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volume 9
october 2006

Ship for sale: from Groningen to Amsterdam

 





  Remembering the Voice of Peace (2)
by Hans Knot
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  From 1973 till 1993 the MV Peace — or the Peace Ship, as the radio ship was called by those involved with the Voice of Peace — housed the station safely for over twenty years. The ship was the former MV Cito, bought in 1969 by Nathan while it was moored at the quayside in Groningen. Hans Knot, living in the city of Groningen, visited the ship after it travelled to Amsterdam and here evokes its story.
 
1 Right: The MV Rolf in Groningen harbour

The MV Cito in Groningen. In my late teens, with some of my friends, I listened to offshore radio stations like Radio London, Radio Caroline, Swinging Radio England and more. We were not the only ones. In the city of Groningen, my home town, some avid radio listeners were already publicly showing their interest. In 1966, for instance, on the wall of a shed at the Gorechtkade, someone painted in capital letters: "Radio London on 266." In November 2005, like I normally do once a year, I again checked if the shed it still there, as it was. The surroundings carry more memories to offshore radio. Some 350 metres away from that shed is a canal called the "Oosterhamrikkanaal." In the late sixties there were two ships at the quayside, moored next to each other: The MV Zeevaart and the MV Cito. Both ships were waiting for a new future and new owners and were for sale. We could be found a lot playing around those ships as it was only 350 metres away from our home. The first ship, believe it or not, would become the radio ship for Capital Radio of the International Broadcasters Society, and would be renamed into MV King David. The latter one was the MV Cito, which in 1969 would be renamed the MV Peace.

  On June 12th, 1969, Abie Nathan, after having decided to buy the ship, announced in the local press that he would join the new crew on their trip from Groningen harbour to Amsterdam, where the ship would be repainted in the white Peace colours. The ship would travel from the harbour of Groningen through the inner channels to the harbour of Delfzijl. Next, it would cross the Waddenzee and a part of the North Sea. After entering IJmuiden harbour the ship would take the "Noordzeekanaal" on its way to Amsterdam harbour. The MV Cito was a motor vessel of the so called "shelter type" and, in former days, had sailed the seas with a crew of six. It was owned by ship owners Paap from Haren, a village near Groningen. Partners in the company were H. Paap and W.J. van Wijk, and with the latter Abie Nathan had signed the contract for the sale to the Peace Foundation. The price for the ship was 45,000 Dutch guilders and the first payment of 10,000 guilders was done at the day of the signing. Within forty days the rest of the money had to be paid, else the ship would be lost and with it the first payment.
  The ship was built in early 1940 under the name MV Rolf and was the very last ship leaving Delfzijl harbour and heading for international waters, before the German invasion in May 1940. The ship was built under number 914 at the ship wharf Brothers from Diepen at Waterhuizen with a tonnage of 400. Length of the ship was 53.90 metres, a width of 8.49 metres and a depth of 2.40 metres. In those days the vessel could carry 38 ton of fuel and make 11 knots an hour. It used a six-cylinder, four-tact motor, constructed by the company of Klockner-Humboldt Deutz. In 1950 the ship was renamed into MV Westpolder. In 1954 the ship was taken to the same wharf where it was built. Here some adjustments were made on the bridge. The ship mainly made trips in European Waters and to Madeira and countries around the Mediterranean. It was in 1960 that the ship got her new name: MV Cito.
2 Left: The MV Cito before it was sold to Abie Nathan

Anchored in Amsterdam. After arriving in Amsterdam harbour on June 13th, the ship got a place at the "Steenen Hoofd." Next a lot of volunteers, mainly young people, worked on the ship to paint its colours over into white, and in big black letters the word "Peace," in English, Dutch, French, Hebrew, as well as in Arabic. Abie told the volunteers that he needed another 200,000 dollar to get the ship equipped with a radio facility. The cost for the crew was mainly to be paid by an American religious organisation which had promised to pay 250,000 dollar a year to Abie Nathan. He told one of the press people that he signed a contract with this American organisation, which mentioned the obligation for the people on the radio station to transmit a text from the New Testament on a daily base. Nathan: "I've signed this contract by saying that I agree if I also could get the chance to transmit lines from the Old Testament as well as from the Koran. As soon as the ship is ready, we will sail out to New York and, after all the equipment is built into the ship, we're off to Israel to transmit the message of Peace mixed with Arabian and Hebrew music, 12 miles off of the coast in international waters. Messages will be mainly in four different languages including French and English." Already in 1969 the name of Tony Allan was mentioned to be the most important deejay for the station, although it would take some four years before Tony could be heard on the Voice of Peace.

  At the end of June, 1969, I decided to get in contact with Jaap Stengs, speaker for the Peace Foundation in Amsterdam. He told me that the ship had gone to the "Oostelijke Handelskade" behind the storehouse "America." Taking the train from Groningen Central Station to Amsterdam and walking from the Central station took me some three hours. Responsible for the Cito at that time was captain Van Wijk who, together with a group of volunteers, was painting the ship. During the painting yet another group of volunteers asked the onlookers for a donation and even offered them the opportunity to buy shares in the Peace Foundation. To that end a bank account, giro 99912, was opened by name of "Vredesschip Nederland." In almost all of the major newspapers an advertisement with a photo of the ship could be found in which the people of the Netherlands were asked for their donations and, that way, to take a share in the Peace Foundation, this with the slogan "Nu is het Uw beurt" (Now it's your turn).
  Right: A Peace Share as sold in Amsterdam in 1969 (click on the image for a larger view)

During the final days of that month, Abie Nathan made his presence known in the Dutch newspapers and on radio and television: "I'm really satisfied by the way the Dutch contribute their money and their enthusiasm to paint the ship, the latter without being paid for it. Yesterday, a senior citizen came on deck of the ship and told me he had no money but loved to help a few hours with the work on the ship. When he finished I was very surprised that he yet gave me ten Dutch guilders." On the other hand Nathan claimed a few days later that he wasn't happy at all with the publicity so far.

