Book published about the World War II Memorial of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The main building of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam contains a plaque bearing ninety names of victims of the Second World War: students, professors, employees and administrators. The memorial plaque has existed since 1952, when it was unveiled in what was then the main university building at 162 Keizersgracht in Amsterdam.

Names of war victims
In the 1970s, the plaque was again granted a central place in the main building of the new campus, opposite the entrance to the aula. VU Amsterdam still uses the plaque as a central location for the commemoration of its war victims. The purpose of the monument was that the university community would keep remembering these names. This book takes things a step further, by unraveling the lives behind these names. A short biography brings each of the fallen to life for the reader in a poignant way.

In addition to the biographies, the book describes the plaque’s history, and shows a group portrait of the victims. It also examines how similar commemorations took place at other Dutch universities. This overview shows how we often struggle with the question of who and what to commemorate. The latter is explicitly discussed with regard to VU Amsterdam. In addition to remembering her dead, the university also has the task of explaining the predominantly Christian ideals of the victims to a modern audience.

The book was written by historians George Harinck (ed.), Wim Berkelaar, Ab Flipse, Gert van Klinken and Tjeerd de Jong.

The book presentation was initially scheduled to take place this spring during a memorial gathering at the monument, but this could not take place due to the coronavirus situation. A digital presentation opportunity will be scheduled at a later time. The book is now available in bookstores.

Title data
Wim Berkelaar, Ab Flipse, George Harinck (red.), Tjeerd de Jong en Gert van Klinken, Een oorlogsplaquette ontrafeld. Het herdenkingsmonument 1940-1945 van de Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Uitgeverij Boom, Amsterdam, 2020, ISBN 978 902443 3148. 326 pag., € 24,90.