In the middle of the Second World War students were required to sign a declaration of loyalty to the German occupying power. What would you have done: would you have signed? That is the question at the heart of the forthcoming big theatrical production Getekend, which WUR staff and students can get involved in.
© Saris en den Engelsman
The show will be staged in the Junushof theatre in Wageningen next May as part of WUR’s centenary festivities. Most of the cast and the production team will be drawn from Wageningen students and staff. The production process kicked off in Impulse on Tuesday 31 October.
The declaration of loyalty that students were faced with in 1943 was not without consequences. Signing meant you could stay at university. Not signing meant being sent to a labour camp in Germany. The moral dilemmas raised by the decision form the central theme of the show.
The play will be written by Reinier Noordzij and directed by Albert van Andel. This is a rerun for both of them, as they first wrote and produced the play two years ago for Delft University of Technology, where it was a great success. The plot is based on Onno Sinke’s book Loyaliteit in verdrukking (Loyalty under oppression), which is about Delft during the war. Noordzij and Van Andel are now adapting the script to the Wageningen context.
‘For example, students in Wageningen helped steal the population register from the town hall,’ says Van Andel. ‘We’ll definitely put that in.’ ‘There were quite a lot of students from the Dutch East Indies here,’ adds Noordzij. ‘That Wageningen local colour will get a mention.’
Getekend will be a production by and for students and staff. There is a core cast of four professional actors, but all the other parts will be played by students and staff. Van Andel reckons to need 10 to 15 actors for speaking parts, and 10 and 20 for non-speaking parts. A backstage crew will be needed too. ‘Casting is in January and everyone is welcome.’
Van Andel describes the show as a play with musical backing – ‘a kind of soundtrack’. For the music, the director is talking to the WUR big band Sound of Science. Students will also be carrying out tasks such as signposting, logistics and publicity. Initiator Studium Generale will set up a programme around the performances, including other drama and lectures.
The wartime declaration of loyalty did not have the effect the occupying power intended it to have. In Wageningen only 154 out of 850 students signed it. 150 students were sent to labour camps and the rest disappeared from the town or went into hiding.