(A completed historical and participatory project, archived at DANS https://easy.dans.knaw.nl/ui/datasets/id/easy-dataset:58177
Preface: Journey of the Razzia
During the Razzia of Rotterdam on 10 and 11 November 1944 52,000 men between seventeen and fourth were rounded up and next transported to Germany. Only a small number knew to escape. For the German occupier the razzia was a greater success than expected. The resistance paper Vrij Nederland [Free Netherlands] on 14 December 1944 wrote: ‘Fifty thousand Dutchmen let themselves move like sheep and an equal number of women stand by helplessly and see how their husbands and sons are lead defencelessly to Hitler’s slaughterhouse.’
The condemnation by the resistance paper was devastating and wrongful, but got no answer. After the war the deported Rotterdammers did not talk much with one another about the razzia and their experiences. The city had to be rebuilt and the motto was look ahead. But what happened exactly on 10 and 11 November 1944, and how could this happen? The men complied with the summons to report because they were afraid of reprisals by the Nazis. Moreover the Germans created the impression that it all would turn out better than expected: it would last only a few days. Parents, neighbours had to take decisions quick as a flash, and all this while the Germans forced their entrance into the houses with their rifles at the ready, and the city completely surrounded. The condemnation by Vrij Nederland was a bit too easy …
The razzia of Rotterdam happened almost seventy years ago. The story is still not very well known. Is it important to know precisely what happened then? Mr Ben Sijes thinks so. In his investigation in 1951 he worked towards: ‘A better understanding of the complex relation between individual and community, individual and environment, in the modern society – a relationship, analysed and uncovered here of one of the most shocking catastrophes that struck the Dutch people in the Second World War.’
The visual monument Journey of the Razzia will consist of the stories of the transported Rotterdammers recorded in scientific archives and made accessible to the public through an interactive website. The men speaking were boys of about nineteen years old then. They tell about either cooperating or going into hiding, either obeying or resisting. They tell about camaraderie too, about persevering, about returning home and the reconstruction and recovery of Rotterdam.
The monument is based on geographic information systems, combined with Oral History and Open Data. On maps you can see how the city was closed off and what the routes were along which the men were transported to Germany. An extensive (digital) educational programme makes pupils become acquainted with matters like courage, loyalty and perseverance in a special way.
Journey of the Razzia seeks to tell the story of the razzia again. So that eye witnesses at the time, assisted by innovative techniques and new media, may cast light on the complex relationship between individual and community in society at the time, by which we are able to draw a comparison with events today and may contribute to an informed citizenship and social cohesion in the end.
This is the description of a visual monument for the Razzia of Rotterdam. This monument, called Journey of the Razzia, consists of filmed testimonies of a number of the total of 52,000 men who were transported on 10 and 11 November 1944 during the razzia by German soldiers.
The story of the razzia tells about the largest razzia the German occupier ever carried out during the Second World War. This time it did not concern the deportation of millions of Jews but of average Rotterdam men, who were considered by the Germans as a major threat in a decisive stage in the war. The fact is that they did not want to be attacked in the back by the suppressed population during their retreating movements.
Besides, the Germans needed forced labour. This led to the decision to transport all men of Rotterdam and Schiedam in the age between seventeen and fourth, involuntarily and all at once.
The victims of the razzia tell about a journey to a chaotic and besieged Germany. The story is about violence, lack of power, but also about little resistance. We hear how 52,000 men managed to keep their heads above water and how after they returned home, had to build up Rotterdam. The story of the razzia forms only one of the ‘founding stories’ of the city. A story that will be of great interest for the rest of the Netherlands.
Maybe two hundred of all witnesses are still alive. A number of them will meet in the Feijenoord Stadium in November at the annual commemoration. Their numbers become smaller and smaller. We must hurry to record their stories. During a commemoration Mayor Aboutaleb said about the commemoration of the razzia:
“I realised during the many talks I had with the victims and eye witnesses, that their sufferings have often remained underexposed and that they deserve more attention during commemorations. Indeed I see it as my business to conserve their stories for younger generations.”
This proposal wants to make a new way of commemorating possible. Not only commemorating the razzia is important but also making the razzia of Rotterdam better known to a wider audience. The visual monument Journey of the Razzia will exist of the stories of the transported Rotterdammers, filed in scientific archives and made accessible to the public through an innovative and interactive website.
