The Second World War ended 75 years ago and there were going to be various large and small celebrations that would reflect this event throughout Europe. However, due to the cornona virus pandemic many of these events had to be postponed or even cancelled. Not surprisingly, the planned TRC’s exhibition on textiles and WWII was also postponed. Yet, ironically, this has given us more time to expand it! It also means that the exhibition, which will now open on 16th September, has a much larger and relevant story that links up with the present-day crisis (although of course the war was incomparable in scale and suffering). How do people cope during a period of uncertainty?
The TRC story begins with items from just before the Second World War and follows the historical progress of the events with the aid of contemporary photographs, fashionable garments, make-do and mended garments and footwear (such as a pair of boots repaired with really heavy wooden soles). Other topics covered include the role of rationing and the tragic fate of the Jewish community in Europe. The exhibition shows a yellow Star-of-David, which Jews in Nazi-occupied countries were forced to attach to their garments. There are items relating to the Princess Irene Brigade in England, formed by Dutch men and women who had ended up in Great Britain during the war. There are coins, postage stamps, newspapers and magazines of the period.
Attention is paid to a range of objects celebrating the liberation in 1945. Notably parachute garments and souvenirs made for soldiers, such as silver coin jewellery (brooches, bracelets, pins), painted clogs, postcards, and of course various Dutch flags and orange-coloured items that were hung out of windows, outfits for children that were worn at Liberation parties, etc. There will be other items from just after the war, including a Liberation breakfast tablecloth and a Dutch soldier’s uniform made from redundant British army supplies.
In addition, on display will be several feestroks (special festive skirts) that were designed just after the war to represent 'unity after adversity' and the bringing together (rather than the separation) of various groups. Another theme that resonates with current events.
Thanks to the help of the Mennonite (Doopsgezinden) community in The Netherlands and in Germany, there will be at least fifteen Mennonite relief quilts that were made and sent from the USA and Canada to northern Europe just after the war. These quilts represent a form of relief that continues to the present day, as relief quilts are still being made by the Mennonites in vast quantities and sent to countries in need, such as war-torn Syria.
The setting up of the exhibition is being helped by Mrs. E. Bonte from Leiden, who has lent various objects as well as providing numerous stories about her family in Leiden during the war.
The exhibition will open to the public on the 16th September and remain until (and including) the 17th December. Based on current guidelines, only five people at a time can be allowed into the Gallery, so please make an appointment well in advance.
Gillian Vogelsang, 7th June 2020.