Biography Jan Schaefer

11 April 2017 - 14:18

In geouwehoer kun je niet wonen. Het leven van Jan Schaefer  by Louis Hoeks is a great read.

It's almost impossible not to like the story of a chubby Amsterdam pastry chef who does not give a damn about anything but still manages to penetrate higher government circles in The Hague.

Many dignitaries at home and abroad found it hard to believe that this guy, always dressed in shabby jeans, was a state secretary, alderman or member of parliament. And yet, this was the case: respectively in the Den Uyl cabinet from 1973 to 1977, in Amsterdam from 1978 to 1986, and in The Hague from 1986-1990, and the anecdotes about the reactions Schaefer provoked are plentiful.

But tragedy is also present in the book, even if only in the life of Schaefer's wife and children, to whom he barely paid attention. Schaefer worked day and night for residential construction, urban renewal, the position of the neighbourhoods and local residents' control of their own neighbourhood.

He did not get a chance to do so for long, because he died on 30 January 1994, at the age of 53. Someone at his grave stated that he had done twice as much in his short life compared to a normal person. Strangely enough no Schaefer districts exist, but there are Vogelaar districts instead. But Amsterdam does have a bridge named after Schaefer, as well as a street. On the nameplate his famous quote, which also gave this book its title.

Louis Hoeks consulted the archives of Maarten van Traa, Joop den Uyl and Partij van de Arbeid at the IISH. The Jan Schaefer archive itself is located at the Amsterdam City Archive. 

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