On 10 November 2014 it will be seventy years ago that the Razzia of Rotterdam happened. That day only a small group of razzia veterans will attend the commemoration at the Feijenoord stadium. That is why 2014 will be an important year for the starting shot for the visual monument Journey of the Razzia. The still alive razzia veterans, their children, the Municipality, historians, funds, the business world and most and for all Rotterdammers – old and young- will contribute to making the Razzia of Rotterdam more widely known. A shared past and united future will take a central position here.
Backgrounds of the project
On the evening of 9 November 1944 8,000 German troops were put into action in ‘Aktion Rosenstock’. Quietly a cordon of troops was thrown round Rotterdam and Schiedam. All important bridges and strategic points were cordoned off, trams ran no longer and telephone communications were obstructed. On the two following days over 52,000 Rotterdammers and Schiedammers between seventeen and forty were rounded up and transported to Germany to do hard labour there. This means that the Razzia of Rotterdam is the largest round-up ever by the German National Socialist regime, wherever in the occupied territories.
Indeed it means an outrageous action people talked about a lot in the rest of the Netherlands. The resistance paper Vrij Nederland wrote: ‘Fifty thousand Dutchmen let themselves move like sheep and an equal number of women stand by helplessly and see how their husbands and sons are lead defencelessly to Hitler’s slaughterhouse.’
The historiography (Sijes) places the event in a more realistic light: the fact was that escape was impossible. Men from all over Rotterdam and Schiedam, from all districts, from different backgrounds, all were ordered out of their houses, put behind bars and transported. The razzia struck the whole city. It struck the Rotterdammer because the women and relatives left behind just had to manage and struggle along and survive, often without income, and this too in the Winter of Starvation.
The boys and men who were on the way did not spend much time on long term prophesying. They lived from day to day for the most, because daily life was full of dangers. During the journey the transported Mr Wim Leer in ‘t Veld saw a Jewish man be shot down right in front of his eyes. The man was then kicked into the ice cold river IJssel. All his life Wim has never wanted to go to Germany for a holiday. Another partner in misfortune Mr Jan Hoek, tells about the situation after the liberation, when even being out of danger and safe was still far away.
“Two boys were sleeping at a farm and what happened then? It was in the evening and then this one boy came back, crying: his buddy had been shot by an SSer because this man had demanded that place for himself to sleep. That boy said ‘The war is over now, just stop it.’ But that SSer just didn’t. He kept on, the boy refused and so he shot down the boy. His friend came to us crying. We buried him in a white coffin. With nothing else …”
Razzia unknown in Rotterdam and to young persons
Strangely enough the Rotterdam razzia is an unknown phenomenon in the Netherlands. Surely NIOD historian Ben Sijes already in 1951 mapped out what happened. However, the razzia has never become a household word for the elderly Rotterdammers, leave alone young people or the rest of the Netherlands. The reason may be that after the war people did not speak about it much. The city and the port had to be rebuilt, so the Dutch rolled up their sleeves and worked hard. What was more, many razzia victims had had experiences that were difficult to share. Also Mr Albert Oosthoek, Rotterdam historian, confirms that the razzia has remained unknown,
both at local and national level, in Rotterdam, Schiedam and in the rest of the Netherlands.
A number of investigations shows that young people’s knowledge of the history of the Second World War could well be a lot better. 1. For most young Dutch the cruelties and the sufferings and violence of war are none of their business. However, it is of vital importance to know, both in historical perspective and the world of today. ‘Without our empathy with victims, indifference to far away conflicts comes nearer,’ the Dutch National Committee 4-5 May states in the ‘National Freedom Investigation’. The Second World War is about universal themes like the individual and the masses, collaboration and resistance, authority and obedience. Project Journey of the Razzia shows what happens with individuals in a society under extreme pressure and repression.
Commemoration of the razzia
Mr Jaap Folst, then seventeen, was one of the transported men. Until today he is still surprised that he has come out of it alive. “No one can explain what it does to you if you haven’t been through it yourself.” Nevertheless Folst thought that one thing and another obviously had to be explained. “If only to hand on to younger generations how intolerance can end in such excesses”. In 1994 Folst took the initiative to commemorating the Razzia of Rotterdam. That had a sequel and in 2010, after five earlier commemorations, Folst together with Mayor Aboutaleb unveiled the razzia commemoration plaque in the Feijenoord Stadium; the spot where so many Rotterdammers had to assemble in anticipation of their transport.
