Tag Archives: Vrijmaking 1944

Klaas van der Land’s Liberation Story (2)

Klaas van der Land at his home in Edmonton.

I hated church history in school.  There were reasons for that — one of them was the textbook, another was the teaching style.  One day I came home from school and Opa and Oma were visiting.  Opa asked me about my day.  I told him straight up that it was terrible.  He asked why.  I said, “We had church history.  And I hate church history!”  That was one of the few times I’ve seen Opa blow his top.  There was fire in his eyes as the words shot out, “Vat do you mean you hate church history?  Dat is zo important!”  He reamed me out, but to little effect.  I continued hating church history through my school years.  I didn’t understand until later why Opa got so passionate about this subject.

As mentioned yesterday, my Opa van der Land experienced a momentous event in church history, the Liberation of 1944.  In his small corner of the Netherlands, he was a leader in this event.  Sadly, I didn’t realize that until after having a meaningful conversation with Opa became impossible.  His last few years saw him struggling with worsening dementia and by the time I cared about church history, he couldn’t talk about that, or much else of anything for that matter.

Eventually, some of his personal effects relating to this period came into my possession.  With these items, I can piece together a little bit of the story.  For example, how did Opa come to his Liberated convictions?  There are a couple of clues.  One is a booklet by Dr. Seakle Greijdanus.  It was published on cheap wartime paper in 1944.

From the postmark, we learn that it was sent to him in 1944, probably from the city of Groningen.  Someone peeled off the stamp, so we don’t have the full name of the place of origin, nor the full date.  It was sent to Klaas van der Land the store keeper in Nuis via the post office in Niebert (a village next to Nuis).  But who sent it and the background behind its sending is a mystery.

The pamphlet itself was written by Greijdanus, a close colleague of Klaas Schilder at the seminary in Kampen.  The title comes from Acts 7:1,2 “Are then these things so?  And he said….listen now.”  However, it’s not an exposition of Acts 7:1,2 but an explanation of the events surrounding the suspension of Klaas Schilder and what happened with the autocratic synods.  I would imagine that this pamphlet was influential in my Opa’s thinking about these things.

There were also two local ministers who appear in the documents I have.  As I mentioned yesterday, Marum’s pastor was underground hiding from the Nazis and so out of the picture.  He wasn’t supportive of the Liberation anyway.  However, to the north of Marum was the village of Kornhorn.  Rev. E.H. Woldring had been serving there since 1922.  It was his first congregation.  By 1945, he was 61 years old — a veteran pastor who followed the Liberation.  Some 20 km to the northeast of Marum was Rev. H. Bouma in Niezijl.  Niezijl was his first congregation and he was just 28 years old in 1945.  He too became Liberated.  He would later author a book translated into English as Secession, Doleantie and Union: 1834-1892.  The veteran pastor Woldring and the greenhorn pastor Bouma supported my Opa and the other Liberated believers in Marum.  After the Liberation happened, Woldring and Bouma took turns leading the worship services for them.  I’m inclined to think that these pastors probably had something to do with shaping my Opa’s convictions as well.  Especially with the absence of Marum’s pastor, it’s quite conceivable that Woldring and Bouma occasionally led the services in the church there before the Liberation — and that’s likely where the connection was forged.

More tomorrow…

Klaas van der Land’s Liberation Story (1)

In my last post, I concluded with a brief reference to my maternal grandfather’s involvement in the Liberation of 1944 (75 years ago).  I’m going to follow up and explore that a little further in a couple of blog posts.  I have a few primary source items in my possession that shed some light on what happened with the Liberation in a sleepy corner of the province of Groningen.

Marum is where my mother was born.  It’s right on the border with Friesland — in fact, my Opa was fluent in Frisian.  I visited there in 2004.  My grandparents owned and operated a small shop in the neighbouring village of Nuis.  However, they attended the Reformed Church in Marum.

I have a 1977 Yearbook from the Liberated Reformed Church in Marum.  It came into my possession after my grandfather died.  I believe he received it in the course of some correspondence with Rev. W. Scherff.  He was apparently doing some research about the Liberation in Marum (the church he was serving at the time) and wrote to my grandfather in Canada.  This Yearbook contains an outline of the history of that church.  Please note the entry for October 21, 1945:

Translation:  “Deacon Klaas van der Land liberates himself.  Different people do that after him.  They find ecclesiastical shelter in Kornhorn [another village to the north of Marum].  Church services are started (in the community hall) under the oversight of the consistory in Kornhorn.  The church here was re-instituted on January 12, 1947.”

You might be wondering how a deacon ended up leading the Liberation in this small church.  For example, where did the pastor stand?  The pastor was Rev. S. van Wouwe.  Because of the Second World War, he was out of the picture.  He was what they called an “onderduiker.”  The Nazis had a keen interest in arresting pastors critical of the Third Reich.  Van Wouwe must have been one of those.  He was forced “underground.”  However, even after the war, he didn’t go with the Liberation.  In fact, none of the other office bearers in Marum did either.  Klaas van der Land was completely on his own in terms of leadership.  I don’t know what the size of the congregation was at that time, but we do know that it was a mere 15 communicant members who went with the Liberation in Marum.  According to the 1977 Yearbook, the Marum congregation had grown to 153 members total.

More next time…