Amsterdam loses an anchor with Ed van Thijn, the PvdA an icon and the Netherlands a politician who showed that it is always worth standing up for others. That says fellow PvdAer and fellow Amsterdammer Lodewijk Asscher in response to the death of 87-year-old Van Thijn, who was mayor of Amsterdam for more than ten years and lived in that city for almost all his life.
The PvdA coryfee died this morning in Amsterdam. He had been ill for quite some time.
According to Asscher, Van Thijn, who spent the Second World War hiding at eighteen addresses to escape the Germans as a Jewish child, “managed to convert his history and his identity into a primal force”.
Fight against injustice
Other Social Democrats, such as Member of Parliament Khadija Arib and PvdA group chairman Lilianne Ploumen, praise Van Thijns fight against racism and injustice. According to VVD Prime Minister Rutte, the PvdAer led Amsterdam through turbulent times as mayor.
Khadija Arib, who until recently served as chairman of the House of Representatives, calls the deceased politician “a soft person”:
Ed van Thijn had a long career in local and national politics. In addition to councilor, Minister of Interior and member of the Senate and House of Representatives, he was also able to call himself the longest-serving postwar mayor of Amsterdam. From 1983 to 1994, he was at the helm in the capital, where he stood for a strong administration and a strong police.
Frank de Grave worked closely with Van Thijn in the 90s as deputy mayor of Amsterdam. But that was not the first thing the VVD person thought of when he learned about the death of Van Thijn. “He married my wife and me in 1983,” says De Grave, who Van Thijn also knew personally at the time because they both participated in chess tournaments.
“When he was in the race for mayor, I said: If you become mayor of Amsterdam, you must marry me and my wife. That mayorship was certainly not a running race: it was quite surprising that Van Thijn became it. Maybe he thought: I wont be mayor anyway, let me tell that cheeky young man Ill marry them. And in the end, that happened, in the old council hall. That was very special to experience.”
A real Amsterdammer
De Grave worked very intensively with Van Thijn from 1990 to 1994, until the PvdAer suddenly became Minister of the Interior. “He was a man of many administrative talents,” De Grave looks back. “Although, of course, I didnt always agree with him, because we had a completely different political color.”
Despite that, the then VVD deputy mayor had a lot of admiration for his PvdA colleague. “In the Bijlmer disaster, for example, he played a fantastic role, he was able to articulate the sense of the city and lead the college in a very difficult time.”
De Grave remembers Van Thijn as a very intelligent man, who – partly from his war past – felt closely connected to Amsterdam. “He really loved that city, was a real Amsterdammer. That was acknowledged, and I think that was at the heart of his success as mayor.”
Source of Inspiration
According to PvdA-prominent Felix Rottenberg, also friend of the family, the position of mayor of Amsterdam Van Thijn ultimately fit the best.
Among others, the late former mayor Eberhard van der Laan and the current mayor Femke Halsema are inspired by him, he says:
Rottenberg calls Van Thijn a courageous, independent and empathetic man, who was alert to what threatens civilians. “His vision was: the city, the municipality, the mayor and the aldermen protect the citizens in all circumstances. They act against discrimination and racism, stand up for migrants and refugees and ensure that they are helped. That is the core of what he stood for.”
As an example, Rottenberg mentions the murder of the black teenager Kerwin Duinmeijer in 1983, in the Damstraat in Amsterdam. “Van Thijn then held a big conference at the town hall with hundreds of participants from the city, to talk about: how do we prevent this in the future? This should never happen again.”
Rottenberg, who was co-chair of the PvdA in the 90s, learned a lot from the deceased politician. “Thats how he taught me to stay friendly and take a stand at the same time. He always called me when I had done a good job when I was chairman, but he also called if he thought it was worthless, for example. He did that with a joke, but he didnt put it under chairs or benches. That honesty was nice.”
Take a look back at Ed van Thijns life:
“Im going to miss him,” says Rottenberg. “I miss Den Uyl, many miss Den Uyl, but at exactly the same level that applies to Ed van Thijn.Its about real statesmen. Van Thijn was certainly for sure, without any form of complacency and arrogance.”