(1 Source: ‘Nationaal Vrijheidsonderzoek’ van het Nationaal Comité 4-5 mei)
They were young men then. Today -getting on in years by now- they meet annually during the commemoration of the razzia and exchange stories. “You know, talking to one another is worth such a lot”, Jaap Folst says in an interview with a journalist. The story states: “There should be thousands of townsmen for whom the razzia of November 1944 and what followed is still a reality, forever images that do not fade in time, even after all those years. Even if time flies.”
The commemoration makes the interest in the razzia grow. This is a fascinating history very well showing what it means if you have to struggle to survive in a situation where you have nowhere to go, transported to a country with its back against the wall, and preparing for the last defence. “It is so good that more attention will be paid to the commemoration of the razzia in Rotterdam of 10 and 11 November 1944. In comparison with the bombing of Rotterdam in May 1940 the razzia has been scarcely commemorated. We must keep on honouring the victims and let them live on in the history of our city.” Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb spoke these words during a commemoration in the Grote- of Sint Laurenskerk, a church in Rotterdam. He mentioned the two dates 14 May 1940, the day when the heart of the city was destroyed by German bombing, and 10 November 1944, when 52,000 men like slaves were transported by the Germans, two black days in the history of Rotterdam.
Commemorating in the future
‘Grandpa, what really happened in the Second World War?’ This question will be asked less and less often since the number of grandpas and grandmas who consciously lived during the war and the razzia has decimated. Only one to two hundred Dutch lived during the war as an adult. How should we continue commemorating and passing on memories today? According to a recent estimation no more than two hundred out of the 52,000 transported men may still live. It looks as if -in a few years time- only a few can tell about the razzia, straight from the horse’s mouth. Commemorating, keeping alive the history of the people and the events that made Rotterdam what it is today, will be a lot more difficult without these witnesses.
According to Ms Ann Rigney, professor of literary theory at Utrecht University, studying the strength of stories in the (collective) memory, it is often grandparents who are crucial in passing on history. “Often children have to free themselves from parents, but when the grandparents attain a great age, young people like to know very much how it was in the old days. And in turn the grandparents themselves too like to tell.” 2
(2 Source: Trouw 04-05-12)
New ways of commemorating
The problem of the untold stories and the lack of knowledge and consciousness demand a solution like Steven Spielberg invented. After shooting his film ‘Schindler’s List’ he set up the ‘Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation’ in 1994 in order to interview survivors all over the world. The testimonies collected by Spielberg are meant for research but can also be viewed by the public in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, among other places. The archives hold a collection of nearly 52,000 interviews in 32 languages from 65 countries. This means that they are the most extensive visual history archives in the world.
The Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has initiated a project similar to Spielberg’s. Between 2007 and 2010 over ! 23 million was put up for the preservation and better accessibility of important inheritance material about the Second World War. This happened as part of the programme Inheritance of the War. 221 projects received a grant. However, again the Razzia of Rotterdam cannot be found. It is missing too on the NIOD website Getuigenissnverhalen.nl.
“The Razzia of Rotterdam was a unique event for the Netherlands” Steven Sage states, a historian working for the United States Holocaust Museum. Therefore the Rotterdammers who lived through the razzia deserve to be admitted to the Dutch canon of the Second World War. The foundation Journey of the Razzia wants to achieve this aim in a particular way.
It is important that the awareness of the Razzia of Rotterdam increases and that this event, so important for the Netherlands and the DNA of Rotterdam and Schiedam, will enter the public eye. The project Journey of the Razzia, based on testimonies by the razzia veterans, makes the recording of this unknown cultural heritage possible, as well as opening it up for both Rotterdam and a national audience to commemorate in the future. Journey of the Razzia has the intention to become a most valuable addition to the historiography of Rotterdam and a meeting place for present-day and future commemorating. The plan for the visual monument Journey of the Razzia covers three concrete objectives:
Oral History archives with testimonies by people who lived through the razzia and the journey to Germany, so enabling investigation into the backgrounds of the razzia.
Making use of those testimonies in an interactive visual monument published on the web.
Opening up the Razzia of Rotterdam for a wide audience, making it accessible and understandable to young people in a school project and finally breathe new life into the annual razzia commemoration.
