The Strike on Life and Death

Starting April 24 2023

Scenario & direction:
Kees Schaap

Idea & Presentation:
Erik Dijkstra

No less then 500.000 people dared to chalenge the German oppression during the April-May strike in 1943. It was to become the largest strike that ever took place in The Netherlands and it spread like wildfire troughout the country.
Nazi reprisals were harsh. 200 strikers were killed and many more sent to prisoncamps in Germany. Why is this event hardly remembered. Why was this never commemorated nationwide? Erik Dijkstra sets out to solve this mystery in “The strike on life and death”.

Unknown and unresolved

‘The strike on life and death’ reconstructs the events during the April-May Strike by means of some twenty personal stories that occured throughout the Netherlands. They are touching and immersing testimonies that show the unexpected courage of hundred thousand ordinary Dutchmen. Many of them paid a high price. Their children and grandchildren still suffer from guilt, grieve or remorse. Often unjustified. But because the April May Strike remained so unknown, many questions remained unanswered. Rumors became myths and their trauma remained unsolved.

‘The strike on life and death” is a coproduction by Episode One and BNNVARA, directed by Kees Schaap. Its narration is supported by dramatisations, art work and a specially composed sound track.

Presentatie: Erik Dijkstra
Scenario & regie: Kees Schaap
Producent: Joanne Schaap
Montage: Floor Rodenburg NCE
Director of Photography: Jan-Pieter Tuinstra
Geluid: Thanassis Pliakis MPSE
Beeldresearch: Gerard Nijssen

Tekeningen en animaties: Romano Molenaar & Niel Vredeveldt
Componisten: Ad van Dongen en Eddy Koopmans
Visuele effecten: Mannes van der Burg
Eindredactie BNNVARA: Sjoerd van den Broek
Producent BNNVARA: Sander van den Eeden

Episode 1: The spark

April 29, 1943. When the Germans announce their intention to deport all former Dutch military, a telephone operator at the Stork Factory in Hengelo ignites a spark that will lead to the largest strike the Netherlands has ever known: The April May Strike.
From the coal mines in Limburg to the countryside of Friesland, throughout the country people participate courageously. Hanns Albin Rauter, de highest SS commander in the Netherlands, fears this will encourage Churchill to invade, so he decides to retaliate fiercely. Like in the village of Marum in Groningen province where 16 innocent civilians are executed.

Episode 2: Heroes

Already in two days it becomes clear that the strikes will be smothered in blood. But even then, thousands of Dutchmen show admirable courage. Urged by their faith, catholics and protestants defy their fear of death. And many socialist and communist workers remain steadfast, even when they know what is coming. Even the directors and managers of the Limburg coal mines dare to wager their own lives in order to safe those of thousands of striking coal miners.

Episode 3: Sentenced to life

200 people lost their lives during the April May Strike of 1943. But, since most of them were buried in secret, relatives were not able to mourn them, so they kept hoping. Their children and grandchildren inherited their trauma. And since the strike was so poorly investigated, many of these lores were to become myths. Erik tries to help relatives fill in the gaps in their family history and find answers to their questions. And doing so he finally discovers why the April May Strike was never commemorated nationally.

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