SJOERD DE VRIJ – THE FLAME OF FREEDOM: English Version

September 15, 2023
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Schools and educators in Canada looking for a unique resource regarding the participation of the Canadian military and their Allies during WWII along with the ensuing battle for freedom that challenged the people of Holland, will find a unique perspective in a new graphic novel created by WIM HUIJSER & JELLE DE GRUYTER, with art by ERIC HEUVEL, entitled, “SJOERD DE VRIJ – THE FLAME OF FREEDOM”. The graphic novel/comic book blends original sources such as historical photographs, audio recordings, and archival textual documents to tell their story, and it is now available for the first time in an English version. (The initial post for the Dutch version was presented on 5th April, 2022, and can be viewed HERE).

From the back cover:

SJOERD DE VRIJ - THE FLAME OF FREEDOM

In the photographs of the meeting between Canadian General Charles Foulkes and German General Johannes Blaskowitz in Hotel De Wereld in Wageningen on the 5th of May 1945, you see mainly the high-ranking officers. But if you look carefully you can also see the reporters and photographers in the background.

Sjoerd de Vrij, reporter for Radio Herrijzend Nederland was one of them. He wrote a report on the capitulation of the German armed forces, which meant the end of the Second World War for the Netherlands and other countries. “This is the best day of the war!”, said Sjoerd at the time.

Like everyone else in the Netherlands, Sjoerd de Vrij and his family lost their freedom in May 1940. They only regained it five years later, thanks to the thousands of young Allied soldiers who risked their lives.

Witnessing the liberation, Sjoerd and his friend, Canadian photographer Alex Stirton, believed that the willingness of these soldiers to fight for other people’s freedom should never be forgotten.

This is why the Flame of Freedom has been passed on to new generations on the 4th of May every year since 1946. Sjoerd’s great-granddaughter Titia plans to do her part to keep the Flame of Freedom alive!

Present on that infamous day in Holland, May 5th, 1945, at the Hotel de Wereld in Wageningen was photographer Captain Alex Stirton of the Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit (CFPU). Photographic prints taken by Captain Stirton and the rest of the Army Film Unit, can be viewed online within the Canadian Army Numerical Albums that only recently have been made available to the general public by Library & Archives Canada. To view a complete set of all 110 Army Numericals Albums, click HERE.

To learn more about the Army Numericals Albums, please visit this post here;


A great companion to the Army Numerical Albums in discussing the contents of the story are the Canadian Army Newsreels, the only visual record of Canadians in action during the Second World War (along with footage shot by the other allied forces, and other independent newsreel companies). Without this record we would not be aware of the sacrifices that had to be made by the young men and women of our armed forces. The newsreels will forever remain as a living tribute to the men and women of the Canadian forces.

Created as a table of contents to the Canadian Army Newsreels is the Canadian Army Newsreel guide provided by the The War Amps in cooperation with Library and Archives Canada and veterans of the Canadian Army Film Unit. This free online document contains descriptions for all 106 newsreels produced by the Canadian Army easily searchable by keyword.

An example of some of the many topics covered in all 106 Canadian Army Newsreels (CANR) is this story from CANR Issue 81.3: Highlights in the NewsIn Wageningen (Holland), Lieutenant General Charles Foulkes, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and a crowd watch a ceremony around the placement of a plaque on the site of the surrender of German forces in Holland by Colonel-General Johannes Blaskowitz to Foulkes. (Click on the image below to view the YouTube video).

This scene, shot by the Canadian Army Film Unit also appears on page 21 of the graphic novel SJOERD DE VRIJ – THE FLAME OF FREEDOM – (Used with permission);

Within the Canadian Army Newsreel guide booklet, there are as many as 70 keyword references to ‘Holland’; CANR 50.2 Breda Night Club – Soldiers dance with Dutch girls to band music; CANR 53.1 1944 IN REVIEW – In Holland: Canadian troops cross into Holland; CANR 69.6People greet soldiers happily in Deventer, Holland; and CANR 71.2 – Holland Towns Celebrate Liberation, to name just a few. Use a keyword search using the CANR Guide and quickly locate an Army Newsreel video of interest!

To view the War Amps Canadian Army Newsreel playlist please follow this link; https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL04CC43B7CD63C686


Together with the Canadian Army Newsreels and Library & Archives’ Army Numerical Albums, the graphic novel, SJOERD DE VRIJ – THE FLAME OF FREEDOM serves as an exceptional educational tool that will engage readers and students alike. For use in the classroom, here are some of the suggested objectives that can be explored within the classroom;

  • to show students that freedom is not self-evident, but something that can come under pressure and deserves defense.
  • to learn more about Canada’s role during WWII, and how we, as a nation, played a part in liberating Holland.
  • students learn more about their nations history by using available resources to form an image of an era; to find answers to questions, and also learn to involve their own cultural-historical environment in this process.
  • to learn how world conflicts of the past compare to contemporary developments today.
  • to learn more about the unique relationship between Canada and the Netherlands which grew from historical events of the past.
  • to learn how other nations celebrate Freedom, and what it means to be Free?


About ordering copies here in Canada – special pricing for Canadian School Boards

Hi Dale

A few years ago we e-mailed about the comic album Sjoerd de Vrij – Het Vuur van de Vrijheid.

The album was published in 2021.

I’m happy to be able to tell you that on May 5th, 2023, we released an English and a German edition of the comic book, and a reprint of the Dutch edition. 

The first edition counted 6000 copies of which 2000 are sold ‘commercially’ and 4000 are sent (on demand) to primary schools enthusiastic to work with the album in class.

Now we made another 3000 of the Dutch edition, and 1500 English and 1500 German translations.

The comic books are for sale but their purpose is mainly to be used in primary schools to start talks among the children about war and peace, freedom and oppression, resistance and collaboration.

Our ’twinning city’ in Germany for example, Mörfelden-Walldorf (near Frankfurt) ordered 300 copies to work with on their primary schools.

It would be great if primary schools in Canada could also start these talks based on the comicbook. We could provide copies for free but there would be an extra cost for postage to Canada. Please use the contact information below for a quote prior to ordering…

jelledegruyter@gmail.com or

voorzitter@hotel-dewereld.nl

Hartelijke groet,

Jelle de Gruyter


NOTE: Jelle de Gruyter has been kind enough to supply me with several copies. Should your school be interested in receiving a free copy for review, please contact me at webmaster@canadianfilm.com 

© Dale Gervais 2023

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