1. HistoryLab – Recording testimonies
100 interviews and testimonies by eye witnesses
Interviews with witnesses of the razzia form the basis of the visual monument. The objective is to come to interviews with 70 transported men. Each interview deals with themes like the razzia, the journey, the employment, the return journey, the homecoming and the work after the liberation. In order to be able to present an image of the home front, the people who struggled to stay alive without the men, we will further interview at least 30 people who stayed behind, mainly women, with the theme of the Winter of Starvation. Grandchildren will read diaries aloud and in this way will travel along with the razzia victims.
In recording Oral History interviews with eye witnesses, by making them suitable for filing and by filing the interviews in scientific archives, future generations may continue to learn the story of the Razzia of Rotterdam. Reading aloud diaries and letters by grandchildren In order to give all the dead razzia victims too a place in the monument, the diaries and letters of twenty of them will be read aloud. These texts will be read aloud by (great)grandchildren of the razzia victims to connect the Razzia of Rotterdam to young people’s perception, in particular to descendants. In order to make the image of the home front complete, we let them read aloud too correspondence between those who stayed at home and the razzia victims, as well as diaries kept in Rotterdam during the Winter of Starvation. These indirect witnesses’ accounts, just like the interviews with the razzia veterans themselves, are accessible through the visual monument. In this way the razzia victims -seventeen year old at the time- will be accompanied by the young people of today. (See also: school project).
Research and use of archives material
Existing archives material is scarce and will be used and made topical as far as possible. Film and photographic material of locations in the Netherlands and in Germany that play a part in the witnesses’ stories, will be looked for as a supplement to topographic maps. The men of the razzia found themselves in a country preparing for the ‘Last Stand’. We will try to make use of dates regarding troop movements and the like to be able to sketch the complicated environment where the razzia victims landed.
For Journey of the Razzia Rotterdam historian Mr Albert Oosthoek carries out original research so that new understandings may see the light. In this way a valuable addition will partly fill this gap in the historiography of Rotterdam. The razzia is placed not only in the context of the transportation, but especially in the context of the (post-war) reconstruction of the city. In establishing this connection an image of people with stamina develops, and less of victims. This unique point of departure will influence the perception of witnesses and so the quality of the interviews. Comparing will make clear that each person looks to the events from his own perspective. The story will become a compound history doing justice to the complexity of it all.
2. MediaLab – the Visual Monument
The Visual Monument
Journey of the Razzia combines interviews and interactive ICT applications, so making the visitor part of an experience, and make him take part in history. The visual monument will become an interactive web interface, that can be projected on electronic blackboards and even be viewed on a mobile. The system will exist of a series of maps showing the complete closing off Rotterdam during the razzia. The journey to Germany too can be followed on digital maps. We follow part of the 52,000 transported men by looking into the routes covered. Along those routes markers are put on which by clicking show then an interview with a witness who tells about an event en route: “You are tired and you think at a certain moment ‘what the heck, I’ll make a run for it. But you didn’t have the courage because they were walking around you with those rifles, you were afraid that you were rounded up, kicked into a camp, or whatever…” (Mr. Wim Leer in ‘t Veld)
On a map of 1944 for instance the route can be traced to a little town in Germany where razzia victim Mr Gerard Woudstra worked as a convict in a factory. As a seventeen year old boy without any experience he tells he was forced to operate a heavy punch. Working on the machine he lost his fingers in an accident. His nickname became The Claw. The memory still hurts today, he tells in his interview.
In the footsteps of the transported Rotterdammers
The used maps are based on GIS: geographic information systems. This revolutionary method of working makes it possible to lay on maps of 1944 on today’s maps. By making the old map transparent you will arrive at Google Maps and have a look at the location as it is today. For instance by pointing out a razzia victim’s home address it becomes clear: there it happened, this is the spot from where the witness was transported. We can walk along next in the footsteps of this transported Rotterdammer. So a concrete image is given of the hardship gone through. An image of men who permanently thought of surviving.
‘The people who lived there (Zwolle) couldn’t believe their eyes, there were all these people in those barges. And a woman was there too, she collected mail, for I had written a letter that I would try to escape. But I had put that letter into a post-box. A little later an SSer arrived and ordered machine guns to be mounted in the street, and then our letters were taken from us.’ (Mr Wim de Jager)
All interviews will be collected and changed into an epic story. This story is linear but can also be followed thematically. For instance you can search on the theme loyalty. The aim is participants’ commemoration, to make the visitor part of an experience. In this way the consciousness of what happened may develop into a lasting way.
