World War II left deep scars in the Dutch collective psyche. Physical proof, which shapes the memory of this, can be found in countless places. One of these places is the Wadden Island Schiermonnikoog, a small island just of the north coast of Holland.
In many ways, the inhabitants of the Dutch Wadden Island Schiermonnikoog live in ‘splendid isolation’. This exceptional circumstance (cultural determination) undoubtedly contributed to the development – during World War II - of something as unique as a special ‘cemetery of the drowned’.
Between 1939–1945 well over one hundred soldiers washed ashore and for ninety of them cemetery Vredenhof (literally Peacegarden) became their final resting place. Every victim was buried with full military honour by the German occupying forces (700 of them in total) in cooperation with the 800 islanders – irrespective of nationality, religion or rank. Despite the very varied backgrounds of the victims (German, Jewish, allied, Polish and Moroccan) the principle of equality was applied to everyone, which was unique in that era and particularly under the circumstances. In this way, Vredenhof – as an exceptional and unintentional monument - keeps the memories of the victims of World War II alive.
The installation Vredenhof 1939-1945 demonstrates the very rich recorded history of the ninety soldiers who washed ashore on the Wadden Island of Schiermonnikoog. Every soldier’s personal history literally unfolds for the audience in the shape of a unique printed foldout book which comprises a standardised diagram layout which contains all the information on the deceased, one for every soldier. Information from a number of different archives is brought together in a single, new work which centres on a unique episode in World War II history. Precisely because of the clearly laid out presentation the complexity of memory culture becomes apparent.
(excerpt from the Dutch text: ‘Vredenhof Revisited’ by Frank van der Stok, june 2010)