Foundation, Beginnings and War: 1923-1944
In 1905, the bishops of the Netherlands founded the Saint Radboud Foundation with the main aim of establishing a Catholic university in the Netherlands. Such a university would encourage young Catholic people to pursue academic studies in a safe environment and thus serve an emancipatory purpose. Since the law did not provide government subsidies for confessional universities, the Saint Radboud Foundation depended on other financial sources, especially the benevolence of the Catholic population. In 1923, the Roman Catholic University of Nijmegen was able to open its doors with three inexpensive faculties: Theology, Literature & Philosophy, and Law. Classicist Jos Schrijnen, Philosopher Jan Hoogveld and Cultural Historian Gerard Brom played a leading role in the preparations. At the start, the entire teaching staff consisted of 32 professors and lecturers who provided education to 189 students. Soon the university flourished. On the eve of World War II, it had 40 professors and some 600 students. The wave of National Socialism put an end to its prosperity. In April 1943, Rector Magnificus Bernard Hermesdorf closed the university indefinitely, having refused on principle to present the Nijmegen students with a Declaration of Loyalty demanded by the occupying forces. Most students went into hiding.