Liberation project is (almost) over: ‘I didn’t know most of the stories’

A year ago, fleeing Germans and NSB’ers marked the beginning of an extensive online war project: 75 years of liberation. In it, the CCeit followed the news from the last year of the war daily with today’s media, such as a website and an Instagram page.

The project started with Dolle Tuesday, when Germans and NSB’ers on bicycles, in horse-drawn carriages and cars rushed eastwards because of a liberation frenzy in our country:

Next Wednesday, 75 years after the signing of the Japanese capitulation, the project comes to an end. Editor-in-chief Lambert Teuwissen looks back on a year full of stories about life and death, disappointment and hope. “I learned every day. I didn’t know about three quarters of the stories.”

Because in addition to the ‘broad outlines’ – news reports about the military course of the war – the Teuwissen team also published more personal stories.

About private undertakers, for example, who transported the deceased on cargo bicycles or sledges during the hungry winter because they had no fuel for hearse cars. About the Jewish woman who found her 7-year-old son after the war through a photo in an American magazine. And about the tens of thousands of civilians in Japanese camps in the former Dutch East Indies, who because of hunger even saw cow guts as a delicacy.

Yom Kippur

The editors discovered the stories by reading – a lot of reading. Google and the digital newspaper archive Delpher also turned out to be useful sources. One of the most beautiful stories Teuwissen came across was the celebration of the Jewish feast Yom Kipur, on 27 September 1944.

“It was the first celebration in the liberated south and at the same time the last in occupied territory. In Maastricht Jews held a little rope service in their battered synagogue, while in Amsterdam there was another synagogue where believers gathered in the deepest secrecy to celebrate this holiday in spite of everything. That contrast gave me a goosebumps moment.”

Anthology

Teuwissen noticed from the many reactions to the project that others also knew how to appreciate the stories. “We received messages from people who had experienced the war as children and who now saw how certain events related to each other. Or they said: ‘My parents never wanted to talk about the war, but now I understand what they went through.'”

In October a book will be published in which the most beautiful, important and exciting stories are bundled. It will really be an anthology, says Teuwissen, with 365 stories: one for every day. “We can’t be complete, so you have to make choices. But you do get a sample of the whole year of the war.”

In the book you therefore read a story about the allied paratroopers of Operation Market Garden one day, and a piece on a completely different subject the next. “You can have a story about Market Garden every day, but that’s not our goal. We don’t want to tell the war story from A to Z in the book, but to show its impact on society”

Solid block

Teuwissen still has to get used to the idea that the online liberation project is almost over. “I am well trained by now: if I hear a date from the war somewhere, I immediately prick up my ears. Do I have to do something with that? They were all really nice stories to write. And this form of journalism turned out to be very suitable for the subject. You clearly see how something came into being, instead of being presented with a massive block of history.”

Stories and images that you might not find in every history book were also given a place on the liberation site:

Sometimes readers asked the editors how a particular story ended. The children’s razzia in Limburg, for example, in which the Germans invaded houses after an anonymous tip-off to find Jewish children in hiding. “We really wrote the articles as news items, as if we were journalists at the time,” says Teuwissen. “So without knowing the outcome.”

In the weekly newsletter, which was sent to some 35,000 interested parties, his project team was able to provide a little more context and background. “Still, many readers wentogled themselves. For example, they wanted to know what had happened to those Jewish children from Limburg. Unfortunately not all of them survived the war.”

On the website nos.nl/75jaar liberation new stories will be posted until Wednesday 2 September. You can also read back all articles from the past year.