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  • Writer's pictureHans Faber

Where are the student corps and associations? Where are the frats and dickheads?

Recently, the regional newspaper Leeuwarder Courant published an article about how the town of Stavoren was tampering with the stones of the grave of King Aldgillis (Walinga 2024), a king of Frisia in the seventh century. This grave used to be the spot where the members of the Frisian student association D.S.S.F.S. Aldgillis at the town of Delft would gather to drink and share some jenever together. A tradition that started in the early ’60s. But, like the town officials of Stavoren, the students have also lost interest in their former king and his grave. In general, Frisian students have lost interest in their own origin and culture. Currently, fraternity D.S.S.F.S. Aldgillis only has four members.

To quote the chairman of it Kolleezje fan Almenak-folmachten ‘the board of yearbook plenipotentiaries’ F. Kuiper from his preface to the Frysk Studinte-Almenak ‘Frisian student Yearbook’ of 1948 (published by the Federaesje fen Fryske Studinteforienings ‘federation of Frisian student associations’):

Dit Almenak is net wurden, hwat it wêze koe. It Frysk Studinte Almenak moat wêze in utering fan Frysk Studinte-libben. En dat is it net. (…) It is gjin ûnformogen, it is ek gjin loaijens, it is jim kâlde hert. Ynkâld is it en stiif giet jim bloed. Jim hert moat him hieltyd wer bitinke, of’t it nochris klopje sil, hwant it wit net, hwêr’t it foar kloppet. Net foar Fryslân, net foar de Federaesje, net foar it Studinte-libben, nearne, nearne foar dêr’t in Frysk Studintehert foar klopje moast.

This Yearbook is not what it could have been. The Frisian Student Yearbook should be an expression of Frisian Student Life, which it is not. (…) It isn’t incompetence, nor is it laziness. It is your cold heart. It is as cold as ice. And your blood runs viscously. Time and again, your heart has to ask itself whether or not it will beat once again because it doesn’t know for what reason it beats. Not for Friesland, not for the Federation, not for the Student Life. There’s nothing, nothing for what the Frisian Student Heart beats.

With this outcry in 1948 already, and the embarrassing and impotent picture of king and student association D.S.S.F.S. Aldgilles as described in the newspaper Leeuwarder Courant last month (February 2024), what can we expect of the new generations for the future of Frisian culture? Or, to quote writer Anne Wadman (1951): “Hwer bliuwt de jongerein?” ‘when do the young ones step in?’ Sadly, it seems the Frisian students have thrown their heritage in the jiskefet (Mid-Frisian language for ‘trash can’).

satire series Jiskefet ('trash can') - De Lullo's ('the dickheads')

We made a quick assessment of the vitality of Frisian student life: how much do the hearts of our future top administrators, politicians and industrialists beat for the Frisian culture? A relevant question, we think, considering that, in the case of the Netherlands, only last December for the first time in history was the Frisian language spoken during a debate in the Parliament. Oh, how happy and proud people were. But that was more than seventy years after the violent incident of Kneppelfreed, which translates to ‘baton Friday’, at the town of Leeuwarden in the province of Friesland, concerning the use of the Frisian language in court. Seventy years ago! No, it was sad.

Ducks that are dead

The list below only concerns Frisian fraternities in the Netherlands. Of Germany we have no idea which Frisian associations ceased to exist. Tips are welcome.

