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  • Writer's pictureHans Faber

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

Recently, 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 of Delft would gather to drink and share some jenever together. Hopefully with some jenever as libation for the dead spirits too. A yearly tradition that started in the early ’60s. Regrettably, like the town officials of Stavoren, also Frisian students have lost interest in their former kings and their graves. In general, they have lost interest in their own origin, culture and heritage. Currently, fraternity D.S.S.F.S. Aldgillis only has four members left.

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. Aldgillis 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 mainly concerns Frisian fraternities in the Netherlands. Of Germany we have limited information which other Frisian associations ceased to exist. Tips are welcome.

  1. Corps Frisia in Breslau (modern Wrocław, Poland), founded in 1881

  2. Corps Frisia, or Wissenschaftlichen Studentenverbindung Frisia, in Frankfurt am Main, founded in 1919

  3. K.N.S.S. Natio Frisica in Amsterdam (Vrije Universiteit, VU), founded 1898

  4. A.S.S.F.C. Cygnus Resurgens in Amsterdam (Universiteit van Amsterdam, UvA), founded in 1932

  5. Feriening Mokumer Mjitte in Amsterdam, founded in 2002

  6. Frysk Studinte Selskip Twente Tsjerk Hiddes in Enschede

  7. R.S.S.F.S. Carel Roarda in Rotterdam

  8. F.S.S. Redbad in Utrecht (Utert), founded in 1930

  9. L.S.S.F.S. Libertatis or Stúdzjerounte Leijen in Leiden (Leijen), founded ca. 1930

  10. Finn in Leiden

  11. Rooms Katholieke Jong Studenten Vereniging Titus Brandsma, or Nimweger Studinterounte Titus Brandsma, in Nijmegen (Nimwegen), founded ca. 1965

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, or Frisia - Corps der Friesen und Lüneburger, in Göttingen/Cologne, founded in 1811

  2. Corps Friso-Cheruskia in Karlsruhe, founded in 1860

  3. Akademische Verbindung Frisia (AV Frisia Kiel) in Kiel, founded in 1872

  4. Studentenverbindung Burschenschaft Frisia in Darmstadt, founded in 1885

  5. Akademische Verbindung Frisia (AV Frisia Hannover) in Hannover, founded in 1902

  6. Technische Burschenschaft Frisia (B!) in Hamburg, founded in 1916

  7. F.F.J. Bernlef in Groningen (Grins), founded in 1925

  8. Federaasje fan Fryske Studinteferienings in Groningen (Grins), founded in 1930

  9. Wageningsk Studinte Selskip foar Fryske Stúdzje in Wageningen (Weinum), founded in 1930

  10. Delfske Studinte Selskip foar Fryske Stúdzje Aldgillis in Delft (Dâlvert), founded in 1931

  11. Corps Frisia in Braunschweig, founded in 1951

  12. G.H.O.B.V It Bernlef Ielde in Leeuwarden (Ljouwert), 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 Göttingen and Braunschweig, with their revolutionary origin, are part of the Algemeine Deutsche Burschenschaft (abbr. B!). Fencing is a sport sometimes still part of the old corps tradition (Karlsruhe), next to sailing (Kiel). Not for nothing Frisians are a water people, and in Germany these students from Kiel are known as Seefriesen. We are not aware if the Frisian corpora 'corps' in Germany have yearly joined gatherings or Friesentreffen too, like in the Netherlands.

Nearly all of the German associations and corps were founded in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, whilst in the Netherlands only from the second quarter of the twentieth century Frisian associations were founded. The Second World War had a major impact on the Frisian student associations. Not only many members died in battle and the archives were destroyed during the bombardments of cities, also in the run up to the war most of the associations were discontinued. Below an illustration of the dire straits corpora were in.

Corps Frisia Braunschweig, founded in the spring of 1951 at the Technischen Hochschule Carola Wilhelmina, is actually a fusion of the corps Frisia Breslau (modern Wrocław in Poland) and in Frankfurt am Main. Both were dissolved in 1935, during the troubled period with the rise of the nationalsozialismus ('Nazism') before the Second World War. Similar what happened to the Catholic AV Frisia Hannover. This association was abolished in 1938 by the Gestapo and their club house sold. Corps Frisia Breslau was founded in 1881 at the university of Breslau, and initially named the Wissenschaftlich-Pharmazeutischen Verein (W.Ph.V.) 'scientific-pharmaceutical association'. The roots of Corps Frisia Breslau go even back to the year 1859 with the establishment of the Akademische-Pharamazeutischen Verein 'academic pharmaceutical association'. In 1906, the name 'Corps Frisia' was officially adopted. The Alten Herren Verein (AHV) Frisia 'elder gentlemen association Frisia', i.e. former Corpsbrüder (Cbr) who financially support the corps, more or less continued to exist during the war and supported the restoration of Corps Frisia after the war.

