Tributes to Rien Dijkstra (21 January 1961 - 2 August 2018)

Post date: 05/08/2018

Hetty van der Hall-Hordijk of our Dutch sister organisation, Stichting Spanje 1936-1939, writes:


To my great regret, I have to inform you that our secretary Rien Dijkstra passed away last  on 2 August. For more than a year Rien knew that he was seriously ill, but he remained positive about life regardless.


In him the Stichting Spanje 1936-1939 has lost a passionate board member, who since his accession has put  the Spanish Civil War once again on the map in the Netherlands.



Until the last moment he occupied himself with matters concerning the commemoration of the International Brigaders.


For all of the work Rien has done, we owe him a debt of gratitude.


Our thoughts go out to his wife Marijke and their sons Esger and Jelmer. We wish them a lot of strength in coming to terms with this huge loss.



Nancy Phillips, of the US-based Friends and Families of the International Brigades, writes:


Rien Dijkstra was a passionate believer in the idea of internationalism, and he asked us, in his insistent and stubborn way, to look beyond our own country’s participation in the International Brigades and focus instead on what was an international effort to defend the Second Republic. Further, he didn’t simply see a struggle against fascism in Spain, he saw that the struggles of working people, from one country to another, were part and parcel of the same international movement. His belief that we must remember that this was an international struggle against fascism is expressed clearly and persuasively in the speech that he gave at the KFSR (German International Brigades memorial group) annual meeting last year, which is set out below. 


If the title of the speech, ‘We were – We are – We will be’, sounds familiar, that’s because it was based on the very famous last written words of Rosa Luxemburg: ‘Already tomorrow, the revolution will arise rattling and to your horror with trombone clank, it will proclaim: “I was, I am, I will be!”.’ These last words were later riffed on by Austrian International Brigaders who were first imprisoned in French camps during the Vichy regime and later transported to the prison camps in North Africa: ‘We were – We are – We will be’. Here is Rien’s speech.


‘We were – We are – We will be’. This was one of the slogans of the International Brigades. This meeting today is not just a tribute to the events of those times. The very subject is the idea of internationalism.


The Spanish Civil War for many people is an almost forgotten war, isolated in space and time, when some people had gone to Spain, to fight in an unintelligible war.


We insist, anyhow, that the Spanish Civil War was not an isolated in space and time event, but has to be understood in a much wider context.


The people who had joined the Spanish Republic were part of a great international, social-political movement, striving for democratic rights, for equality and social progress.


And still now internationalism matters. We share a common past, present and future. It is an international legacy and the international future of the battle for democratic rights, equality, justice and social progress.


We have to bring this to the public, to seek partners, to organise events together with others. We must get together with the new generations, tell them our stories and reminders, involve them in our activities.


And – we have to promote the international cooperation in the spirit of the International Brigades. This is our task! We were – We are – We will be. 


Posted on 5 August 2018.

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