My activities
The state of affairs as of September 2021 Writing books Currently Ellen and I are busy writing the new historical novel, La Batuta. You can find everything about the stories in that novel under the button on the homepage. How do we write that then? We started with the idea, a collage of main characters and the relay aspect. Each chapter is told by such a main character who in his chapter somehow gets to do something with the main character in the next chapter. He or she passes the baton, la batuta, as in a relay race. Then we started thinking about which main characters should be. It had to be a collection of diverse characters. A priest, a little girl, a boy, a Dutch volunteer, etc. Not only the characters, but also the experiences must be diverse. After all, war isn't just soldiers shooting at each other. And so we regularly brainstorm about storylines. It's actually funny: as a kind of deity we allow people to be born and die in our universe. In de roman wisselen fictie en non-fictie elkaar af en lopen soms ook door elkaar. Bestaande en niet-bestaande personen, gebeurtenissen die echt gebeurd zijn, het wisselt elkaar steeds weer af. Een echt bestaande priester en Nederlandse vrijwilliger. Ook het daadwerkelijke verongelukken van de belangrijkste generaal zetten we hier in een ander scenario. Geen ongeluk, zoals de offciele versie luidt, maar een sabotage die ook weer niet onwaarschijnlijk is. No, it won't be a happy book, war isn't fun. But the stories of ordinary people are the first to disappear in the mists of history. Lectures and guest lectures at schools Since 2016 I have been giving lectures and guest lectures. The first for adults, the second for primary school groups 7 and 8. They are about the story of my grandfather who, as a sailor, helped smuggle weapons to Spain in 1937. Of course I also pay attention to the Spanish Civil War to set the stage. But it can also be about just the Spanish Civil War. I will not only pay attention to that war itself, but also to the worldwide involvement and lack of it. After all, it certainly wasn't just a local Spanish event. The reason to start with lectures and guest lessons started with the invitation of the Spain 36-39 Foundation. For several years this foundation in Amsterdam has organized an annual commemoration of the Dutch volunteers who went to Spain to fight against Franco. A commemoration in the New HAVO, right next to the Spain monument. In 2016, a weekend-long seminar was organized where all kinds of stories were told. I was also allowed to tell my grandfather's story there. This gave me the idea that there could possibly be more people who wanted to hear the story. That turned out to be the case and the spectators now include Spanish associations, residential care centers, study clubs, Rotary and Odd Fellows associations, etc. Also various primary schools and all this throughout the Netherlands. Because of the corona perils, so not for a while. Those now seem largely behind us and so we are slowly starting again. Historical research In recent years I have regularly engaged in various historical researches. In the meantime I have gained the necessary experience in researching people. You are a detective hoping to find all kinds of information about people. There was that lady from Rolde, Jeanette. She had found papers showing that her grandfather's brother had been to Spain in 1938 to fight against Franco as a volunteer. That brother's name was Fedde Alberts (yes, the same one who has a chapter in our new novel La Batuta). Jeanette asked me to see what I could think of Fedde. Did extensive research in which I came into contact with Fedde's grandson, also called Fedde. He turned out to live a few blocks from Jeanette and they didn't know about each other's existence until then. A coffee appointment has changed that. A nice side effect of that research. Former Camp Westerbork has a project called Westerbork Portraits. There are now about 800 portraits of people who ended up in extermination camps in Germany via Westerbork. Portraits that describe everything in the life of such a person. Where was he or she born? Were there children? Where did people live? What was this person's profession? Etc. Research is needed to uncover that information. I have done such research for a number of portraits. Sometimes there was little to be found, but sometimes I also sat at the table with a family member who turned out to have quite a file, often including very nice photos. For the Dutch foundation SGTRS (Foundation for History of Totalitarian Regimes and their Victims) I have carried out various projects. This also included projects for the PEMC (Platform of European Memory and Conscience), a European organization dealing with the same subject. It is a collaboration of various organizations throughout Europe such as institutes, museums, etc. The organization is concerned with raising awareness of issues such as dictatorships and totalitarian regimes. The platform's headquarters are located in Prague. For example, books are made available to education. These are about persons who have become victims of such regimes. It has the same character as the project of Kamp Westerbork. I also did research and wrote portraits for a number of these publications. That was in the English language, but luckily I get by quite well with it. Articles and stuff… I also write articles regularly. Some for websites, others for various periodicals. Some of those articles… (if you don't see them here, check your download folder) Among the Dutch volunteers were a number of people from the Dutch province of Drenthe. Read an overview of their experiences here . But also a biography of one of them, Fedde Alberts. You can read it here . The siege of the Alcazar in Toledo could only have caused the civil war to last almost three years instead of a few months. Read the article about it here .
The Spain monument in Amsterdam
Fedde Alberts when entering Camp Buchenwald in 1942