In coupling fragments of the interviews to locations and by allowing each witness to tell about a small part of the route, a compound narrative will come into being. That is to say that everyone contributes to one whole big story. This format emphasises the hardship the Rotterdammers endured together. The visitor of the website Journey of the Razzia follows the route of the transported men. Yet it may be interesting also to stop at a place like Kampen for instance, where many deportees from Rotterdam were gathered. There you may compare the separate events on that spot. this way a completer image will develop of what happened there and then.
Events which were experienced together will be linked and so make it possible for the visitor to have a look at the same incident from different points of view. In this way connections will be made which would not be clear by watching the interviews separately. Incidents regarding the razzia are coupled to the map, to space and time. A number of men lived through certain special events together. Shooting dead of three boys in Wezep, a train accident in Germany, a Rotterdam hypnotist who pulled the Germans’ legs. ‘Clustering these small stories, that is to say by having more witnesses telling them, will create separate interactive documentaries within the big story. The razzia becomes a collection of shared experiences in this way.
Clustering stories broadens the research of Oral History, it creates smaller but exceptional documentaries within the big story, and sketches a history that will reach beyond just an anecdote. It shows new connections and so contributes to a current investigation.
Innovative web interface
Telling stories is a binding aspect of our society. Time and place are essential elements here, and obviously topographic maps are the means. Maps used to tell us stories in a singularly understated way. Now, supercharged by digital technology, instantaneously distributed across electronic networks, and enlivened by innovative user experiences, they’ve become much more active and versatile storytellers.’ (Mr Allen Carroll, programme manager ESRI and head of the Story Maps team).
The topographic map is the basis of visualization. The interactive interface on top of it forms the most important instrument for navigation. The starting point here is that after the razzia the journey was made under pressure. We try to make that pressure noticeable by limiting the interactivity. The journey can only be made under conditions. This means that a limited intervention is possible, just like the razzia victims experienced. In designing the interactive interface we actually look for a form of ‘serious gaming’ that will do justice to the experience of the men at the time.
Forms of cooperation: web interface
For a coherent and optimum result more parties and persons from different disciplines are involved in the project Journey of the Razzia, like geo-technology, cartography, data structuring and creative (web)design, among other things. The main point lies in the development in Rotterdam and we look for supplementary knowledge with sister institutes.
Forms of cooperation: filing and distribution of interviews
Journey of the Razzia deals with Oral History interviews in a special way. It concerns both recording, filing as well as a creative application. The project uses an innovative form of data visualisation. Out of these ‘best practices’ will be created that may be significant and important for other national oral history projects, also because one seeks contact with open data systems by which the project has prospects for growing in the future. Data on population composition, movements of troops, acts of war and visual photographic material of the war and after, make the overall picture abundant and extraordinarily appropriate as a source for further investigation.
The oral history interviews will be transcribed electronically in cooperation with Dr. Arjan Hessen, Universiteit Twente, and the Comsys company. The interviews are carefully annotated to be able to make connections. Journey of the Razzia so generates original investigation results that will contribute to the historiography of Rotterdam. For the filing and distribution of the Oral history interviews with meta data we have realized the support and assistance of a number of important parties:
The interviews are permanently stored with Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS), an institute connected with the Koninklijke Nederlandse Academie of Wetenschappen (KNAW) and the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Investigation (NWO). DANS makes the interviews accessible for future investigation through their own investigation channel: https://easy.dans.knaw.nl/ui/home and further through the NIOD public channels www.getuigenissenverhalen.nl and the network ‘war records’, www.oorlogsbronnen.nl a cooperation between NIOD and KNAW, also including the results of the programme ‘Inheritance of the War’.
3. NetworkLab – social networking and education
Journey of the Razzia is an important cultural heritage that will be opened up and embedded in society. Due to this the traditional dividing lines between target group and network, between sponsor and partner become faint. Commemorating the Second World War in the future will have a different character because eye witnesses will no more be alive. What Journey of the Razzia has in mind actually is a new way of commemorating. A transition takes place from passively commemorating to commemorating by ‘storytelling’ through social networking.
