A monument for Edo Fimmen

Edo Fimmen
Edo Fimmen, trade union leader of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF).

‘Vaart vrij’ is a monument in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, for the trade union leader Edo Fimmen.

A strike by the Rotterdam port workers in 1896 led to the establishment of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF). The Dutch trade union leader Edo Fimmen (1881-1942) led the ITF in worldwide opposition to fascism, racism and colonial domination.

Edo Fimmen played a very important role in supporting the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War. Fimmen supported the trade union members fight against Nazi-Germany who was supporting the Spanish fascist coup.

The sculpture group has the shape of a reclining and an upright boxing glove. The title of the monument ‘Vaart vrij’ is taken from a magazine for German railway workers: ‘Fahrt Frei’.

Edo Fimmen Monument in Rotterdam, the Netherlands by Rotterdam sculptor Ben Zeger.
Edo Fimmen Monument in Rotterdam, the Netherlands by Rotterdam sculptor Ben Zeger. The sculpture group has the shape of a reclining and an upright boxing glove.

Two municipal ‘information tiles’ have been placed next to the image, with the text Vaart vrij!

Vaart vrij!
A strike by the Rotterdam port workers in 1896 led to the establishment of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF). The Dutch trade union leader Edo Fimmen (1881-1942) led the ITF in worldwide opposition to fascism, racism and colonial domination. On the occasion of the centenary of the ITF, the statue was donated to the city of Rotterdam by the Transport Association FNV.

The artwork was unveiled by Eike Eulen, chairman of the ITF, on November 28, 1997, in the European Year against Racism.

Edo Fimmen Monument in Rotterdam, one of two plaques
Edo Fimmen Monument in Rotterdam, the Netherlands by Rotterdam sculptor Ben Zeger. One of two plaques.

‘Een ijzeren vuist in een zijden handschoen’ (‘An iron fist in a silk glove’)
The Rotterdam sculptor Ben Zegers made the monument as a reminder of the Dutch trade union leader Edo Fimmen. The artwork consists of two full-length sheet steel pedestals with stylized fists. The monument bears the profile of Edo Fimmen. Between the two world wars Fimmen led the International Transport Workers Federation. Internationally, Fimmen gained a great reputation as a fighter against fascism, racism and colonial oppression. He declined a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. The German SPD leader Willi Fichler took the initiative with the support of, among others, André Gide, Thomas Mann, Bertrand Rusell and Hendrik de Man. Fimmens died in 1942 in Mexico unnoticed in occupied Holland. Then he fell into oblivion here. In the international trade union movement, however, he remained legendary.
The motto “an iron fist in a silk glove” refers to a statement by Edo Fimmen about the ITF.

Edo Fimmen Monument in Rotterdam, one of two plaques
Edo Fimmen Monument in Rotterdam, the Netherlands by Rotterdam sculptor Ben Zeger. One of two plaques.

The monument can be found at:

Buizenpark
Katendrecht
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
51°54’7″ –  4°28’48”

Map, location of the Edo Fimmen Monument
Map: the location of the Edo Fimmen Monument at Buizenpark Katendrecht Rotterdam, The Netherlands 51°54’7″ –  4°28’48”
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