Universiteit Leiden

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Nationaal Archief

How Leiden University reopened after the war

Students were able to continue their studies in September 1945 after the University had been closed for several years during the Second World War. This moment was celebrated for four days, with the traditional cortège, commemorative services and a party in the Botanical Garden. Queen Wilhelmina was present as well. Have a look at the photographs of these historical events.

Large number of victims

The Second World War left deep scars. At least 663 students, employees and alumni died during the war, according to the name list in the university memorial book In Memoriam 40-45 (published in 1952). They were murdered in extermination camps, executed because they were part of the resistance, or otherwise deceased by the horrors of war. There must have been more victims: Julius Boeke, then Rector Magnificus, emphasized in the preface of the memorial book that 663 was the number that could be traced.

University closed

After the protest speech of Rudolph Cleveringa (Dean of the Faculty of Law) on 26 November 1940, students called for a strike. Shortly after the strike, the German occupier closed the university. Students were allowed to take exams for one more year, until November 1941. The German authorities also disbanded student associations. After the closure of Leiden University, many students enrolled in other universities that were allowed to teach. The German occupier tried to Nazify Leiden University, but 53 (out of 68) professors responded by offering their resignation.

Freedom!

And then the liberating moment came. After all the disastrous events, the university reopened in September 1945. This was celebrated for four days, from 15-18 September, with the cortège, commemorative services in the Hooglandse Church, a celebration in the Botanical Garden and parties for alumni. The reopening coincided with the anniversary celebrations of two student associations: Leidsch Studenten Corps and Vereeniging voor Vrouwelijke Studenten te Leiden.

Students, alumni and former student association members are welcomed at the train station. Photo: Nationaal Archief
A parade of the student associations on the Rapenburg. Photo: Nationaal Archief
Esteemed visitors, with among others Queen Wilhelmina and Princess Juliana. Photo: Nationaal Archief
The cortège on its way to the Pieter's Church. Photo: Erfgoed Leiden en Omstreken
Princess Juliana, who studied in Leiden, talks to students in the Botanical Garden. Photo: Nationaal Archief