Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Yesterday, when the new Yad Vashem Holocaust museum was opened with many foreign dignitaries attending, the 'father of Dutch WWII-historiography', Lou de Jong ( whom many still call Doctor de Jong, even though he had been a professor for several decades already ) passed away at the age of 90.
De Jong, who was Jewish, escaped with his wife to England right after the German invasion of the Netherlands. During the war he was responsible for the official Dutch radio broadcasts from London. In October 1945 he became the director of the national institute for WWII research. In 1955 he received the official commission from the ministry of Education and Sciences to write a scientific historiography of the war in the Netherlands. That project was supposed to take six years to be completed. With the help of the workers of the institute, the first volume of this study appeared only in 1969, and only in 1988 the last part ( nr. 12, two appendices appeared after that, containing errata, commentaries etc. ) was published. This study - and even more the television series The Occupation which Lou de Jong presented in the first half of the 1960s - turned him into the official spokesperson on anything related to the years 1940-45 in the Netherlands. I always admired him very much, and he seemed to be a very nice person as well. His study, The Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Second World War, is far from perfect and has been ( and will continue to be ) criticized in many ways. Still, no researcher of Dutch WWII history and historiography will ever be able to ignore the work of Dr. de Jong. May his memory be a blessing.

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