Overvalwagens.com is a website dedicated to “the research of military, commercial and improvised vehicles as used in the Netherlands East and West Indies before 1945″.
In May 1940 Nazi Germany conquered the Netherlands, but it did not gain control over Dutch India. The outbreak of WWII made acquisitions difficult however for KNIL, the army in Dutch India. Overvalwagens.com writes: “Often the Netherlands Purchasing Commission was forced to acquire vehicles (as well as other military equipment) that was by no means standard allied material. Sometimes they bought off-the-shelf prototypes or equipment rejected by the US armed forces.”
An example is the tank shown above, the Marmon-Herrington CTLS-4TA. This was produced by the only company in the US “building tanks commercially, while not being involved in the re-armament process of the US Forces”. An interesting vehicle because the gun turret could not turn all the way around. As a result they were sold and used in pairs, one gun covering the left flank, the other one the right.
(Link: Martin Wisse, Photo: British armed forces, now in the public domain)
Tags: armoured vehicles, colonialism, Indonesia, KNIL, tanks, weapons
The court of Amsterdam has handed down a ruling today that the entire Dutch media was waiting for about Zwarte Piet (‘Black Pete’, Saint Nicholas’ holiday time helper): it turns out he’s deemed “offensive to black people” and “racist” after all.
Although it was argued by many that Zwarte Piet is just some black figure and that he had nothing to do with slavery, a point that can surely be made, the blackface clown with exaggerated red lips and golden earrings apparently encourages a “negative stereotyping of black people”. In Dutch, when someone is made out to be the ‘bad guy’ in a situation, it is called to be the ‘Zwarte Piet’, which says a lot already about how he is viewed.
Today’s verdict only applies to Amsterdam and it remains to be seen what the rest of the country will make of such a strong and old tradition being struck down. Internet comments are not the nicest at the moment, blaming a few people for ruining it for everybody else and that sort of thing.
I wonder if Zwarte Piet is worth being the perpetual ‘bad guy’ and ‘whipping boy’ for a deeper discussion about racial stereotypes that needs to happen and will see where history will collectively take the Netherlands on this one.
(Link: www.nieuws.nl, Photo: tobysterling.net)
Tags: Sinterklaas, Zwarte Piet
The City of Amsterdam subsidized a free educational game entitled ‘Road to Freedom’ that was 1.5 years in the making to teach children about Dutch slavery in Suriname. It was produced by the National Institute for the Study of Dutch Slavery and its Legacy and designed by Pepergroen to mark the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery.
The Afro-Surinamese community in the Netherlands wasn’t thrilled with the game, but neither were the Americans at Apple who called the content ”slanderous and insulting”. A quick Google search shows that Apple is not a fan of anything with slaves in it, like this sweatshop app.
On the one hand, anything too culturally confrontational makes many people from countries with unresolved colonial pasts uncomfortable and on the other, anything that is presented in a game format already downgrades the importance of historical relevance. If I were at school today and someone gave me a flee from a Russian labour camp game, I’d have a real problem with it and so would my parents.
I do get what the makers were trying to do, but unfortunately they have managed to trivialize something that deserves a much better platform. A Dutch friend of mine would say, ‘het idee is goed, maar de uitvoering is klote’ (‘The idea is good, but the execution is crap’).
UPDATE The video we had up yesterday introducing the game has been pulled offline.
(Link: www.joop.nl, www.volkskrant.nl, Screenshot of the game before it was yanked offline)
Tags: Apple, apps, slavery, slaves, Suriname
The Totalitarian Art Gallery in Amsterdam lives up to its name and trades in ‘totalitarian memorabilia’.
As far as memorabilia go, things don’t get much more totalitarian than Adolf Hitler’s book ‘Mein Kampf’ (‘My Struggle’). That book is said to be illegal in the Netherlands and if it is not, we will soon find out.
Last Friday at noon exactly a pair of detectives entered The Totalitarian Art Gallery at the Singel canal in Amsterdam and ascertained that, yes, store keeper Michiel van Eyk did indeed own a copy of Mein Kampf and yes, he did intend to sell it. The detectives proceeded to confiscate the book and to hand Van Eyk a summons, AT5 reports.
Last January Van Eyk was interrogated for “about an hour” at an unnamed police station about his motives for selling the controversial book. He told AT5 back then: “I don’t want to defend myself, I want this to go to court.” His wish is now granted, a first session has been planned for 26 August. Van Eyk will get to defend himself against charges of hate speech.
Mein Kampf’s legality is yet to be tested in the Netherlands, but hasn’t been much of an issue so far. The copyright to the book is held by the government of the state of Bavaria in Germany and will only run out in 2016. In 1997 Winnie Sorgdrager, then Minister of Justice, told parliament that the act of selling the book would expose a person to prosecution on the basis of article 137e of the Dutch criminal code, which forbids hate speech. She added that a publication was conceivably legal in a “scientifically responsible publication”, which she interpreted as “a publication in which the publisher or editor [...] distance themselves of the contents of the original text”. That must have been the dumbest take on science that I have seen in at least a week. (Yes, it’s been a slow week).
(Photo by Adam Jones, some rights reserved)
Tags: Adolf Hitler, barratry, censorship, free speech, Mein Kampf, police brutality, Winnie Sorgdrager
The Amsterdam City Archives (Stadsarchief Amsterdam) has recently uploaded a five-minute YouTube film to its channel with nice animation showing the expansion of Amsterdam’s canal ring in the 17th century.