Another difference between Germany and the Netherlands is, that the Frisian associations in Germany prefer to identify themselves with the name Frisia, and those in the Netherlands often with (early-medieval) historic Frisian personages, like kings, admirals and other manly important stuff. W.S.S.F.S in the town of Wageningen even has a logo seemingly inspired by the script of the Oera Linda Book (i.e. a spoked wheel called the Kroder). This might inspire you to join yet another community, namely that of the Oera Linda Order of Priestesses. Or is the logo a play of words and does it represent a wheel of a wein, meaning 'wagen' in the Frisian language, since they are based in Wageningen?

Tsjerk Hiddes (admiral 17th century), Carel Roarda (freedom fighter 16th century), Redbad (king, 7/8th century), Finn (king, 6th century), Titus Brandsma (priest, Catholic saint, 20th century), Bernlef (bard, 9th century), Aldgillis (king, 7th century). We ask ourselves, how many times does Admiral Tsjerk Hiddes have to die?

The reason why there is such a difference in the name giving between Frisian student associations is first of all the long-standing student tradition of collegia nationale or nationes. A broader European tradition that originates from the Middle Ages whereby students organized themselves according the region they came from: the nationes, or in the Dutch language bittergenootschappen. In Germany this tradition survived stronger than in the Netherlands. Besides Frisia you also had/have the corps Bavaria, Franco-Guestphalia, Gotia, Hasso-Borussia, Marchia, Moenania, Montania-Breslau, Montania Leoben, Neo-Franconia, Rhenania, Rheno-Frankonia, Saxo-Borussia, Saxo-Thuringia, Silingia, Teutonia-Hercunia, etc.

Note that one of the oldest nationes of the Groninger Studenten Corps Vindicat Atque Polit, and thus of the Netherlands for that matter, is 't Selskip Frisia. It was founded in 1837. Also Corps the Leidse Studenten Vereniging Minerva has a fraternity called Frisia. Incidentally, it is also bittergenootschap 't Selskip Frisia of Corps Vindicat that identified the center of the earth, namely seven steps from the lonely church tower of Aegum in the province of Friesland. This after thorough measuring. Aegum and Middle Earth.

In the Netherlands the Frisian identity of the student associations is/used to be more political, which explains a name giving tradition primarily of famous historic Frisians. Another funny difference: the Frisian associations in the Netherlands often have lengthy acronyms, up to five letters in a row, whilst in Germany none or very short ones at most.

To give the reader an idea of how many Frisian students, frats and Corpsbrüder in Germany and the Netherlands currently participate in Frisian student associations and corps, we roughly estimate around 1,000 in total. Student association F.F.J. Bernlef in Groningen, close to the province of Friesland, is understandably the biggest in the Netherlands with about 130 active 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 (9 March 2024): F.F.J. Bernlef on Facebook page 695 followers, on X 273 followers (last entry 19 January 2023); Corps Frisia Braunschweig on Facebook page 541 followers (last entry 13 August 2018); AV Frisia Hannover on Facebook page 498 followers; G.H.B.O.V. It Bernlef Ielde on Facebook page 358 followers; 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); Federaasje foar Fryske Studinteferienings on LinkedIn 29 connections, Corps Friso-Cheruskia on Facebook page 441 followers (last entry 20 May 2023), and; Corps Frisia 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, W.S.S.F.S. and D.S.S.F.S. Aldgillis. The old Selskip Frisia of student association Vindicat Atque Polit in Groningen does not participate. 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. The Frisian statesman 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 about Stuyvesant's student life.

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. Literally translated 'the corner of Guinea' and referring to the gold coast of West Africa where the Dutch amassed much wealth, especially through the slave trade, during the Golden Age of the Republic.

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, what we started with this blogpost.

