Anarcho-syndicalist historian Hanneke Willemse (1949-2021) passes away

Hanneke Willemse

From The Free

Sat, 03/27/2021 – 09:58 AM Hanneke Willemse (Amsterdam, 1949-2021)

Hanneke closed her eyes at a quarter to ten yesterday morning.

I had just landed in Amsterdam that summer of 2012 when we first met thanks to Octavio Alberola. We met one sunny morning at the IISH and it was with her, I think I remember, the first time that I set foot in the building.

Hanneke was still sad then, she was still mourning the loss of her partner Jan Groen (1945-2011), with whom she shared love and anger. Life, caravan trips, photography and research. And who she loved so much …

Together they got involved in the Amsterdam kraker movement and filmed it. “You cannot live in a tank” (In een tank kan je niet wonen, 1981), when the riots took over Waterlooplein and the screen.

We used to meet together with friends over her star chicke dinnerand a long animated -after lunch- with revolutionary songs. In her house, for some reason, Labordeta‘s music reached deeper and splashed earthy flavor, perhaps because I felt far from home. ( note: they called her Ana, as well as Hanneke).

Anarcho-syndicalist, fighter and historian, Ana spent long periods in Albalate de Cinca. Upon arrival, she introduced herself with that name to facilitate the pronunciation for the people of the town. And knowing her, to feel less Dutch.

Oral history was still possible in the eighties because some of the protagonists of the social revolution of 36 were still alive (and hearing that history) took root in some towns in Aragon, spreading like wildfire at the after-dinner parties that summer in Albalate.

Hanneke told me that inside the houses, with the windows shut tight, women entrusted her with memories, including the most painful of the repression. The haircuts, the beatings … And the fear, the same or similar that forced them to lower their voices. An intimacy that the right wingers of Albalate rejected, also they invited Ana to share

“Neither pawns nor patrons” (1986) was the documentary that they made and that collected the memories of the men and women of the Cinca Region, their libertarian ideals,, In it you can see a still young Felix Carrasquer (1905-1993) , an Albalatino baker, giving a talk at the CNT de Monzón.

Documental: ¡Ni peones, ni patrones! (1986) Neither slaves nor masters! (1986) es un documental de Hanneke Willemse, Jan Groen y Leen van den Berg, producido por el Colectivo Kontrastfilm, que narra cómo durante la Guerra Civil Española, los anarcosindicalistas llevaron a cabo una revolución social. El ideal de la autogestión fue puesto en práctica por muchos de estos militantes. En grandes zonas de la España republicana se comenzó a vivir en una sociedad en la cual todo el mundo era igual y nadie explotaba a nadie.Una de las regiones donde más desarrollo alcanzo esta revolución fue en Aragón. También los habitantes de la comarca del Cinca colectivizaron la economía bajo el principio de cada uno según sus fuerzas y a cada uno según sus necesidades.Los protagonistas de la película son mujeres y hombres que viven en la comarca del Cinca. Las personas hablan de sus experiencias de los años treinta y explican lo que significan los ideales revolucionarios. También muestran la importancia de la enseñanza anarquista para la realización de una revolución social y para poder mantener sus ideales durante los cuarenta años de la dictadura franquista.

And you can hear (a famous song) by Labordeta who, together with Hanneke, always sounded deeper. The same one that resounded in the hearts that said goodbye to Jan, as they scattered his ashes a few meters from where they always parked their caravan.

Hanneke’s book “Shared Past. Memories of anarcho-syndicalists of Albalate

de Cinca 1928-1938″ was published in 2002 and her preparation of it was, in large part, carried out from the desk by the window from where Hanneke, or Ana, watched the town square.

There’s a wonderful photograph where she is seen young, working with her computer and smoking, in that black and white of Jan. The same square where Emma Goldman (1869-1940) walked while Margaret Michaelis (1902-1985) took pictures in the fall of ’36.

Ana and Hanneke, Hanneke and Ana.

Dutch but with a spontaneity and a more Spanish than Dutch temperament. She was always aware of the CNT: Their betrayed revolution, their lost war and their sad and dark history in exile … And at the IISH where today the Red and Black archive resides, they mourn her loss.

She was a friend of Rudolf de Jong, who sat on Emma Goldman’s lap when he was little and became the protagonist of adventures and misadventures between the anarchists and the institute, at 89 years old, he will be sad today to hear the news.

And Hanneke, from where she is, will be angry to know that there is a “movie” about her Montseny that she has not been able to see.

Many memories come into my head today. And more come to me when talking to her beloved Luis de Albalate. Also I remember our anger that always ended up evaporating with a hug. She has left yesterday morning from a calm and cheerful Aragonese rearguard. If only.

And I share my sadness in these lines with those who knew her.

IISH Staff | Almudena Rubio | Photo by Martin van Welzen

Almudena Rubio



Amsterdam March 26, 2021

Het ideaal van een brede sociale beweging bleek in verregaande mate gerealiseerd door de Anarcho-Syndicalisten in de periode voorafgaand aan- en tijdens de Spaanse burger oorlog (1936-1939). Hanneke vertrok naar Spanje met de film ‘In een tank kun je niet wonen’, over de Amsterdamse kraakbeweging. De geschiedenis van Amsterdamse krakers leidde tot groot enthousiasme bij studenten in Anarchistische studiecentra (Ateneo Libertario) en aan universiteiten. Omgekeerd raakte Hanneke geïnspireerd door de Spaanse anarchistische beweging en hun idealen. In de jaren die volgden, ging ze op zoek naar wat er nog van over was. Ze schreef er diverse artikelen en boeken over. In 1986 kwam haar invloedrijke film ‘Ni Peones, Ni Patrones’ uit en tien jaar later In 1996 promoveerde ze aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam op het proefschrift ‘Gedeeld Verleden’ over de verschillen tussen gevluchte Spaanse anarchisten en achterblijvers.


The ideal of a broad social movement appeared to be largely realized by the Anarcho-Syndicalists in the period preceding and during the Spanish civil war (1936-1939). Hanneke left for Spain with the film ‘You can’t live in a tank’, about the Amsterdam squatters’ movement. The history of Amsterdam squatters sparked great enthusiasm among students in Anarchist study centers (Ateneo Libertario) and at universities. Conversely, Hanneke was inspired by the Spanish anarchist movement and their ideals. In the years that followed, she searched for what was left of it. She wrote several articles and books about it. Her influential film ‘Ni Peones, Ni Patrones’ was released in 1986 and ten years later. In 1996 she obtained her PhD at the University of Amsterdam with her thesis ‘Gedeeld Verleden’ on the differences between Spanish anarchists who had fled and those who stayed behind.

Hanneke and Almudena

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