Maud Kurvers, master's student of Public Policy and Human Development, still feels the after-effects of the Second World War every day. Her mother's father was arrested in 1943 for being a resistance fighter in Overveen. He was first imprisoned in Camp Vught and was later transferred to Dachau, which he narrowly survived. After about eight months of imprisonment there, he was liberated in April 1945.
“Through his experiences he became deeply religious, was fanatically Catholic. This had a tremendous impact on the life of his children. For example, they were not allowed to bring anyone home who wasn't a Catholic.” He didn't discuss his past with his four oldest children. “At the time – the beginning of the 1960s – it was hardly ever mentioned in schools or even in society.”
That was different for the youngest two children, including Kurvers’ mother, who was a late arrival and sixteen years younger than the eldest child. “Everyone in the family agrees: they had a different father.” Less strict, a little more open. But it remained difficult. “There is a divide in the family; they deal with it differently. Some, like my mother, find it tough, emotionally. They know little about what happened back then and don't talk about it. One uncle, on the other hand, took it upon himself to find out as much as possible. He compiled an archive and organises a commemoration ceremony in Dachau every year, which is attended by a small group of family members.”
Kurvers herself carried out some research into her grandfather during her bachelor's of Arts and Social Sciences. “I am curious, but I also want to do something in return, honour the warriors of that time. I am always very affected by those stories. The war still has an emotional connotation for me. I find jokes about it very difficult. I never attend liberation celebrations either.”
Commemoration, on the other hand, is very important to Kurvers. “I make sure that I'm home on 4 May. That is a real family moment.”
Egor Avdeev from Russia, second-year student of European Studies, looks back on the Second World War from a different perspective. The Soviet Union was, after all, also part of the Allied Forces, and hence was not liberated, but one of the liberators. “We celebrate that on 9 May, Victory Day.”
Both of his grandfathers fought in the war, one of them even died. “My mother told me about him. We have his medals at home, one of them is very important.” His other grandfather was a driver for a Russian general. “He also died before I was born, so I never spoke to him about it, but apparently he was in Berlin when the war ended.”
He feels that commemoration is very important. “The consequences of war are still noticeable, it partly determined how countries in Europe have developed. It actually wasn't all that long ago. I think that in order to prevent something like that happening again, it is very important to keep remembering.”