Dear family, friends and colleagues of Frank,
How difficult it is to stand here to say goodbye to our curator, historian, colleague and yes also ally and friend. But apart from being difficult, what an honour to also be allowed to bid adieu on behalf of the team of the
where Frank played such a prominent role. National Liberation Museum
The many memories of Frank have occupied my thoughts this last week. They are deeply embedded, enormously rich and incredibly precious. Delivering a comprehensive farewell speech is a tour de force that could only end in a very lengthy meeting. Therefore I will only present the most accurate biographical brush-strokes on that beautiful palette that coloured Frank’s life.
Who was Frank? What legacy does he leave behind?
1. Let me begin with Frank the professional. Of course, his knowledge of facts has often been praised. If you asked him on which day in the ‘30’s and at what time exactly did the Germans occupy Sudetenland, he could tell you that to the minute. But this would derogate from his merits. After all factual knowledge is equal to the contents of a phone book; insight, understanding and science of history reach much further and therein lay his strength. Above all Frank searched for new pathways, for the unknown. While doing research for exhibitions he discovered new roads, hereby helping to enhance the museum enormously. We all remember the very successful exhibitions ‘Football in wartime’, ‘About landmines and courage’, ‘Love in wartime’. He excelled in the field of military and civilian history, but with a strong preference for the first. When I sometimes called him ‘mister Pentagon’, he would reply ‘No, I am not a military complex, but I do have one’. Foreign military groups visiting the museum could leave their own educational officer at home, they only wanted one person with them on the bus: mister van den Bergh.
2. And then a second brush-stroke on that biographical palette: Frank the worker. His exceptional devotion to the collection of the museum is legendary. All by himself he determined the 8.000 images of the WW2 Image Data Bank and I’m certain that all 38.000 objects and documents in the museum have been handled by him. Frank and I both worked hard on the famous Liberation Route. What a great project: a co-production of marketeers, playwrights and experts in the tourist industry.
Frank went through fire and water for the museum. He regularly came to see me to enquire about the number of visitors. If he then learned that they had increased, he happily returned to the depot whistling and singing. You can just picture him, can’t you?
3. Frank’s biography would be incomplete without the chapter Frank, the warm and funny guy. If there was an emergency he always immediately lent a helping hand. Regarded from a distance you could consider him monomanic in his profession, seen close up he was entirely different and you could see straight into his heart. And his humour: I remember a car trip to Normandy; from Nijmegen to Caen he lectured from the back seat, full of humour and wit -bad and less bad- . We arrived at our destination with stomach cramps from laughing. I will never forget this.
The finer and richer the memories of the one you were so fond of, the more painful is the farewell. Grief, intense grief is inherent in these cherished memories. For there you are, shocked and in pain. Life seems to continue happily for others. However, the theologist Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated ‘The beautiful memories of the one you have lost are not a thorn in the flesh but a precious gift, a safe possession to draw on for strength and happiness’.
And so I protect myself from this farewell to Frank. The farewell of the MAESTRO as I will continue to call him.
Frank, you leave behind a great legacy which will live on forever, like a gift in our pocket à la Bonhoeffer. Rest in peace!
Drs. Wiel P.H. Lenders
Director National Liberation Museum 1944-1945