No 30 (in a series of several): The Strange Case of the Missing Nine Foot High Feyenoord War Memorial
Simon Kuper’s ‘Ajax, The Dutch, The War: Football in Europe During the Second World War’ is so far the only book that I’ve persuaded both my wife and mum to read. As the title suggests football is the central theme running through the text but the book covers such a wide range of other issues – particularly that of the fate of Holland’s many Jews during WWII – that it deserves to be read by a non-footballing audience too (as I’m sure it has been).
It is not just Ajax that are covered as the activities of Feyenoord, Sparta and other clubs during and in the immediate aftermath of the war come under Kuper’s scrutiny. He suggests that they have tried their very best to ignore the fact that the war ever happened (the Dutch league carried on almost unhindered during Nazi occupation incidentally) and as one example of this tells the story of the ‘disappeared’ war memorial at Feyenoord’s De Kuip Stadium.
On May 3rd, 1947 a monument to twenty-two Feyenoord club members killed during the war was unveiled beneath the grandstand. The memorial, by sculptress Rie Elias, stood nine feet tall and was of a figure sowing seed in a field (I would imagine that this was to signify a new beginning – particularly apt for Rotterdam which had been flattened by the Luftwaffe). Shortly after the unveiling it was taken away and has not been seen since!
Apparently Feyenoord officials had failed to get a permit for the sculpture (permission was required for the erection of any war memorial) and they were ordered to have it removed having failed in their request to have permission granted after the fact. It didn’t help either that, according to Elias, officials said the sculpture “offended the standards of sober taste”.
A small plaque has since taken its place.
[Footnote: the picture shown here is of Feyenoord’s De Kuip stadium in 1979 taken during the tour of the stadium that I mentioned here.]