It isn’t a rosy picture. There are, notably in the Netherlands, less and less Frisian student associations, with only F.F.J. Bernlef in Groningen, W.S.S.F.S in Wageningen, Corps Frisia Göttingen and Corps Friso-Cheruskia having the most vitality. The German fraternities do not seem to have a tradition of having a Frisian ideological orientation. This also applies for the old nationes Frisia of the Dutch student associations Vindicat Atque Polit and Minerva.

With only four members left, D.S.S.F.S. Aldgillis probably won't have the strength to halt the disrespectful tossing with the stones of King Aldgillis' grave in the town of Stavoren and to create a real monument for this early-medieval king of Frisia. Chairman of D.S.S.F.S. Aldgillis, 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 together with student associations and Frisia corpora will make the pilgrimage that day as well. To raise their Fahnen and banners for one of their former kings one more time. That the Student Hearts of Frisian lullos 'dickheads', Corpsbrüder and frat boys may beat again for Frisia!

To end with the former heraldic devices of respectively Corps Frisia Breslau and Corps Frisia Frankfurt am Main:





Note 1 – For more backgrounds on King Aldgillis, king of Frisia, check out our blogpost The biography of Aldgisl, unplugged.

Note 2 - Students at Groningen University originating from the port town of Harlingen had united themselves in the SEUN S.D.I.D.S.S.! in the mid '90s. Seun or Ouwe Seun means 'son' and 'old son' respectively, and is a nickname for citizens from Harlingen. The abbreviation stood for: si'k die in de Súderhaaf'n soademietere! The classic quote of ouwe seunen (i.e. Harlingen citizens) said when someone needs to watch his or her steps, which translates into: 'I shall throw you in the southern harbour son!' Each year, on 30 December, they used to organise 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 considered an act of war. Already in the ninth century writer Waling Dykstra (1895) recorded a story whereby a person from Harlingen who stayed in Holland was asked: “Aren’t you Frisian, sir?” He replied: “Please your apologies, because I’m a Harlinger”. Therefore, we have not listed SEUN S.D.I.S.S.S.! in this blog post.

Note 3 - We have contacted the Federaasje foar Fryske Studinteferienings based in Groningen 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 4 – One of the Frisian bastards also created a print for F.F.J. Bernlef in the early ’90s:

Interested in the story of the early-medieval bard Bernlef, check our blogpost One of history’s enlightening hikes, that of Bernlef.

Note 5 - Useful (e-mail) addresses:

Akademische Verbindung Frisia (AV Frisia Hannover), Oeltzenstraße 23, 30169 Hannover, Germany;

Akademische Verbindung Frisia (AV Frisia Kiel), Beselerallee 22, 24105 Kiel, Germany;

Corps Frisia Braunschweig, Adolfstraße 2, 38102 Braunschweig, Germany;

Corps Frisia Göttingen, Nikolausberger Weg 78, 37073 Göttingen, Germany;

Corps Friso-Cheruskia, Parkstraße 25, 76131 Karlsruhe, Germany;

DSSFS Aldgillis, Delft, the Netherlands;

Federaasje fan Fryske Studinteferienings, Tuinstraat 22, 9711 VD Groningen, the Netherlands;

F.F.J. Bernlef, Tuinstraat 22, 9711 VD Groningen, the Netherlands;

G.H.O.B.V. It Bernlef Ielde, Pilotenespel 7, 8923 BE Leeuwarden, the Netherlands;

Selskip Frisia, Vindicat Atque Polit, Grote Markt 27, 9712 HS Groningen, the Netherlands.

Studentenverbindung Burschenschaft Frisia, Alexandraweg 14, 64287 Darmstadt, Germany;

Technische Burschenschaft Frisia Hamburg, Kirchenalle 49- 51 in 20099 Hamburg, Germany;

WSSFS Wageningen, Hollandseweg 1, 6706 KN Wageningen, the Netherlands;

Suggested music

Foreigner, Cold As Ice (1977)

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

Further reading

Benedictus, J., 'Tsjerk Hiddes' ter ziele, maar zijn geest leeft voort (2003)

Boers, E., Staan er genoeg Friezen op de landelijke kandidatenlijsten? Staat Friesland in de verkiezingsprogramma's? (2023)

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

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

Dykstra, W., Uit Friesland's volksleven van vroeger en later (1895)

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)

Jetske, De kerktoren van Eagum (2022)

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)

Vellinga, W., De vergeten glorie van een universiteit (2011)

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)

Weersing, E., Gerard Reve en Simon Vinkenoog met elkaar op de vuist (2010)


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