A SHORT HISTORY OF THE SNEEVLIET MEMORIAL COMMITTEE

After the death of Henk Sneevliet and his fellow-combatants the Marx-Lenin-Luxemburg-Front (MLL-Front), that is the illegal organisation of the Revolutionary Socialist Labour Party (RSAP) during the Second World War, disintegrated in two groups. They had opposite views concerning the defence of the Soviet Union. The Trotskyite Comité van Revolutionaire Marxisten (CRM)[Committee of Revolutionary Marxists (CRM] was in favour of defence while Spartacus, the other group which was evolving to councilcommunist ideas, was against it. Later on different political ideas sometimes were leading to political and personal friction in the Sneevliet Memorial Committee. But the Committee is no union or party and till now it is functioning to entire satisfaction as a Flower Committee.

How it started ...

In 1945 a Committee was started to arrange the cremation of the dead comrades. There were also plans for a monument at Westerveld, a crematory/cemetry in the dunes of North-Holland in the small town Velsen.
On saturday the 10th of november 1945 many people marched along the streets of Amsterdam behind cars and carriages to the statue of Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis, the celebrated caller-up of the Dutch working class in the neighteenth- and begin twentieth century. After that they travelled to Westerveld where the cremation took place. It had been an impressing procession.
A year later the urns were placed, only by the family members, in the monument that was built.

 

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The 6th of november 1945, Westerveld after the urns had been placed.

Till 1952 there was not much attention paid to the monument.

In 1951 Toon van den Berg, union leader and Piet van 't Hart (nickname Max Perthus), the biographer of Henk Sneevliet suggested to publish a pamphlet in 1952, ten years after the execution, a pamphlet in memory of the comrades. But too much had to be said in that pamphlet! In the end a first commemoration volume was the result: Voor Vrijheid en Socialisme [For Freedom and Socialism]. It was published one and a half year later, in 1953. The printer-master was Eddy van Lambaart who had printed the journal Spartacus for the MLL-Front for some time during the war. He was willing to print the book and take the financial risk for a part too. The Committee had good luck: the book was selling well. After a few years it was out of print. It is a rare second hand book now.


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Mien Sneevliet-Draaijer speaks at the monument, 9 november 1946.

In the year 1951 the Sneevliet Memorial Committe started. Without derogating the names ofthe other revolutionarysocialist: the name 'Sneevliet' is a well-known name for the outside public. An appeal of the Sneevliet Memorial Committee to political friends and adherents, with the approval of the families, met with a great response. That resulted in a first commemoration on the 13th of April 1952. It took place in auditorium Bellevue, well-known in Amsterdam, and after that at Westerveld near the monument.

... and how it went on

Voices were heard then to stop the Sneevliet Memorial committee. Some people said they did not want to make a personal cult of it.
It was Marie de Jong-Lagerwaard who would not loose hold of it. She had the intention then, she told me years later, to commemorate the comrades at Westerveld as long as the women of the men who were shot down, would live. From 1953 on, more than fourty years – Marie died in 1997 -, she sustained in good coöperation with my mother Hennie de Winter- van Tilborg. Of course they were supported by the other members of the Sneevliet Memorial Committee. To that Committee belonged members of the family like Ellen Santen, Pien Visser-Menist and Frans Dolleman. But also political adherents like Theo van Veen who married Sima Sneevliet, Sneevliets daughter, in 1988. She managed to leave the Soviet Union for good.
It is beyond dispute that the will-power and persistance of Marie de Jong-Lagerwaard have been of great importance for the continual existence of the Sneevliet Memorial Committee. After her death again voices were heard to stop the Committee. But the present-day members did not want to hear about it. They went on. The attendance is very satisfactory. Every year we welcome new interested and also young people. We are happy with that.

Since 1953 the Sneevliet Memorial Committee is editting a yearly circular. The Committee carried for a short while the name ‘Herdenkingscomité Gefusilleerden 13 april-1942-16 oktober’ [Memorialcommittee for those who were shot down 13th of April-1942-16th October]. But it was no good name for the outside world. So we stopped that name.
On the 13th of April and on the 16th of October flowers were laid near the monument. On the 16th of October too, because on that date in 1942 two fellow-combatants of the MLL-Front, Aaldert IJmkers and Johan Roebers who were kept in prison as hostages, were murdered by the Germans in the woods near Austerlitz. The first of May, Day of Labour, was not forgotten too. Also on that day flowers were brought to the monument.
In the course of time many old people passed away or were no longer able to attend three commemorations each year on week days. That is why we decided a few years ago to have one commemoration annually, on a sunday, on or around the 13th of April. That is also a better solution in arranging cars to go to Westerveld.

During all those years the Sneevliet Memorial Committee has achieved a lot. Too much to mention here. But some activities have nevertheless to be recalled by me:

*Highlights were the big commemorations in auditorium Marcanti in Amsterdam in 1972 and in Hotel Lion d'Or in Haarlem in 1992. There were speakers, there was a (small) exhibition and music was played. All happened in the presence of a large audience.

*In 1976 a series of lectures was organised at eight universities; speaker was Dov Bing.

*The Committee was unwearingly zealous in trying to name streets after the comrades. In 1974 it resulted in naming streets after Henk Sneevliet and Ab Menist in a district of Rotterdam called Hoogvliet. In 1994 the Mien Sneevliet-Draaijerstraat [Mien Sneevliet-Draaijerstreet] was added. In other places like for instance Amsterdam, an important road and an underground railwaystation got the name of Henk Sneevliet. In Zwolle, a town in the north of the Netherlands where Henk Sneevliet had lived, a street was named after him too.

*In 1973 the monument at Westerveld that had shown signs of decline, could be renovated with small and greater contributions of those interested. Five years later a separate fund was raised, that if all the members of the Sneevliet Memorial Committee would drop off, there would be enough money to make sure that flowers were laid at the monument for some more years.

*In 1984 the second commemoration volume was published: Internationaal socialisme [International Socialism].

*In 2002 a more extensive third commemoration volume appeared:
Wij moesten door ... [We had to go on ...].

*Of course the encounter with the Chinese delegation of your museum in Shanghai in April this year is still in our mind. The Sneevliet Memorial Committee was able to contribute to investigations of the delegation in Holland and also to the preparations for the exhibition which will start on the 13th of May 2009, the birthday of Henk Sneevliet!

So far this short history of the Sneevliet Memorial Committee.

The members of the Sneevliet Memorial Committee are proud that they are able to do something so that the remembrance of the political faith of Henk Sneevliet and his political brothers-in arms will not be lost.We hope that the brave struggle for Freedom and Socialism of these socialists will be a source of inspiration for ever.
We wish our Chinese friends a beautiful exhibition.


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Shanghai 2009, exhibition about Henk Sneevliet and China

That Henk Sneevliet and his fellow-combatants will be commemorated in a dignified way!

Dick de Winter,
on behalf of the Sneevliet Memorial Committee.