A Brill Calendar: November 26
The Brave Address of Dr. Cleveringa
Few events in the history of Leyden University – and the Netherlands, for that matter – have been so universally acclaimed and admired as the address Rudolph Pabus Cleveringa, (born in Appingedam, Groningen Province, April 2, 1894) gave on November 26, 1940, under the nominal protection of his Alma Mater; in the sixth month of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands; an occupation that would last nearly five years.
Cleveringa had obtained his doctorate in Leyden after his Law study there some two decades earlier, in 1919. After a short spell as a lawyer and judge in Alkmaar, he returned in 1927 to Leyden as Professor. On that fateful day in 1940 he opposed, in his position as Dean of his Faculty, the decision of the Nazi regime to dismiss his Jewish colleagues in his academic vocation and his former admired teacher, a juridical genius, Professor Eduard Maurits Meijer (Den Helder, 1880 – Oegstgeest, 1954) from his professional obligations. This dignified and composed address was given publicly and in no uncertain terms, and the idea that great peril for his personal well-being – if not for his life itself lay ahead, would not have been far from his mind.
It was also a wise address, aimed at refraining young students from hot-headed and dangerous acts of resistance. The full text of his stirring and deeply felt words was only published later. To be precise, exactly 5 years later: in the ‘Leids universiteitsblad’, carrying the same calendar day (xi, nr 6, November 26, 1945). A quarter of a century later still, in 1970, Leyden University inaugurated the ‘Cleveringa Chair’, devoted to study of fundamental contemporary problems; Cleveringa died in 1980.
It is seldom in history itself, not just in the history of Dutch Law and Lawyers, that an exact namesake of a national hero, another Rudolph Pabus Cleveringa (Leek, July 27, 1887 – Leeuwarden, November 11, 1972) witnessed as a professional lawyer most of the 20th century as well.