At the end of last year, The Peace Palace organised a EUROPEANA 1914-1918 Collection Day in the light of the centenary of the First World War. The main focus of the EUROPEANA 1914-1918 Project is to digitally collect and share documents concerning the Great War. From 2011 onwards, eight European National Libraries, other organisations and the general public brought together more than 400.000 documents, photographs and objects in the EUROPEANA 1914-1918 Database. A wealth of information on the First World War! The materials in the database were contributed by the general public during special Collection Days that were organised all around Europe.
During the collection day at the Peace Palace Library, several locals came by to show us their World War I memorabilia and at the same time to share their interesting stories with us. A lady from The Hague showed us a beautiful wooden box which was made by a Belgian Soldier who was imprisoned at a camp at the Pompstationsweg in Scheveningen. Her grandfather lived near this camp and was given the inlayed wooden box by the soldier. She inherited the box and has cherished it ever since.
Close by at the Katwijkstraat 67 and 67a, a Synagogue was erected during the war especially for Belgian refugees from Jewish origin. In the building ‘Shul’ services were held and children were taught. After the war, the building was split up into houses and later on inhabited by the grandparents of one of the contributors of the collection day.
Another contributor shared with us a personal story of his grandfather and uncle who perished while fishing on the North Sea. Their ship was demolished by a British mine or German torpedo. At the Scheveningseweg, close to the Peace Palace, a monument was unveiled by Queen Wilhelmina in 1922 remembering the 326 fishermen from Scheveningen who died whilst fishing at sea during the war. It is said that Queen Wilhelmina witnessed the grief of the family members of these fishermen up closely when she used to stay at her house ‘Villa ‘Den Ruygenhoek’ located in the dunes.
Although The Netherlands was neutral during the First World War and The Hague was far away from the battle front, it is very interesting to learn that at a stone’s throw away from the Peace Palace, World War I history is found and by sharing these stories history is kept alive. Many, many more stories can be read online by visiting the portal of EUROPEANA 1914-1918.