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Visiting the former Constant Rebecque Barracks, Eindhoven, The Netherlands: variable geometry in international outlooks
Progressive internationalism? mercenary interests?
When this building — now a protected monument in The Netherlands — was built in 1938, it came as a response to the needs brought about by military conscription in the country.
Some history and features
This measure was a result of the increasing Nazi German threat from over the eastern border. Put simply, the building was designed to house soldiers in order to keep invaders out of the country.
The quick overrunning of The Netherlands in 1940 during the Blitzkrieg meant that, after World War Two, strategic thinking among Dutch leaders (and those of many other nations) was geared toward collective security.
In practical terms, the building was still used as a Barracks. This military use even survived the Cold War, by just a few years, until the 1990s. Afterwards, a subtle change in the building's use materialized, when the vacated property became accommodation for asylum seekers, ("somewhere comfortable"? — or "somewhere secure"?), while the Dutch government decided on an individual basis what to do with its guests.
There are now plans, however, to turn the Barracks into an international school, which prepares students for the International Bacalaureat. Presumably the vision behind this undertaking is to smooth barriers between knowledge and training among various nationalities.
The former barracks are situated at Oirschotsedijk 14b, on the north-western outskirts of the Dutch city of Eindhoven, North Babant (Dutch: Noord-Brabant ) province. Responsible for the building were J. Zwart and A. G. Boost.
Shown in the picture given is the gatehouse to what is actually a complex of buildings. The clean lines of the gatehouse are executed in brick; features of the gatehouse include iron railings within an entrance archway and narrow windows at the higher storey. The wings of the gatehouse have conspicuous, metal window frames which seem to offer a sense of solidity and security: all within the leafy environment of the Oirschotsedijk.
Interestingly, also, the historical personality for whom the building was named exhibited something of a complexity of international relations and interfaces, within a Dutch context. Jean Victor de Constant Rebecque (1773-1850) was a veteran soldier, whose services spanned from the Ancien régime era to the mid-19th century. What is remarkable, however, at least from a 21st century standpoint, is that he served as a soldier for a number of different countries. He was Genevan-Swiss, of French ancestry (Geneva not yet being part of the Swiss Confederation in the year of his birth). He served in a regiment in the service of France, beginning before the French Revolution.
Then he served as a soldier in Switzerland.
This was before he embarked on soldiering for the Dutch Republic.
Later he joined the British army.
Then the Prussian army.
But eventually he found his way back into Dutch military service, after the Kingdom of The Netherlands had been established; he served a succession of Dutch monarchs. He notably served at Waterloo, earning for himself the reputation as an independent-minded ally of the British forces led by Wellington. Rebecque was made a Lieutenant-General in 1816. He was involved in the unsuccessful, Dutch attempt to quash the Belgian Revolution in 1830, remaining in Dutch military service until 1837, and receiving a Dutch barony in 1847.
So in some ways the man for whom the former Barracks were named seems to exemplify contemporary trends in internationalism.
Or maybe the reverse point could also be extrapolated, with the progressive rejection of the nation-state by politicians for reasons of their own, are internationalist trends increasingly serving mercenary interests?
July 24, 2012
Also worth seeing
In Eindhoven itself visitor attractions include the DAF museum, which, through many exhibits and various presentations, gives a interesting history of this Dutch company; there are various, architecturally distinguished church buildings, including the Catharinakerk .
At Oirschot (distance: 18 kilometres) is a habitat for significant wildlife on Oirschot Heath (Dutch: Oirschotse Heide ).
How to get there: Airlines flying to Amsterdam Airport from New York include Delta Airlines and KLM. For North American travellers making the London, England area their base, Eindhoven Airport is served by Ryanair from London Stansted Airport, by VLM from London City Airport, and by Aer Lingus from London Gatwick Airport. The Dutch railroad company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) maintains rail services from Amsterdam to Eindhoven . There is car rental availability at Amsterdam and Eindhoven airports. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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