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Eyewitnesses of the 20th century

Stichting OOGgetuigen van de 20ste eeuw /Kees Slager
Time period: 1900-2000
Number of interviews: 816
Accessibility: openbaar
Period of interviews: 2000-2004

Te beluisteren in de Bibliotheek van Zeeland


OOGgetuigen van de 20ste eeuw


The memories of just about two thousand (older) Zeeuwen have been recorded on tape. A cross-section of the population, from high to low on the social ladder, cooperated in the interview project Eyewitnesses of the 20th century.

The interviews recorded through the project are on CD and have been collected in the Zeeland Library and can be listened to there. In this way, a lot of information is available about professions, some of which have disappeared, important events of the 20th century, leisure activities and developments in ten villages.

Most of the interviews were recorded on Walcheren and in Zeelandic Flanders.


A selection from the collection of 816 interviews in the sound bank:


  • Primary education – 22 interviews
  • Beurtvaart – 19 interviews
  • Forced labour – 31 interviews
  • Immigration – 10 interviews
  • Children’s broadcasting – 21 interviews
  • Recreation – 8 interviews
  • Roman Catholic Church – 10 interviews
  • Ferry service – 6 interviews
  • Flax – 8 interviews
  • Flood disaster – 197 interviews
  • South Moluccans – 19 interviews

Kees Slager wrote several books based on oral history:

Landarbeiders (1981), hertiteld tot Armoede treedt binnen, levensverhalen van landarbeiders

auteur: Kees Slager

ISBN: 9789076815206


This book tells the story of an occupational group that is now extinct but for centuries formed the largest in the Netherlands: the agricultural workers. Poorly paid and treated by farmers, they traditionally stumbled behind the rear ranks of the proletariat. Until – in the 1950s – machines began to take over their work. Barely 20 years later, they had become redundant and there was hardly a farm worker left.


De ramp, een reconstructie, 1992

auteur: Kees Slager

ISBN: 9789046707968

(op basis van interviews met ruim 200 mensen)


What happened on the night of 31 January to 1 February 1953, when large parts of our country flooded as a result of an unprecedented spring tide.

On the night of 31 January to 1 February 1953, the Netherlands was hit by one of the biggest natural disasters in its history. A spring tide combined with a severe north-westerly storm flooded Zeeland and parts of North Brabant and South Holland. 1,836 people and tens of thousands of animals drowned, 4,500 houses and buildings were destroyed and 200,000 hectares of land were flooded. Kees Slager did extensive research in archives and spoke to over 250 eyewitnesses for The Disaster. The result is a gripping and revealing account of what happened hour by hour and place by place during those fateful days in the winter of 1953.


Zeven Zeeuwse vrouwen, 1995

auteur: Kees Slager

ISBN: 9789072138491


In this book, seven women from Zeeland, ranging in age from seventy to eighty, tell the story of their own lives in a penetrating way.

They are all very ordinary women; most of them grew up in families of labourers and middlemen and none of them attended secondary school. But they are women to whom life has not passed unnoticed. They have been scarred and sometimes bruised by it, but they have not succumbed to it. Most have become strong and militant because of it. They have dared to tell the many emotional and harrowing, but sometimes joyful and endearing moments of their lives honestly and openly. As a result, these ‘ordinary’ women grow into extraordinary women in their self-portraits.



Visser verhalen over hun leven in de delta, 1990

auteur: Kees Slager, Paul de Schipper

ISBN: 9789072138088

(op basis van interviews met 60 vissers)


This book is about the fishermen of the south-western Delta region in the first half of the last century. About the men who tried to earn a living on the Oosterschelde and Westerschelde, Grevelingen, Hollands Diep and on the coastal waters of the North Sea with their longboats and studs, their blowers and lemmer yachts. Sailing, they were hunting for shrimp and flatfish, oyster spawn and mussel seed. But also about their wives who worked in mussel sheds and oyster pits, lugging heavy baskets of fish and also spending many lonely hours at home.



En m’n zuster die heet Kee

Author: Kees Slager
Publisher: Boer, Den / De Ruiter
ISBN: 9789079875351


This book contains thirty-three self-portraits of the last Borsel farmer’s wives, women who spent their lives wearing the beautiful regional costume.They not only tell about lace hats and golden earrings, but with their life stories they give an insight into the position of women in the Zeeland countryside in the first half of the 20th century. This is a book of harsh stories about poverty and hard work in the fields or in the household, about marrying early and having children quickly. Stories of a time and a region without water supply, electricity and cars, a time of cycling and walking along muddy polder roads and windy dykes to school and work. This is also a book of happy tales of old-fashioned villages full of shops and conviviality, of the feast of the annual fair and summer evenings on the dyke with knitting and chatting neighbours. Thirty-three life stories. Not spectacular perhaps, but warmly human, engaging and poignant. ‘An impressive portrait of peasant life on South Beveland in the first half of the last century. An exemplary book’ (PZC)