  1. K.N.S.S. Natio Frisica at Amsterdam

  2. A.S.S.F.C. Cygnus Resurgens at Amsterdam

  3. Mokumer Mjitte at Amsterdam

  4. Tsjerk Hiddes at Arnhem

  5. R.S.S.F.S. Carel Roarda at Rotterdam

  6. F.S.S. Redbad at Utrecht

  7. L.S.S.F.S. Libertatis at Leiden

  8. Finn at Leiden

  9. Nimweger Studinterounte Titus Brandsma at Nijmegen

Rubber ducks that still float

We have sorted the fraternities according the year of foundation. If we forgot one or two, let us know:

  1. Corps Frisia at Göttingen, founded in 1811

  2. Corps Frisia at Braunschweig, founded in 1818

  3. Akademische Verbindung Frisia at Kiel, founded in 1872

  4. Studentenverbindung Burschenschaft Frisia at Darmstadt, founded in 1885

  5. Akademische Verbindung Frisia at Hannover, founded in 1902

  6. F.F.J. Bernlef at Groningen, founded in 1925

  7. De Federaasje fan Fryske Studinteferienings at Groningen, founded in 1930

  8. G.H.O.B.V It Bernlef Ielde at Leeuwarden, founded in 1977

In Germany, the regions of Ostfriesland and Nordfriesland, a much longer tradition exists of students organizing themselves around their Frisian identity. Corps Frisia at Göttingen and Braunschweig, with their revolutionary origin, are part of the Algemeine Deutsche Burschenschaft (abbr. B!). All of the associations and corps were founded in the nineteenth century, whilst in the Netherlands only from the second quarter of the twentieth century associations were founded. Another difference is that the German-Frisian associations prefer to identify themselves with the name Frisia, and those in the Netherlands often with early-medieval historic Frisian personages (kings, admirals and stuff). The W.S.S.F.S from the town of Wageningen even has a logo inspired by the script of the Oera Linda Book (i.e. a spoked wheel called the Kroder).

To give an idea of how many Frisian students and frats in Germany and the Netherlands currently are participating in Frisian student associations and corps, we estimate between 400 and 500 in total. Student association F.F.J. Bernlef at Groningen, close to the province of Friesland, is understandably the biggest with about 130 members. To give some perspective and relativization, in 1948 the number of members of F.F.J. Bernlef amounted almost sixty. That was in a time the Netherlands counted about 25,000 students in total. Currently that number is about 350,000. Groningen University has almost 38,000 students at the time of writing, of which 9,400 foreign.

Besides websites, several associations can be found on social media as well, like LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and, notably, Facebook. Some more statistics (March 2024): F.F.J. Bernlef on Facebook page 695 followers, on X 273 followers (last entry 19 January 2023); Corps Frisia at Braunschweig on Facebook page 541 followers (last entry 13 August 2018); Akademische Verbindung Frisia at Hannover on Facebook page 498 followers; G.H.B.O.V. It Bernlef Ielde on Facebook page 358 followers; the W.S.S.F.S. on Facebook group 260 friends; D.S.S.F.S. Aldgillis on Facebook page 79 followers (last entry 22 August 2022); the Federaasje foar Fryske Studinteferienings on LinkedIn 29 connections, and; Corps Frisia at Göttingen on YouTube 12 followers.

Within the Netherlands three associations are affiliated with the Federaasje foar Fryske Studinteferienings ‘federation for Frisian student associations’. These are: F.F.J. Berlef, the W.S.S.F.S. and D.S.S.F.S. Aldgillis. The Federaasje is, or used to be, a forum of consultation for organizations belonging to the Fryske Beweging ‘Frisian movement’. In addition the Federaasje published every year the Frysk Studinte-Almenak ‘Frisian student yearbook’ but stopped doing so in 1958. What remained is the annual Krystkongres ‘Christmas congress’ in the former university town of Franeker in the province of Friesland, organized by the Federaasje. Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, students of the three affiliated associations assemble in Franeker. December last year (2023) was the 91st time the Krystkongres took place. Reckon about eighty students show up at the Krystcongressen.

The first couple of years after its foundation in 1930, the central activities of the Federaasje were organized in the town of Leeuwarden. From 1935 onward, the town of Franeker became the center of the Federaasje's activities. Between 1585 and 1811, Franeker had its own university until Napoleon closed it. A proper historic location. Franeker University drew students from all over Europe. Pieter Stuyvesant was one of its students, who, besides going to college, also frequented the bawdy taverns and whorehouses in Franeker and nearby Harlingen. Perhaps even together with his brother-in-law Rembrandt van Rijn and the infamous Polish professor Jan Makowski. Check our post Harbours, Hookers, Heroines and Women in Masquerade for more. By the way, from 2017 the Academy of Franeker (re-)opened its doors. An initiative of among others Groningen University and the municipality.

