Cleveringa lecture about the memories of World War II in Asia

Historian Carol Gluck delivered a lecture on 26 November on collective memories of World War II, particularly in Asian countries. Her lecture was given at the annual anniversary of the lecture by Rudolph Cleveringa in 1940, protesting against the dismissal of Jewish colleague-professors.

Strong impact of war still felt

Carol Gluck

Carol Gluck

During the lecture, entitled ‘Doing Justice to the Past: 70 Years After World War II,’ Gluck discussed the dominant role played by the past. Although the Second World War ended almost 70 years ago, it still has a strong impact on present-day society and politics. This is particularly true for countries in East Asia and Eastern Europe that once again confronted their wartime history after the end of the Cold War. Today what Chinese and Koreans call Japan’s ‘history problem,’ which includes such contentious issues as the former ‘comfort women,’ continues to create conflict among the countries of East Asia.

Public memory changed

At the same time, 70 years is a long period. A great deal has changed in the practices of public memory since the end of the Second World War. Among these changes are the role of witnesses in producing knowledge of the past and transformations in the moral concept of responsibility. Inspired by the deeds and words of Professor Cleveringa, Gluck discussed these changes in our ideas of justice and responsibility in her lecture.


Dean of Law Rick Lawson and Professor Ineke Sluiter reconstruct the story in a short documentary.

Carol Gluck

Gluck (born 1941) is Professor of History at Columbia University. She conducts research on modern Japan and East Asia, international relations, history-writing and public memory in Asia and the West. Gluck’s works include ‘Thinking with the Past: Modern Japan and History’ (2013), ‘Words in Motion: Toward a Global Lexicon’ (2009) and ‘The End of Elsewhere: Writing Modernity Now’ (American Historical Review, 2011). She is a highly esteemed scholar both in the United States and abroad. The historian and Japan specialist is a member of the Council of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and sits on the boards of various organisations, including the Japan Society and the Weatherhead Foundation. She has been guest professor at the University of Tokyo, the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and Harvard University.

Professor Rudolph Cleveringa

On 26 November 1940 Professor Rudolph Cleveringa, Dean of the Faculty of Law, delivered his historic speech in the Academy Building protesting against the dismissal of his Jewish colleague Eduard Meijers, Professor of Private Law. By order of the German occupying forces, all ‘non-Aryan individuals’ were removed from their posts. Cleveringa’s speech prompted a student strike, after which the Nazis closed the university in Leiden.

Cleveringa professorship

The Cleveringa professorship is an alternating chair with a one-year term. The Cleveringa professor’s field of research alternates between the Second World War and issues in the area of law, freedom and responsibility. Former Cleveringa professors include the historians Michael Ignatieff, Timothy Snyder and Hans Blom, food scholar Louise Fresco and Leiden special professor Job Cohen, then Mayor of Amsterdam.

(18 November 2014)

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Cleveringa dossier

Last Modified: 27-11-2014