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A forgotten chapter


Guest AnneM

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Recently I came across a pamphlet of the Dutch section of the international organization “League of neutral countries” (in French: “Ligue des pays neutres”). This international organization was founded (I suppose during the war) by Louis Macon, citizen of Geneva, Switzerland. Honorary chairman of the League was the former president of the USA, Theodore Roosevelt. Sections of the League were active in Belgium, Argentina, Brasil, Peru. USA, Denmark, Greece, Norway, Rumania, Spain. Sweden and Switserland.

In the library of the international Peace Palace in The Hague I found a unique copy of the founding program of the Dutch section of this League of neutral countries (in Dutch: “Bond van neutrale landen”). This Dutch section was founded July 29th 1916 in Amsterdam. The board consisted of some respected scientists, artists and journalists. Among the people who supported the League were famous names like Pierre Cuypers (architect of the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum (nowadays still exhibiting Rembrandt’s “Nachtwacht”)), prof. Niermeyer (one of the authors of the Dutch “Bosatlas”) and the author Frederik van Eeden.

The aim of the League in Holland was to defend the principles of international law and to combat states which aspired to dominate other states (at this point the program is clear (I quote): “that is the Prussian militarism”). They organized meetings and other activities, they published articles and pamphlets. In every way they tried to make people conscious that the war was a German battle against humanity.

One of the most visible traces of the Dutch League is the monument “La Défense” which we can find in Verdun. In 1918 (when the war was still on) the Dutch collected money with the intention to offer the French a monument in commemoration of the battle of Verdun. They were able to collect some 50.000 guilders, a huge amount of money at the time, and got in contact with Rodin. Rodin was able to handle over an old design of a dying warrior with a half naked Marianne above him, her arms in a V-shape. The monument was unveiled in 1920 and had the following inscription (translated from French): “To the glory of the eternal France, to Verdun, the unbending city of Lorraine; from the faithful friends of the Netherlands, who never gave up hope that Justice and Righteousness would triumph.” When the Germans came to Verdun in the Second World War, this text was cut away. Nowadays the inscription says “To the immortal France, to the glorious town of Verdun”.

ladefense.jpg

I could tell more, but let me first pose my question… I’m very curious to find out if anyone of you knows more about this “League of neutral countries”. In Holland its history has been completely forgotten. Is this the same in for instance Belgium, Switzerland, the USA and all the other countries in which the League was active (see above)?? Does anyone of you know in which archives abroad there could be information about the League? Until now I wasn’t able to find anything about the League (no books, no articles or whatever…)

Thanks in advance for your help,

Annemarie

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Apart from Holland, the other neutral countries in Europe were occupied, so I don't suppose they even heard about it. I certainly never have and I study the history of Luxembourg. There's nothing in the archives.

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The other dayI was talking to a Dutch colleague about my interest in WW1. She said that until fairly recently history lessons largely neglected both WW1 and WW2. Hence, she said, young and middle-aged adults know little if anything abouth these periods.

Robbie

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I certainly never have and I study the history of Luxembourg. There's nothing in the archives.

That's right. Luxembourg isn't mentioned in the Dutch founding program as a country where the League was active. But the other countries I mentioned should have had a more or less active section, as this founding program from 1916 says. Even occupied countries like Belgium.

I'm also very curious to know more about the role of Theodore Roosevelt. As a honorary chairman he even wrote a letter to the Dutch members of the League. In a fortnight I will have a look at the archive (well, it's more like an extended scrap book, but still....) and then I'll try to post a digital picture of the document here...

Annemarie

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She said that until fairly recently history lessons largely neglected both WW1 and WW2. Hence, she said, young and middle-aged adults know little if anything abouth these periods.

Ough... this is going to bother me all night long: am I a young or a middle-aged adult? :rolleyes:

However, I don't fully agree with your Dutch colleague. As far as WWI concerns, she is right (in my opinion), but WWII and the Holocaust on the contrary get a lot of attention! Not only during history lessons in class, but also in "field trips", which give pupils the opportunity to learn more about the war in a (military) museum, a formal "concentration camp" or the Anne Frank House. I'd really like to straight this up. I think this period still fascinates and impresses a lot of children.

(As well as young adults, middle-aged adults and the real grown-up! ;) )

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However, I don't fully agree with your Dutch colleague. As far as WWI concerns, she is right (in my opinion), but WWII and the Holocaust on the contrary get a lot of attention! Not only during history lessons in class, but also in "field trips", which give pupils the opportunity to learn more about the war in a (military) museum, a formal "concentration camp" or the Anne Frank House. I'd really like to straight this up. I think this period still fascinates and impresses a lot of children.

Thanks Ann,

Yes this was her opinion only of course. I am pleased to hear that the kids are getting their fill of WW2 + holocaust material, the latter being a particlar interest of mine. Just checking you profile to work out your age, mate ;)

Robbie

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Guest Koert Debyser

Some additional info can be found here.

Go to the chapter titled "Presentation of a Captain Fryatt memorial tablet" (towards the end of the webpage). This gives details about the founding of the "League of Neutral Countries" and some of its statements and actions. This chapter deals explicitely with a Memorial Tablet for Captain Fryatt by the Dutch section.

Koert

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Thanks Koert!

