A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
I mentioned Rudolph Pabus Cleveringa in the previous post about Johan Huizinga; he was the colleague who offered Huizinga a place to live after he was forced to flee the city by the German occupying forces.
In 2004, Cleveringa was nominated the “greatest person of Leiden University” by the readers of Mare, our Institution’s magazine. I would therefore like to tell you about the story of this brave man, who stood against powerful forces in a dangerous time. To Cleveringa has been dedicated the place in front of the Lipsius building (Cleveringaplaats).
He was born in 1894 in Appingedam, a small city in the extreme north of the country. In 1927 he became professor of Commercial and Civil Law at Leiden University. In 1940, as Dean of the Law Faculty, Cleveringa made a breathtaking speech where he denounced the Nazi invaders and their demand to remove all Jewish professors from their positions. He especially opposed the forced resignation of Eduard Marits Meijers, his mentor and colleague who happened to be Jewish.
He was later arrested by the Security Services and put into prison in Scheveningen, in the so-called Orange Hotel, where he was held captive until 1941. His speech drove the students of the University to go on strike; they also printed his discourse and made copies to distribute to other universities throughout the country. This caused the University of Leiden to be closed down by the Nazis.
Cleveringa was transferred to another prison, Camp Vught, where he joined the College of Trusted Men, a group which coordinated the Dutch Resistance. Cleveringa returned to teach at the University of Leiden when it reopened in 1945; he kept his job until 1958 and was awarded of the Medal of Freedom by the American government for his brave actions as a member of the resistance.
To know that our institution hosted such a heroic person should fill of young hearths with pride. We should never forget the heroic endeavours of those who, before us, stood against despotism and fought for academic freedom putting their lives at risk.
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