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Fedde Schurer: a ground-breaking figure

16 March 2010

Fedde Schurer (1898-1968) wrote history as a teacher, politician, poet and editor-in-chief of the Friese Koerier. He acquired a national reputation within the Dutch labour party PvdA and fought for equal rights for the Frisian language. The versatile Schurer can therefore be regarded as one of the Frisian movement’s most charismatic leaders ever, Johanneke Liemburg concludes 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 character who initiated many social discussions. Liemburg studied Schurer’s entire archive in detail and investigated the memoirs of people 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 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 pacifist minority position.

Role in ‘Kneppelfreed’ overestimated

In the 1950s, Frisian 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 fisticuffs between them and the police. The Frisian issue was discussed by 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 simply fell into his lap – he just made good use of it. 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 Second World 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 link broken’]. 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

Although Fedde Schurer was a versatile and charismatic man, Liemburg mainly sees him as a poet. ‘He had the talent to put the beauty of the Frisian language into words, in a beautiful and flexible way. His verses are still recited, and his translations are also very good.’ Schurer wanted to show that serious literature existed in Friesland, as high in quality as Dutch works.

Curriculum Vitae

Johanneke Liemburg (Terwispel, 1952) studied Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. She will receive her PhD from the Faculty of Theology and Religious Sciences of the University of Groningen. Her supervisor was Prof. Y. Kuiper and her thesis is entitled Fedde Schurer (1898-1968). Biografie van een Friese koerier . [Fedde Schurer (1898-1968). Biography of a Frisian courier] 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. 0515-334408 (secretariat of the municipality)

On the occasion of the publication of the PhD thesis, a symposium entitled ‘Fedde Schurer: Frysk en sosjaal’ will be held at Tresoar in Leeuwarden on Saturday 27 March from 1.30 to 4.30 p.m.

06-05-2010 | L.G. Jansma | Een profetische beweging in hedendaags Friesland

Last modified:30 March 2017 2.57 p.m.
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