail of Cleveringa in the foyer of the Old University Library. The exhibition will remain open until 30 March 2019.

Photos: Moniqe Shaw

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