Target group A – Rotterdammers It is important to increase the Rotterdammers’ consciousness about the razzia. The monument Journey of the Razzia forms part of the history of the city that borders on a community identity. The story may join Rotterdammers of all families, young and old, because it was an event that struck a large group without distinguishing between persons. The monument emphasizes what people lived through together. Each will contribute to one total story, and a bond between generations will develop, and past and future will be brought together.
Rotterdam is a ‘working city’ where working hard is considered of paramount importance. Although not everyone identifies himself with the traditional image of the hard working Rotterdammer, many people and businesses feel proud and propagate this feeling The men who had been transported after the razzia just went to work again after they had returned home. The same goes for the ones that had stayed behind and the others who came back from the Arbeitseinsatz.
The post-war reconstruction of the Netherlands had absolute priority and not much was spoken about the experiences during the razzia. This ‘don’t talk, just work,’ however, has led to a gap in history. Regrettable, since this history shows how people responded to hard circumstances during the razzia, the journey and the stay in Germany. Calling attention to the razzia is showing a sign of respect for the perseverance of the transported men in the war and after.
During the production of Journey of the Razzia a social network has been built by the project through involving Rotterdammers and Schiedammers, and looking for witnesses. The appeal to witnesses of the razzia to promote the commemoration has run through the local media: Rotterdam newspapers, free local papers, RTV-Rijnmond and various web forums, among others.
Target group B – the razzia victims and their descendants. Children and grandchildren of the fathers who lived through the razzia can stand by the future commemorations. These descendants often live and work in the Rotterdam area, in other words in the environment that their fathers have built. This a group of an estimated 50,000 people from all levels of society. It would mean a great loss when the story of the razzia would slowly fade away into the background. Physically commemorating, keeping the razzia alive, will be very difficult in the future without razzia victims present. Journey of the Razzia will become a meeting place for present-day and future commemorating. Solidarity with the razzia victims will back up its survivors.
Descendants often know only fragments of the story and are glad to find a reason to get to know their (grand)father‘s’ whole history. Bringing together all stories creates an image of the time as well as the environment making it easy to imagine
his or her (grand)father. This is what unites the group of descendants and makes them part of the history of a city and their own family.
In order to contact both the razzia victims who are still alive and their partners, children and grandchildren and to involve them in the monument and the commemoration we have developed a network forum. Recording interviews with the men of the razzia arouses their partners’ (who stayed behind), children’s and grandchildren’s interest in the story. Installing a database with their personal data makes it possible to invite them to commemorate, both physically and virtually. The network forum gives these descendants an opportunity to find each other, and meet and express their commitment, to actively commemorate the members of the family, share stories, back up each other, keep contact and meet during the annual commemoration. The razzia veterans look forward to the forum where they hope to find old friends again. Also they will find the one who sat next to them during transport, or slept in the same barrack.
The network forum will be linked directly to the visual monument. Visitors feeling concerned will have the opportunity -through the network forum- to leave a personal message, a reaction or some other contribution. For instance it may be an attachment like a photograph or letter from the war) and to share their perception with other visitors. Visitors may -after registration- directly react to specific issues, persons or events. The forum is a separate but indeed implicit part of the monument.
Target group C – Secondary school pupils. The razzia as well as the bombing of Rotterdam is a story relatively unknown to young people. This story takes place locally, but joins in with national themes like resistance and collaboration, the Winter of Starvation, the liberation and the post-war reconstruction of the Netherlands. These themes are often included in the secondary education curriculum History & Social Studies. Teachers always have a need for educational tools that will effect the necessary perception to improve the manual used. Besides, they look for themes that couple skills like establishing the truth, multiple perspectives and assessment and prediction. These elements are mobilized in Journey of the Razzia for educational purposes in a way that appeal to pupils. We bring up a number of subject matters bridging past and today, making young people being emotionally affected, and so connecting past and present. This will make the realize that it ever so important to protect and respect a democratic constitution.
The razzia looks like an ‘adventure story ’ but is one that actually happened. The city was surrounded and there was no chance of escaping: this will certainly fascinate young people. The elderly people who are telling today were boys then. They were part of a large group of men transported regardless of belief or descent. An epic story about universal themes like heroism, escapes, hard labour, bodily harm and death, but also about courage, fidelity, love, resilience and perseverance. They will identify more easily owing to the fact that pupils -also those of non-Dutch descent- may compare themselves to the young razzia victims in those days.
