Rotterdam is 75 years 'Sterker door Strijd', but where did that slogan come from?

Erasmusbrug in Rotterdam
Karel Paul van der Mandele

It is 75 years since the text 'Sterker door Strijd' (Stronger through Struggle) was added to Rotterdam's city coat of arms. RTV Rijnmond found out where that slogan came from. Historian Paul van de Laar comments and it turns out that the slogan may have come from Karel Paul van der Mandele, founder of the Nederlandsche Handels-Hoogeschool (NHH), predecessor of Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Tattoos, t-shirts, greeting cards. 'Sterker door Strijd' can be found everywhere in Rotterdam. Also in De Kuip. For instance, it adorns the huge banner made by Feyenoord supporters for the Feyenoord-Ajax cup match in October 2015. This banner will be hung on the Shell building at Feyenoord's championship in May 2017.

Officially awarded by Queen Wilhelmina

Queen Wilhelmina awarded it to Rotterdam in 1948. So 'Sterker door Strijd' is not just a motto chosen by Rotterdammers. It is officially associated with the city of Rotterdam. The slogan has been added to the city's coat of arms on a white band. Professor of Urban History Paul van de Laar says the Queen did not make this up herself: "My interpretation is that it was inserted from Rotterdam. Maybe someone from the resistance? People needed to be drawn into the story of a city that was lost and rebuilt."

Karel Paul van der Mandele met Koningin Juliana
Van der Mandele met Koningin Juliana

Does it come from K.P. van der Mandele?

Perhaps the text was whispered in by Karel Paul van der Mandele, a highly influential banker who was founder of the Nederlandsche Handels-Hoogeschool (NHH), which later merged into Erasmus University Rotterdam as Nederlandse Economische Hogeschool [NEH]. "A 1940 portrait of the influential Rotterdam man K.P. van der Mandele perhaps betrays its origins. On its frame it reads 'Vulnere Fortior', meaning 'stronger through a wound'," says Rob Noordhoek of Museum Rotterdam.

"The difference between 'stronger through a wound' and 'stronger through struggle' is subtle," Noordhoek says of the text on a picture on the frame of Van der Mandele's portrait. "Less tough, but perhaps more correct. After all, the strength of hard-hit Rotterdam lies in the resilience of the Rotterdammers."

Van der Mandele was chamberlain in special service to Queen Wilhelmina from 1947. "A link is therefore quite possible," estimates Noordhoek. The painting currently hangs in the Schielandshuis in Rotterdam.

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