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Njord writes book about its wartime history

The new book, ‘Njord in de Oorlog’ (Njord during the War), describes how the Leiden student rowing club was affected by the Second World War in a detailed series of personal stories. On Monday 16 November, Njord president Rosalie ten Wolde presented the first copy to Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker.

The original plan was to publish the book earlier, to coincide with the celebration of 75 years of liberation. But since the coronavirus crisis put paid to extensive celebrations, K.S.R.V. Njord decided to publish this special book just before the 2020 Cleveringa Lecture. After all, this lecture also has strong connections with the war and the theme of freedom. 

Njord president Rosalie ten Wolde presents Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker with the first copy of ‘Njord in de Oorlogstijd’ (‘Njord during the War’)
Njord president Rosalie ten Wolde presents Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker with the first copy of ‘Njord in de Oorlogstijd’ (‘Njord during the War’)


The speech given by Leiden professor Rudolph Cleveringa in 1940 – in which he opposed the dismissal of his Jewish colleagues – was a defining moment for both the University and the club. Not long after that the Germans closed the University, and Njord. The book covers the war years from various perspectives, from how the students coped with the situation and what happened to those who were active members of the club just before war broke out, to the activities undertaken by the ‘war’ board. The detailed accounts of Njord members who joined the resistance and tried to flee to England are particularly poignant. The book also looks at the war in the Dutch East Indies, because many Njord members came from there and were recalled for military service.

Stories of young people

The book was written by a mix of young and old academics, most of whom had a direct connection to the rowing club. ‘It’s fantastic that the book is so dynamic,’ said current president Rosalie ten Wolde. ‘It’s not a boring history lesson but is a collection of stories of young people like me. It’s nice to be able to read about how they experienced that period.’ Restrictions to our freedom is, of course, a topical theme, Ten Wolde noted. ‘We have less freedom at the moment, too. This year, for the first time since the war, we’ve had to keep the doors to our boathouse and room closed. Although, we can’t really compare that to what happened during the war. But we’re keeping the club alive. We hold virtual events and are still allowed to go out in single sculls. Luckily, all the members continue to be very much involved in the club, despite the distance.’

Text: Jan Joost Aten
Photos: Ralph de Waard/Njord

Read ‘Njord in de Oorlog’ (Njord during the War)

‘Njord in de Oorlog’ is free to all Leiden students and school pupils from various collection points in Leiden. In the coming weeks members of Njord will be giving presentations at secondary schools in Leiden and will be handing out copies of the book. If you would like a copy of the book but are not a Leiden student, please contact Njord (abactis@njord.nl).

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