School project Rotterdam and Schiedam pupils
Young Rotterdammers contribute to the realization of the project in different ways. Twenty young people from Rotterdam, descendants of the razzia victims, who therefore have a close tie with the razzia through their grandfather, read out aloud diaries and letters of the razzia victims now dead. Bringing in young people may be done through the grandfathers, but also by a call to school managements and teachers of Social Studies and/or History of all secondary education schools in Rotterdam. This approach serves as the overture for a school project making the visual monument easily accessible and understandable for twenty classes, meaning 500 pupils in secondary education in Rotterdam (from Lower Secondary Professional Education / Higher General Secondary Education to Pre-University Education):
In class The grandchildren of razzia veterans become the ambassadors and together with these young people we organize a school tour with visiting lectures introducing the project Journey of the Razzia in their class and school. Next the teacher will deal with the razzia in class as an important aspect of the Second World War, helped by a syllabus developed by the Dutch National Institute for War Documentation. On the E-board the journey of the razzia victims can be followed. On pupils’ requests the teacher is the mediator who chooses fragments on the routes.If you haven’t been told, you can’t remember (Als het je niet is verteld kun je het ook niet weten). (Uit het tv- programma ‘War hero in my Family’, Channel5 UK)
Digital learning environment
In the monument a digital learning environment is fitted out, where pupils may follow individual routes and investigate into the circumstances in Rotterdam and Germany in 1944. Children may choose their own ‘avatar’: their ‘own’ grandpa, or ‘adopt’ someone and follow him on the journey. In this way the pupil will develop an affinity with a razzia victim. He may like to know what this person has gone through and wonder what he himself would have done in his place. The pupil may also start an investigation on the basis of a theme. ‘Would you come along or not? Do you have any possibility to resist and if so, what is it?’
Individual testing and coaching
The pupils’ recently acquired knowledge can be individually tested. The search for behaviour and ‘circumstance’ can be assigned homework. It may be set up as a theme on the hand of issues like loyalty, betrayal, courage and acceptance. The investigation result can be a composition, a talk or a work of art (monument) and may be shared with others by a link with social media: Hyves, Facebook and Twitter (see also: publicity campaign). The result of the test is available to the teachers on their own monitor page. Instructions are developed for the teacher that make the school project easily transferable and self-supporting. The instructions exist of information on the razzia, FAQs, and ‘best practices,’ among other things.
The visual monument and the learning environment will introduce young people to elementary themes like freedom, democracy, legal order and active citizenship. We think that this new way of commemorating is appropriate in our time and therefore will appeal to young people. This approach -linking cultural heritage to innovative ICT, social media and design- challenges young people to participate, will increase solidarity with elderly people and will also increase attention for commemorating the razzia in the future.
Cooperation with Rotterdam and national parties
Developing the school project we cooperate with both local and national parties : The Dutch National Institute for War Documentation (NIOD) develops the education plan that fits in with the primary targets in education, with historical foundations and simple visual material and references. The practice of teaching will be the starting point here. The education plan forms the basis of the digital learning environment. On the basis of the education plan also a strategy is set up to be implemented in national education. That strategy will be a pilot project at various schools in Rotterdam.
For pupils we link Journey of the Razzia to existing activities around WO II by the WarResistanceMuseum, Museum Rotterdam and City Archives Rotterdam. Further we link to their websites and www.brandgrens.nl the location where Rotterdam centres education on WO II. In this way pupils already following a project, like archives investigation, the Fire Boundary Tour, or a visit to the WarResistanceMuseum, will easily find Journey of the Razzia, and vice versa. The organisations contribute also to the realization of the school project as regards content.
Preserving in Rotterdam and national implementation
The recruitment of classes will run through the ambassadors (grandchildren.) Furthermore we will approach Rotterdam secondary education schools through Bureau Youth, Education and Society (JOS), the WarResistanceMuseum, Museum Rotterdam, the Rotterdam Municipal Archives and coordinating school organisations like Foundation Boor, LMC, CVO, RKVO, PCBO, Koers VO. Through these organisations the project can be accommodated as a pilot at schools. After 2014 when an infrastructure for further distribution has developed and after evaluation and consultation with the authorities concerned, Journey of the Razzia can be introduced as a permanent theme at Rotterdam and Schiedam schools. We aim at both preservation in existing classes and distribution to other classes inside and outside the school. In this way the project -from 2015 onward- has a potential reach of almost 40,000 pupils at 45 Secondary Education Schools in Rotterdam and Schiedam. After a successful realisation of the pilot project we will aim for implementation in the all of the Netherlands. This unique combination of subject, themes and skills makes the project is also suitable for national use.