The old tavern De Bogt fen Guné at Vijverstraat St. became the weardshûs ‘inn’ of the Frisian students of the Federaasje. Tavern De Bogt fen Guné happens to be the oldest surviving student locality in the Netherlands. It has been an inn since the year 1598. In the year 1686, it received the name De Bogt fen Guiné, referring to the gold coast of West Africa where much wealth was earned during the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic, especially through the slave trade. As a side note, a former chairman of the student association F.F.J. Bernlef started his own inn in the far northwest corner of the province of Friesland, an inn called the Friezinn. Coincidence?

Back to the heartbeat of Frisian students for their origin and culture.

It isn't a rosy picture. There are less and less Frisian student associations, with only F.F.J. Bernlef at Groningen, the W.S.S.F.S at Wageningen and Corps Frisia at Göttingen having some vitality. With only four members left, D.S.S.F.S. Aldgillis probably won't have the strength to halt the tossing with the stones of King Aldgillis' grave at Stavoren and to create a real monument for this early-medieval king of Frisia. Chairman of D.S.S.F.S. Aldgilles, Andries de Boer, has announced that his student association will make a pilgrimage to the grave of King Aldgillis on 18 May 2024. Let's see if the Federaasje and other student associations will make the pilgrimage that day as well. That the Student Hearts of Frisian Lullo's 'dickheads' and frat boys may beat again for Frisia!

To end with the heraldic devices of respectively Corps Frisia in Breslau and Corps Frisia in Frankfurt am Mein:




Note 1 – Students at Groningen University originating from the port town of Harlingen had united themselves in the S.D.Y.D.S.S.S in the mid ’90s. An abbreviation that stood for Sil’k Dy Yn De Súderhaafn Soademietere Seun, meaning ‘I will throw you in the southern harbour son’. Each year, on 30 December, they organized a great eating and drinking bacchanal. A night true to the rules of the Dutch artist society of the Bentvueghels in Rome centuries ago. Saying people from Harlingen are Frisian is an act of war, so we haven’t listed this group.

Note 2 - We have contacted the Federaasje foar Fryske Studinteferienings by e-mail to learn if they had more activities and initiatives besides the Krystkongressen, but we have not received any response from them. Maybe with Christmas later this year!

Note 3 – One of the Frisian bastards also created a print for F.F.J. Bernlef in the early ’90s:

Suggested music

Foreigner, Cold As Ice (1977)

Cliff Richard & The Young Ones, Living Doll (1986)

Further reading

Bracht, K., 100 Jahr Corps Frisia (1984)

Corps Frisia, Vorstand der Alt-Herren-Vereinigung des Corps Frisia, 100 Jahre Corps Frisia (1984)

Federaesje fen Fryske Studinteforienings, Frysk Studinte-Almenak (1940)

Federaesje fen Fryske Studinteforienings, Frysk Studinte-Almenak (1948)

Henkes, B., Sporen van het slavernijverleden in Fryslân (2021)

Jong, de M., De Friese maffia. 296 Friese politici in Den Haag (2007)

Omrop Fryslân, Record Fries spreken in de Tweede Kamer: “Dit is een historische dag in de Friese geschiedenis” (2023)

Veltman, M., Barklunen, hampel en Alvestêdefocht: een korte introductie tot de Friese studentenvereniging in Groningen (2021)

Wadman, A., Krityk yn it koart. Hwer bliuwt de jongerein? (1951)

Walinga, C., Gesol met graf koning Aldgillis in Stavoren (2024)

Walthuis, A., ‘Wiere beweger’ Bertus Jans Postma (93) overleden (2023)


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