Some 30 prominent historians, professors and authors have written a letter to culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven asking her to save the so-called ‘Muur van Mussert’ from demolition by declaring it a national monument.
The contentious wall, which stands on private land near the town of Ede, was used as the focal point for rallies by the Nazi-affiliated Dutch party NSB, led by Anton Mussert. Owner Roderick Zoons wants to use the site to expand his campsite and asked Ede council in November to grant him a license to demolish the wall.
But the letter writers contend that the wall ‘serves as a reminder of a dark period which is nevertheless an integral part of our history, like the concentration camps at Vught, Amersfoort and Westerbork.’
The Nationaal Socialistische Beweging (NSB) came to prominence in the Netherlands in the thirties and in 1941 its leader Anton Mussert swore allegiance to Hitler.
In 1936 Mussert declared the site of the wall the ‘National Home’ for NSB rallies which drew 10,000s of flag waving Dutch fascists dressed in the black uniforms favoured by their leader. As such it is part of the ‘collective memory’ of many people who lived through this time, the letter writers say.
In 2015 an attempt by heritage organisation Stichting Erfgoed Ede to have the wall declared a monument by Ede local council was reluctantly taken into consideration but, according to the foundation’s spokesperson Jan Kijlstra, any decision would come too late. The plea to the minister is the ‘only option in the face of the council’s inaction,’ he told broadcaster Omroep Gelderland.
Former education minister Jet Bussemaker recognised the need for the wall to become a monument ‘to tell the story of the war years to future generations’, the letter writers say, but the process to preserve it was delayed by a year.
A new heritage law, which was passed in 2017, gives the minister power to declare the wall a national monument instantly if the criteria of ‘beauty, scientific interest and historical value’ are met. According to the writers the minister must react quickly as the demolition could happen ‘within weeks’ and ‘a potential national monument could be lost forever’.