Klaas Schilder (1890-1952): A Short Biography
by Rudolf van Reest
(Originally published in: Gedenkt Uw Voorgangeren
[Memorial volume for
Schilder by various authors], Goes: Oosterbaan & Le Cointre, 1952.)
Klaas Schilder was born on December 19,
1890 in Kampen, a son for Johannes Schilder and his wife Grietje
(nee Leydekker). He attended the Reformed Grammar School (Gymnasium)
and after completing his final exams, he began his studies at the
Theological College of the Reformed Churches on September 17, 1909.
At this school he was taught by the professors L. Lindeboom, M. Noordtzij,
Dr. A.G. Honig, Dr. H. Bouwman, Dr. J. Ridderbos, Dr. T. Hoekstra
and the lecturers Dr. J.J. Esser and Dr. A. Noordtzij, who later
became professor of Theology at the State University in Utrecht.
At the Theological College he took his
preliminary exam on June 24, 1910, the first part of the candidate
exam on October 11, 1912 and the second part (which granted him the
candidate degree in theology) on January 23, 1914 (with honours --
cum laude). After the customary two ecclesiastical exams, the
preparatory and the peremptory, he was installed as Minister of the
Word in the Reformed Churches. He began his career in the church
at Ambt-Vollenhove. There he also married Anna Johanna Walter
on June 21, 1914. Afterwards, he served the churches at Vlaardingen,
Gorinchem, Delft, Oegstgeest and then on June 27, 1928 he became preacher
in the church at Rotterdam-Delfshaven.
During his time in office in that place,
he received a leave of absence so he could study at the Frederick-Alexander
University in Erlangen, Germany. There he followed the course
of studies in the faculty of Philosophy, studying under Dr. E. Herrigel,
Dr. O. Stahlin, and Dr. J. Hell. At the same time he took the
courses (as an auditor) of Dr. W. Vollrath in the faculty of Theology
at this university. He did the oral exam for the doctoral degree
on March 3, 1933 and he passed it with great honours (summa cum laude).
He wrote a dissertation entitled, "Zur Begriffgeschichte Des 'Paradoxon'"
("the Historical Concept of Paradox") which was published in 1933
by J.H. Kok in Kampen.
On September 26, 1933, he became emeritus
minister of the church at Delfshaven, pending his appointment as
professor at the Theological College in Kampen. There on January
17, 1934 he began the course of studies with an inaugural lecture,
taking a stand against Dr. Haitjema and through him also the errors
of the theology of Karl Barth. He would give lectures daily
and he only interrupted this schedule during his travels to America
in 1939 and 1947. The lectures also continued, for shorter and
longer times, during the years of the German occupation.
On August 22, 1940, while living in Kampen,
Prof. Schilder was arrested by the Germans and transported to the
prison at Arnhem where he was held in confinement until December
6, 1940. Upon his release he was informed that he was not to
take part in any activities of the Anti-Revolutionary Party or to
do any writing, and if he did not comply he would be placed on the
road to a concentration camp.
Although Prof. Schilder repeatedly had
to go underground, because he was sought by the Germans anew, the
ecclesiastical action of General Synod Sneek-Utrecht continued against
him. During this time, Prof. Schilder was hiding with his friend
P. Jasperse, a doctor in Leiden, where he was known by his housemates
as Mr. De Priester. He was there when he was first suspended
and then four months later when he was deposed as emeritus-minister
of Delfshaven and professor at the Theological College. The suspension
took place on March 23, 1944 and after the suspension was extended
by a month (on June 23), the deposition occurred on August 3, 1944.
After that, on August 11, 1944, there was
a meeting of the oppressed in the Lutheran church in 's-Gravenhage
in which the Act of Secession and Return was passed and the liberation
of the churches became an accomplished fact. There the Liberated
churches from the Northern regions asked Prof. Schilder to train
the students of theology, so Prof. Schilder maintained the office
of professor at the Theological College, an office which he has held
to this day [Van Reest seems to be writing before the time of Schilder's
unexpected death in 1952].
Almost from the beginning of the weekly
paper "De Reformatie", Prof. Schilder was a regular contributor and
wrote in nearly every column. Later, along with Dr. C. Tazelaar and
Dr. J. Waterink, he became editor of this paper. On account
of different ideas concerning the editorial direction, which we Reformed
people needed, it was no longer possible to work together and the
end result was that Prof. Schilder was given the office of head editor
all for himself. This was conveyed to the readers on April
Through this paper, Prof. Schilder has
exercised a great influence on the Reformed people. He has
given his positive and principled leadership in this paper, also
over and against the dangers of the National Socialist movement in
Germany and the Dutch National Socialist party in our own country.
He continued this leadership undaunted, even after the Germans occupied
our country in May of 1940. This led to his capture mentioned
earlier. At the same time as he was imprisoned, his weekly
"De Reformatie" was prevented from being published and the archives
of the publisher were seized.
After the Liberation of our country from the Germans on July 6, 1945, it was possible once again for "De Reformatie" to be published.
(Slightly abridged translation by Wes Bredenhof)