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Fedde Schurer: A Ground-breaking Character

16 March 2010
Fedde Schurer (1898-1968) made history as a teacher, politician, poet and chief editor of the Friese Koerier. He made a name for himself nationally with the PvdA (Labour Party) and fought for equal status for the Frisian language. This versatile figure can therefore be considered one of the most charismatic leaders the Frisian movement has ever known. This is Johanneke Liemburg’s conclusion in her biography of Fedde Schurer. Liemburg will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 25 March 2010.
According to Liemburg, Fedde Schurer was a striking personality who stimulated many discussions in society. Liemburg studied Schurer’s entire archives and immersed herself in the memoirs of those who knew him personally. 

Separation of religion and politics

Schurer was a teacher at a Reformed school in Lemmer. In 1929, he became active within the Christelijk-Democratische Unie (Christian Democratic Union). According to the school board and the church council, the CDU’s anti-militarist position was not in line with the Bible. However, Schurer did not want to give up his pacifism. He was sacked from his job, and left the Reformed Church. This conflict gained national attention. ‘In order for society to progress, Schurer considered it necessary to separate religion and politics', says Liemburg. ‘One’s faith should not determine one’s political opinions.’ When the social democratic PvdA was founded, Schurer immediately became a member. From 1956-1963, he worked in the Dutch House of Representatives towards 'the breakthrough'. Once again, he distinguished himself with his minority pacifist position. 

Role in ‘Kneppelfreed’ overestimated

In the 1950s, Frisian was could be used for many official purposes, but not in court, much to the irritation of Schurer. He wrote a provocative article about a ‘childish, insulting and bullying judge’ who pretended not to understand Frisian. Schurer had to appear in court for this. The courtroom turned out to be too small for the large number of interested spectators, leading to a fistfight between them and the police. The Frisian issue was discussed in the cabinet, which ultimately led to more rights for the Frisian language. Liemburg: ‘The success of “Kneppelfreed” (‘Truncheon Friday’) is often attributed to Schurer. However, the event merely befell him – something he made good use of. Police violence was mainly responsible for the situation escalating in 1951, not Schurer’s performance’. 

Language battle

Schurer spent his whole life fighting for equality for the Frisian language. During the Second World War, he translated all of the Psalms into Frisian in order to give the language an equal place within the church. Liemburg: ‘After the war, there were plenty of established rights for the Frisian language that one could refer to. The foundation had been laid. Schurer considered it up to Frisians themselves to build upon it. In 1946 he wrote the article “De Bining Forbritsen” (‘The Broken Link’). He thought it was time for Frisian to continue to develop as a language separate from the Frisian movement’. According to Liemburg, Frisians showed a great deal of interest in their own region and language after the Second World War, but it was only a temporary trend.

Charismatic poet

Fedde Schurer was a versatile and charismatic man. Nevertheless, Liemburg sees him mainly as a poet. ‘He had the talent to express the beauty of the Frisian language in a wonderful and creative manner. His poetry is still recited today. His translations are also very high quality’. Schurer wanted to show that Friesland had serious literature that was equal to Dutch literature.

Curriculum Vitae

Johanneke Liemburg (Terwispel, 1952) studied political science at the University of Amsterdam. She has written her PhD at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen. Her supervisor is Prof. Y. Kuiper. The title of her PhD is Fedde Schurer (1898-1968). Biografie van een Friese koerier. A commercial edition will be available from 25 March through the Friese Pers Boekerij (Leeuwarden) (ISBN 9789033008689). Liemburg is Mayor of the municipality of Littenseradiel. 

Note for the press

Contact: Johanneke Liemburg, tel. +31515-334408 (council secretariat)

In conjunction with the publication of the PhD there will be a symposium entitled ‘Fedde Schurer: Frysk en sosjaal’ on Saturday 27 March, from 13.30 to 16.30 in Tresoar in Leeuwarden.

Last modified:13 March 2020 12.58 a.m.
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