Target group D – the Rotterdam business world. ‘And slowly ports, shipyards and businesses revived. Everyday life recovered. Rotterdam and the Rotterdammers rose to their feet after the blows and blotted out the traces of the acts of war and war misery in their midst.’ (Ben Sijes)
The business world is involved in the social network, since the fact is that it plays a major role in the history of Rotterdam. The bigger part of the 50,000 men just went back to work as usual. For instance to Van Ommeren and Pakhuismeesteren, (Vgrandpak), SHV, Wilton Feijenoord, Rotterdam Municipal Port Management , BPM (Shell) or the Rotterdam Tram Company. Or Koninklijke Rotterdamse Lloyd (Nedlloyd), Timber Yard Abraham van Stolk & Sons, and then the many shipping companies, importers and producers Rotterdam and the port counted.
The business world and the port of Rotterdam, directly or indirectly, owe a lot to the effort and the perseverance of the razzia victims, people involved in the Arbeitseinsatz and their members of the family. Rebuilding the port and the business world was of major importance for the all of the Netherlands. Rebuilding is owed to a large extent to the stamina of the very same men and their families who suffered by the razzia, Arbeitseinsatz and the Winter of Starvation.
In the NetworkLab functionaries from the business world form a specific social network. From their position and with their knowledge they act as the ambassadors of the project. We will approach them with the request to investigate together with us if his/her company too counted razzia victims among their employees, and next honour these people in their internal and external communication. This will strengthen the DNA of the company, its position in the region, and so helps to embed the story in the community. Furthermore we will ask them to commit themselves to our network forum. We have in mind at least nine companies, from which a total of 30 functionaries will be actively involved in the project. Indirectly this may even prove to be more, when employees get to know the Journey of the Razzia through the internal communication of the company.
Target group E – The Netherlands. A target group at second level but surely important, is the Dutchman. After the bombing of Rotterdam marked a fire boundary across the city, Operation Rosenstock added a new boundary to Rotterdam. Namely 52,000 men were rounded up within that boundary and transported. It meant an unprecedented action about which a lot was spoken in the rest of the Netherlands. Secretly surrounding a city the scope of Rotterdam and next rounding up the major part of its male population and that with a great display of power, makes the razzia a unique national event. Restoring the Rotterdam business world after the war was most important for the post-war reconstruction of the Netherlands. The men who returned home and their families here proved to have made great sacrifices, sacrifices that justify exceptional national attention. Furthermore the razzia victims were often helped by inhabitants in the areas or city they travelled through.
The Dutch may learn all sorts of aspects regarding WOII through the NIOD website www.getuigenverhalen.nl among other things. However, the Razzia of Rotterdam they will not find yet, which means a gap that should be filled up. Furthermore the full story has not been told yet in an accessible and appealing way. We aim at completing witnesses’ stories and hope to start a publicity campaign, because of the national significance of the project Journey of the Razzia, one with a national character.
4. Launch of monument and commemoration
By the middle of 2014 the visual monument will be ready. It will have been put into use already by Rotterdam and Schiedam pupils. The spin-off and results of their action -together with the results of the network forum- will be the overture to the official launch of the visual monument.Journey of the Razzia has actually in mind a new way of commemorating. A transition takes place from passively commemorating to commemorating by ‘storytelling’ by means of social networking. The Foundation Journey of the Razzia sees gathering and meeting as the supreme good as soon as it concerns commemorating, both physically and virtually, both locally and nationally.
The official launch coincides with the commemoration of the razzia in November 2014 when it will be 70 years ago that it happened. It will be organised in close cooperation with the City of Rotterdam, the IJsselmonde urban district and the Feijenoord Stadium. We aim to invite razzia veterans as many as we can, and also members of the family, pupils from the school project, business world representatives and other Rotterdammers and Schiedammers, all for the commemoration in the Feijenoord Stadium.
This text was part of the business plan of the project Journey of the Razzia
(c) 2012 Erik de Jager