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Thursday, April 24, 2014  
An instance of cultural stupidity

by Marcel Van Silfhout
Due to severe cutbacks many things of value are at stake, Marcel Van Silfhout writes

Just ask someone you know from Holland and he will recognise this poetic one-liner: ‘All things of value are defenceless.’ But if you will say that the famous Loevestein castle is closing down, I’m pretty sure he or she won’t believe you. Slot Loevestein, as the castle is named, is every inch Dutch. There’s almost no place in the country with so much history as this medieval fortress in the middle of The Netherlands.

‘All things of value are defenceless,’ was part of the Dutch poet Lucebert’s lyric ‘De zeer oude zingt’ (The very old sings). An insurance company in Rotterdam pictured his line in neon letters on top of its building. It would be a good idea to put the same line on the impressive, monumental walls of Loevestein as a protest against the ministry of culture that might close down the castle for tourists and visitors.

It’s surrealistic news. A giant restoration of the massive castle is going on. It is costing eight million euros. But the Council of Culture advised the minister of culture not to spend any money on the collection and the receipt of visitors anymore. The reason? ‘The council concluded that “the museum function of the castle is inadequate.’ Amazing? Yes, even more so it’s the greatest cultural stupidity I’ve seen for ages, although you can find similar sorts of historical madness in the past of the castle itself. The building is more than five centuries old. Knight Dirc Loef van Horne started to forfieit his house on this strategic place in between two rivers in the year 1357.

Slot Loevestein belongs to the Dutch history for several reasons. On top we find the story of Hugo de Groot (Hugo Grotius 1583 – 1645), acknowledged as an  eminent philosopher, lawyer, poet, politician and ‘father of modern international law.’ But don’t be under the impression that this intelligent, important figure -- who wrote lucid laws like the famous, still active ‘Mare Libre’-- was a guest to the castle. On the contrary, De Groot was imprisoned here for life for defending freedom of speech and making a plea for tolerance in religious disputes. Hugo de Groot and Loevestein will never been forgotten because he managed to escape from the castle by hiding himself in a book chest. After that he became ambassador of Sweden in France. Just recently I made a visit to the castle on my list as a ‘must see’ for decades. You can have a splendid walk through the centuries-old monument and former state-prison. In between high and thick walls you’ll find intriguing, crucial parts of Dutch history. The restoration that was started in 1925 was finished more than half a century later (in 1986) and it was worth it.

There’s more Dutch heritage endangered. Due to severe cutbacks many other things of value are at stake . Examples are the Metropolitan Orchestra and the Money Museum. Even ‘Huis Doorn’  (a castle-like manor in the Dutch village Doorn) has been put  on the ‘to be shut down list’.  It’s hard to imagine the loss of such a place of great importance to European, German and Dutch history like Huis Doorn. In this castle the last German emperor Wilhelm II lived after being expelled from his country following Germany’s World War I loss. Hopefully the MP’s know about our national classics. If not, I would like to propose that they put their names in a new collection in Slot Loevestein: as part of a new Canon of Dutch stupidity.

OMAN TRIBUNE

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