The animated film shows the growth and expansion of the ‘grachtengordel’ (the canal ring, a Dutch word that is a rite of passage in itself when you can finally pronounce it properly) that took shape during the Golden Age. It shows the Royal Palace on Dam Square, the Westerkerk (‘Western church’) and the houses on Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht.
The now famous posh Jordaan district starts off the expansion phase, with animation that makes you feel like a bird flying over the city.
(www.amsterdamherald.com, Image: Gerrit Adriaensz Berckheyde, public domain)
Tags: Amsterdam, canals
Former Dutch astronaut Wubbo Ockels died earlier today in Amsterdam as the result of cancer, NRC writes.
Ockels was born in 1946 in Almelo. In 1985 he spent 7 days in space on board the US space shuttle Challenger which made him the first Dutch astronaut.
In the late 1980s Ockels’ reputation took a dive when he caused havoc with private air planes. On 5 December 1989 his plane taxied to a runway in Lille, France, when an Airbus came in a for a landing. The Airbus totalled Ockels’ plane, but curiously everybody got out alive.
Back on the ground Ockels became a professor of air and space technology at Delft University in 1992. He used this position for a great number of sustainable inventions. Together with his students he worked on projects that often involved converting wind energy into electricity, such as a laddermill and an energy-neutral sailboat. He also worked on the Superbus, bringing the speed and aesthetics of Formula One to the world of public transport.
Ockels’ daughter Gean published the book De Zeven Levens van Wubbo Ockels in 2010 (The Seven Lives of Wubbo Ockels). By then he had escaped death five times. And although he had allegedly tweeted he would cheat the grim reaper for a sixth time in combating cancer (“I am Wubbo Ockels, the strange geezer who always finds a way out”), he succumbed to his illness this morning.
(Photo by Jens Nielsen who released it into the public domain)
Tags: Airbus, astronauts, Delft University of Technology, Dutch astronauts, inventors, Space Shuttle, Wubbo Ockels
What should a city do when its citizens survive the death camps and arrive home to find all their possessions stolen, even their homes (where now Nazi collaborators live)?
With possible answers ranging from “give them a hero’s welcome” to “do everything in your power to restore normality” to “charge them back taxes for property they haven’t had the use of”, after World War II was over, the city of Amsterdam chose the latter.
Three years ago university student Charlotte van den Berg stumbled upon 342 cases of retroactive taxes for Holocaust victims in Amsterdam’s city archives where she worked part-time. Toby Sterling reports:
Van den Berg notified city officials about the documents and received assurances they would be fully investigated. Now and then she checked in, only to learn that nothing had been done. [...] In desperation, she turned her findings over to Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool in March 2013.
There is a method that seems to be favoured by Dutch officials who wish to deal with the wrongs their predecessors committed long ago, whether they had assisted Nazis with persecuting Jews or killed civilians in the revolutionary Indonesian war, and that method is to let the passage of time finish what the evil-doers started.
Parool’s publication of Van den Berg’s findings in 2013 got the ball rolling though and the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies started its own research. NIOD’s report is due later this month, but in the meantime details were leaked to the press. The institute will allegedly recommend that the city repay 400,000 euro in fines and 4.5 million euro in back taxes. That’s just for one very narrow category of taxes, “fees for long-term leases when the city owns the ground a house is built on”.
(Photo by Flickr user jcm718, some rights reserved. Here you see the Van Gogh Museum on Museumplein in Amsterdam. Currently a prime real estate location, Jewish owners of a house in this location had to sell the land because they couldn’t afford the costs involved in making the house liveable again and partly because of retroactive taxes, according to Nieuw Israëlitisch Weekblad)
Tags: Amsterdam, holocaust, Jews
The ongoing excavations under the Dom Church of Utrecht have led to the finding of gold copies of tremisses, of the Madelinus type, issued from Dorestad, a large settlement of the province of Utrecht and an international trade hub of Northern Europe from the 7th to the mid 9th century. Also found at the same spot were silver sceattas, minted in England, Frisia (Friesland) and Jutland (Denmark) also around that period.
The coins denote a turbulent period in Dutch history when the Frisians and the Franks were trying to control the strategically located city of Utrecht.
The coins will be on display as of Friday 18 April at the Centraal Museum Utrecht.
(Link and photo: www.cultureelerfgoed.nl)
Tags: coins, excavation, Utrecht
The Amsterdam district Centrum has declared the word ‘bezet’ (Dutch for occupied) a verbum non gratum, an unwelcome word for King’s Day.
During the Dutch national holiday, the whole country turns into a single large flea market. Citizens often chalk or tape a rectangle on the pavement the night or even days before to ensure themselves of the best spots and write the word ‘bezet’ in the middle for good measure. Parool reports that the district feels the word would be in bad taste so close to Remembrance of the Dead (4 May). To me that suggests (tongue firmly in cheek) a minor victory for the Nazis almost 70 years after they were chased out of the country by Canadian, British and American troops.
Saturday 26 April will be the first King’s Day ever. In 1885 a newspaper editor in Utrecht organised a Princess Day to celebrate the fifth birthday of Princess Wilhelmina, which evolved into Queen’s Day when Wilhelmina ascended the throne. Since then the Netherlands has only had queens, but last year King Willem Alexander took over from his mother during Queen’s Day. King’s Day is celebrated on the king’s birthday, 27 April, except when that date is on a Sunday—then the holiday will be moved to Saturday. This year that happens to be the case.
(Photo by Martijn van Exel, some rights reserved)
Tags: King's Day, Queen's Day, Remembrance of the Dead