  Nathan: "I've met several editors of the newspapers and after telling them my plans and ideas for the Peace Projects, they all promised me a full-page advertisement. But so far, I haven't seen anything at all. If nothing happens, I've to stop the plans. The transmitters have already arrived in New York, and I've made a deal with a big television organisation to make publicity for us when we put the transmitters on board. Already, I've also arranged a place at a quayside in New York, where the ship can be moored for longer time. But if there's not enough money, we have to cancel it all. It's time that one or two big companies in Holland show up with a lot of money for the sake of the Peace project."
3 Collecting money. In the Netherlands, there's an organisation set up by several religious parties called "De wilde ganzen" (The Wild Gooses). It was set up with the intention of collecting money for all kind of charity. This organisation had the means to stimulate people to give money by promoting their activities on radio and television. Nathan had the luck that this organisation got involved in his operation. So, for the period of a week, The Wild Gooses tried to get the Dutch population interested in giving money for the Peace project. It was Professor Röling of the University of Groningen, who spoke in a radio programme of the IKON that the way Abie Nathan planned his project was a fascinating new way of trying to reach peace in the Middle East. Röling: "I believe this likable man needs all the help of the Dutch population and so I ask you all to give money for his Peace project. Maybe it will cost Nathan a period in jail, so let's go and give all a bit for the sake of peace."
  Left: The MV Cito in Groningen harbour (1969)

On June 25th, 1969, Abie Nathan organised a small Peace Party for those who had done a lot for him during the past weeks. At the end of this party Abie stumbled as a case, which he hadn't seen, was in his way. He fell and was brought to the "Onze Lieve Vrouwe Gasthuis," a hospital where they found heavy bruises on his hips. He stayed in the hospital for some days. On July 10th, again a payment of 50,000 guilders was made to the owners of the MV Cito, whereby they decided to give Abie Nathan a little more time for collecting the remainder of the money.

  A special Students Club wanted to ask passers-by on the Dam, the main square in Amsterdam, to donate to the Peace project. The club had asked permission to the City Council. However on August 8th, 1969, a letter was received, with a refusal. The next day, as a result of the refusal, a demonstration was held in the centre of Amsterdam. It was a period that a lot of demonstrations were held in several big cities all over Western Europe, many of them ending with a fight between demonstrators and police. However this one went in total "Peace."
  One of the Dutch contacts Nathan had in the Netherlands was with top radio producer Hans Zoet from the NOS, who had smuggled a lot of paintings from Israeli well-known painters to the Netherlands. Nathan had asked him to do that for him. On one of the flights Zoet made, he was searched by the customs officer and they discovered the painting in one of the suitcases. Zoet, however, had a fake invoice with him and when the customs officer saw the painting he wouldn't believe that Zoet had paid 60,000 guilders for it and decided to let Zoet pay a lower import duty than the 0.6% he had to pay. So on the same day the above mentioned demonstration was held, also an auction took place in the Apollo Hotel were about 150 artworks went to new owners. The auction brought in 25,000 guilders for the Peace Foundation. On forehand Abie organised a press conference on July 29th on which he told that he needed around 50,000 guilders from the auction to get the total ownership of the MV Peace and get the ship into international waters. The paintings, Abie told, were gifts from Israeli people. Only one small piece of art work would be sold that was personally owned by Abie, a little carving made in Persia in the 12th century. Another of the many stories which were printed in the Dutch Press mentioned an amount of 39,000 guilders.
4 Right: Painted white: The MV Cito in Amsterdam harbour (1969)

Ready to sail. Finally, August 12th, 1969, was a happy day as, after 75 days of hard working and trying to get the 160,500 Dutch guilders together, the ships papers came in hands of Abie Nathan. It was officially given to him by Mr. De Paap and Mr. Van Wijk from Haren, near Groningen. A small press conference was held. There, Abie Nathan announced for the first time that the MV Cito would be renamed in MV Peace. Next to that he made clear that the ship's future registration would be located in Panama.

  Only a week later, the crew and those participating in the work on the ship during the weeks before, had to say the Peace Ship farewell as the ship was ready to sail to New York. It was a very official moment, as the Catholic Bishop of Groningen, Mrg. Möller, Imam Ah Akmal from The Hague, vicar Van Boeyen and Rabbi Soetendorp together baptised the ship and blessed it for a good travel to New York and later to the Middle East. On the ship was a six men's crew, with captain Oosterhout as the first man. He thought that is was possible to bring the MV Peace to New York within 19 days, where it would be rebuilt into a floating radio station.
  During the short ceremony Bishop Möller thanked Abie Nathan for all the pains and risks he took for the sake of peace and also thanked him for this initiative to bring this ship to sea to bring a message of Peace. In five languages the ship itself carried the message of peace painted on its hull and Möller hoped that God, or Allah, or Jaweh, as "God" was named by several religions, would bless the crew on the forthcoming trip to Peace. Not much later, after all invited people had left the deck of the ship and were back on the quayside, the motor of the former MV Cito was started and the ship was off to the United States, where it would take some years to finalise the idea of the Peace Project.
   
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