This is great. I didn't know anything about this Fryatt memorial. I'll try to find out more about it when I'll take a close look at the archive of the League in two weeks. I'll keep you informed.

Annemarie

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Guest Koert Debyser

The Netherlands section also issued a medal.

'THE NETHERLANDS SECTION OF THE LEAGUE OF NEUTRAL COUNTRIES TO (blank for name) IN GRATEFUL COMMEMORATION OF THE SERVICES TENDERED BY THE ENGLISH SAILORS WHO RESCUED WITH PERIL OF LIFE THE CREWS OF SEVEN UNARMED DUTCH MERCHANTMEN SURREPTITIOUSLY ATTACKED AND RECKLESSLY DESTROYED BY A GERMAN SUBMARINE FEBRUARY 22ND 1917.'

They also issued a statement regarding Bulgaria's occupation of Serbia.

It looks like the other sections were not that productive. I have never heard about a Belgian section, but would be interested to know if it ever existed.

Kind regards,

Koert

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IN GRATEFUL COMMEMORATION OF THE SERVICES TENDERED BY THE ENGLISH SAILORS WHO RESCUED WITH PERIL OF LIFE THE CREWS OF SEVEN UNARMED DUTCH MERCHANTMEN

You see: we Dutch are always happy when merchants are rescued... ;)

Serious: this is great information. I didn't know about the medal. I'm really up to find out more about it too.

The Serbian declaration I've read before (in Dutch). Still it is extraordinary that this is published on the Internet nowadays...

Thanks Koert!

If I find out anything about the Belgian section, I'll let you know. I only can give you the name of the author Emile Verhaeren, who was involved (according to the Dutch founding program). This Verhaeren was famous for his support of neutrality (I've read about it in Stefan Zweig's autobiographical work "The world of Yesterday").

Annemarie

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Just checking you profile to work out your age, mate  ;)

That don't impress you much, I guess... :D

Well, you're certainly NOT middle-aged! In fact, you're 1 year older than my second daughter!

Robbie

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  • 3 months later...
The aim of the League in Holland was to defend the principles of international law and to combat states which aspired to dominate other states (at this point the program is clear (I quote): “that is the Prussian militarism”). They organized meetings and other activities, they published articles and pamphlets. In every way they tried to make people conscious that the war was a German battle against humanity.

Have only just picked up on this thread.

Was this a genuine anti-war group, or some sort of a front organisation?

They sound anti-German rather than neutral. Even the wording on the medal they issued: ..."Unarmed Dutch Merchantmen surreptitiously attacked and recklessly destroyed by a German submarine February 22nd 1917.'

Did they also fund a statue to the German dead at Verdun?

Whilst I don't disagree about their position on militarism and Germany they don't exactly sound "neutral" to me!

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The aim of the League in Holland was to defend the principles of international law and to combat states which aspired to dominate other states (at this point the program is clear (I quote): “that is the Prussian militarism”). They organized meetings and other activities, they published articles and pamphlets. In every way they tried to make people conscious that the war was a German battle against humanity.

Have only just picked up on this thread.

Was this a genuine anti-war group, or some sort of a front organisation?

They sound anti-German rather than neutral. Even the wording on the medal they issued: ..."Unarmed Dutch Merchantmen surreptitiously attacked and recklessly destroyed by a German submarine February 22nd 1917.'

Did they also fund a statue to the German dead at Verdun?

Whilst I don't disagree about their position on militarism and Germany they don't exactly sound "neutral" to me!

I'll second that concern. The more I nose around a bit, the more it seems a Propaganda Front organization conveniently HQ'd in Holland ... I think the Tip-off is the Teddy Roosevelt. He was nothing if he wasn't pro-WWI involvement by the US.

It is probably all lost now, but I'll wager the money to set this up came from London or Paris ... it would be interesting to find what types of publications there were and if they stopped as soon as the US came in ...

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The aim of the League in Holland was to defend the principles of international law and to combat states which aspired to dominate other states (at this point the program is clear (I quote): “that is the Prussian militarism”). They organized meetings and other activities, they published articles and pamphlets. In every way they tried to make people conscious that the war was a German battle against humanity.

Have only just picked up on this thread.

Was this a genuine anti-war group, or some sort of a front organisation?

They sound anti-German rather than neutral. Even the wording on the medal they issued: ..."Unarmed Dutch Merchantmen surreptitiously attacked and recklessly destroyed by a German submarine February 22nd 1917.'

Did they also fund a statue to the German dead at Verdun?

Whilst I don't disagree about their position on militarism and Germany they don't exactly sound "neutral" to me!

I'll second that concern. The more I nose around a bit, the more it seems a Propaganda Front organization conveniently HQ'd in Holland ... I think the Tip-off is the Teddy Roosevelt. He was nothing if he wasn't pro-WWI involvement by the US.

It is probably all lost now, but I'll wager the money to set this up came from London or Paris ... it would be interesting to find what types of publications there were and if they stopped as soon as the US came in ...

Thinking about it, even the name of the medal that this organisation produced is suspect. Wasn't Captain Fryatt an officer in the Merchant Navy who was shot by the Germans? A sort of male Edith Cavell?

No doubt other pals, with a maritime interest, can supply full details.

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