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In Memoriam: Ed Van Thijn



We mourn the loss of Ed Van Thijn, the first distinguished chair of the Humanity in Action board and a longtime supporter of the Humanity in Action community. Read Humanity in Action Founder and Executive Director Dr. Judith Goldstein’s words:

News of Ed Van Thijn’s passing evokes real loss. It is not unexpected, given the multiplicity of difficult health issues of the past years. Not unexpected, but shocking and sad. One is prepared for such inevitable news but never really ready to absorb the meaning. For Ed, the meanings are on so many levels both professional and personal.

We met over 20 years ago when he was a powerful politician, historian, Dutch patriot, and a vigilant guardian of moral stature. Having survived the horrors of a childhood in hiding from Nazis and their Dutch enablers, he was a zealous believer in democracy and human rights. Not just in the country he loved, but across Europe, the United States, and the Middle East as he held countries to high standards. He engaged in the art of politics to lead his large circle of party supporters and to provide political punishment to his opponents. And not just in the city that he loved and served for so many years as one of its distinguished Mayors.

Ed knew, more than most people, that life is filled with opportunities, responsibilities and traumas.

He was both calm and fierce. All of this I perceived from outside Dutch political life as he described his battles — the many he won, the few he lost. On a personal level, it was clear that Ed knew, more than most people, that life is filled with opportunities, responsibilities, and traumas. He experienced them all. The  injuries of the war years, especially for Dutch Jews, were never far from his mind.

Thus, he fulfilled his capacity to influence political life, to write important histories, to sustain friendships, and to lead causes on behalf of good causes. Humanity in Action was one of those causes which captured his attention and leadership, even when he was carrying numerous other responsibilities. He was the first distinguished chair of the Humanity in Action board. He signed on to this experimental educational program in its early years. He remained such a valuable and long-time supporter.

And lest one forget something most important: he rode the waves of a soccer obsession par excellence as his beloved Dutch teams won and messed up games. One dared not interfere or ask for his attention when, fixated on the TV, he watched a game!

We extend our deepest gratitude to Ed and Odette for their friendship and generosity. We will miss–as we have over these past years of illness–his luminous mind, moral guidance, and friendship.

Judy Goldstein, December 20, 2021