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Remembrance Day: remembering forgotten victims and their stories

Remembrance Day on 4 May may be different this year, but it will make no less of an impression. Ethan Mark, who specialises in modern Japanese history, will give an online lecture about forgotten stories from the Second World War. Via Open Jewish Homes, moving stories can be heard online of Jewish alumni. And the taptoe bugle call and Wilhelmus, the Dutch national anthem, will ring out over Rapenburg canal from the Academy Building.

On 4 May at 19:00, you can follow the livestream of the Hour of Remembrance on this page

‘Because of the corona crisis, we can’t come together in person,’ says initiator Yra van Dijk. ‘But in these times of social isolation, there is even more need for a joint remembrance.’ Van Dijk, a professor of Dutch literature, is organising the ‘Hour of Remembrance’ University memorial on 4 May. Originally, students were going to present their artworks or projects about freedom, but this has been postponed until next year. However, the lecture by Ethan Mark, who specialises in modern Japanese history, will go ahead as planned.

Hour of Remembrance

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Surinamese resistance fighter

Hour of Remembrance begins at 19:00 and can be followed on this page. In his lecture – in an empty Academy Building – Ethan Mark will discuss how the colonial history of the Netherlands influenced its perspective on the Second World War. He will tell the story of Anton de Kom, a Surinamese resistance fighter who died in a satellite camp of Neuengamme concentration camp in 1944. Mark will also discuss Nazi sympathiser Johan Bastiaan van Heutsz and how the Second World War is remembered in Japan and Indonesia.

Forgotten stories

The lecture will be in English and will be international in nature, Van Dijk is keen to emphasise. ‘Instead of discussing familiar Leiden stories, we want to focus on forgotten histories, in the Netherlands and outside. In that way this online memorial will bring people together and ensure international students and staff feel included.’ The plan is that from now on ‘Hour of Remembrance’ will be an annual occurrence on 4 May. Van Dijk: ‘Alongside remembering students and staff who were murdered during the war, we want to think about present-day situations in which academic freedom is under threat.’

Trumpet player in Academy Building

After the lecture trumpet player Isaac Blangé will play the taptoe bugle call through an open shutter in the Academy Building at 19:58 sharp. This will be followed by two minutes of silence, after which the Wilhelmus, the Dutch national anthem, will sound from a loudspeaker. Beadle Erick van Zuylen is calling on the residents of Pieterswijk and Rapenburg to open their windows and doors and join in with the national anthem. ‘Then we can still remember the dead together,’ says Van Zuylen.

George Maduro. Photo Wikimedia

Open Jewish Homes

The Open Jewish Homes organisation, which usually holds commemorations in towns and cities, has also come up with an alternative programme. Various speakers will discuss the fate of Jewish citizens of Leiden in the war. On 3 May there will be an interview with Kathleen Brandt, the biographer of George Maduro, on Facebook/openjoodsehuizen. This Jewish resistance fighter studied Law in Leiden and died just before the liberation of Dachau concentration camp.

In hiding

On 4 May, Sanderien de Jong, Alumni Relations Officer at the Faculty of Humanities, will tell the moving story of her Jewish uncle Abel de Jong, who is now 79. His parents Sally and Liesje attempted to flee, leaving the then two-year-old Abel in the care of Piet and Rietje Harteveld in Leiden. Sally and Liesje were betrayed and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and did not survive the war. Abel remained with Piet and Rietje and studied Law in Leiden. His father Sally was the twin of famous Dutch historian Loe de Jong, who did survive the war. Open Jewish Homes will also show a film about the family history of Arthur van Kleeff (the film was made by students Fenna Ytsma and Mariska van der Veen). Arthur’s grandfather, Meijer van Kleeff, fled Berlin in 1938 and, like his cousin, went into hiding in Leiden. Both cousins were captured and died in Auschwitz. 

Alongside these examples, there will be many other commemorations on 4 May, including the remembrance ceremony of the Municipality of Leiden. For more information, see dodenherdenkingleiden (in Dutch)

Banner photo: Memorial to Jewish citizens of Leiden who were murdered during the Second World War. It was made by Dutch-Israeli artist Ram Katzir.

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