Urk is a former island and current municipality in the province of Flevoland in the Netherlands. With 21,135 inhabitants (1 August 2020, source: CBS ) on an area of ​​approximately 11.54 km² (and 98.36 km² of water), Urk is the smallest municipality in this province in terms of area. Until the dike connecting Urk with Lemmer was completed in 1939 , Urk was an island in the IJsselmeer, the former Zuiderzee (until the Afsluitdijk was completed in 1932) . In 1942 the Noordoostpolder became. The island is still alive today for the inhabitants of Urk. For example, people are not or live in Urk, but in Urk.

Urk can be described as the most ecclesiastical community in the Netherlands, 98% of the inhabitants are members of a church community. It is a very close community with its own dialect, Urk, which is still extremely vital and differs a lot from the other dialects in the area. Urk also has its own national anthem, which is sung during the annual aubade on King's Day and other official occasions. Urk has by far the largest fishing fleet and fish processing industry in the Netherlands. The meaning of the name Urk is unknown, but various theories exist about it.



There is an arc of boulder clay surfacing around the IJsselmeer , which originated in the Pleistocene : Texel , Wieringen , Gaasterland , Urk, the Land van Vollenhove . As a result of meltwater , a lake, the later Almere , has formed to the south of that arc . The Vecht flowed into the Almere to the north of the boulder clay bump of Urk . South of Urk, the IJssel flowed with its side arms. The van Urk boulder clay bump reaches to a height of 9 meters above sea level .

Due to the warmer climate, the sea level rose. Around 1200 the Zuiderzee was formed and Urk, like Schokland , Marken and Wieringen, became an island . Because there was no facing , large pieces of the island were knocked off over time. The southwest side, which rose straight from the sea, was called the High Cliff . Around 1700 the island was provided with a seawall by the city of Amsterdam .

The oldest known mention of the name 'Urk' is Otto I 's deed of donation from 966 to the Monastery of Saint Pantaleon in Cologne. As was the case with many isolated population groups, different character sketches were also given about the Urk people, ranging from hospitable and a great sense of self-worth to stubborn and undisciplined, tough and tenacious. This last description is supported by the fact that the Urkers have mastered many disasters and drastic changes in living conditions in the past centuries, partly because the former island is built from boulder clay. This boulder clay is a tough, low-permeable raw material, which makes it extremely suitable for protecting the former island of Urk from the vagaries of the former Zuiderzee.

There was already permanent residence in the 10th century, as evidenced by the above-mentioned deed of gift. It can also be deduced from this deed that Urk was then owned by the Monastery of Saint Pantaleon in Cologne . In the 13th century, Urk came into the hands of the counts of Holland and later on the mayor of Enkhuizen . From 1476, the artisanship of Urk came to the Utrecht family Zoudenbalch, successively from 1476 to 1495 Evert Zoudenbalch (1424-1503) , from 1495 to 1530 Evert Zoudenbalch (1455-1530) , from 1530 to 1558 Johan Zoudenbalch (1503-1558) ) , from 1558 to 1567Evert Zoudenbalch (1540-1567) , from 1567 to 1599 Gerrit Zoudenbalch (1541-1599) . He was succeeded by his sister Walravina Zoudenbalch (1538-1616) who from 1601 to 1614 was the last lady of Urk and Emmeloord of this family.

Between 1614 and 1660 this manor was owned by the Van de Werve family. In 1660 Johan van de Werve sold the island to Amsterdam . The craftsmanship of Urk and Emmeloord was governed by various Amsterdam regents such as Andries de Graeff , Nicolaes Witsen , Hendrik Daniëlsz Hooft and Jan Elias Huydecooper. Amsterdam strengthened its position in the trade with this purchase, because Urk was the central point in the Zuiderzee, along which all shipping routes ran.

Urk and the Schokland Emmeloord remained part of Amsterdam until 1792, after which the States of Holland took over the island. In 1824 Urk became a North Holland municipality and until 1950 Urk remained with the province of North Holland , then until 1986 with the province of Overijssel . From January 1, 1986, the municipality is part of Flevoland. This makes Urk the only municipality in the Netherlands that is located in three provinces.

The connection to the mainland
The first connection with the mainland was by telephone. In 1897 a connection was established that was especially important for the herring and anchovy trade. A second cable was laid in 1912. This was to Kampen and cost more than 100,000 guilders. The cable was there before the post office was renovated, so it could not be used immediately.

In 1939 Urk was connected to a dike for the construction of the Noordoostpolder as part of the Zuiderzee works . However, the village was completely excluded from the planning when setting up that polder. In the years before the Second World War, the Urk population was even considered 'retarded' by Dutch scientists , incapable of working on the land.


With these ideas, the new 'Urkerpolder' was set up in the 1930s. In order to solve the Urk problem (the island was overpopulated, had many diseases and many poor people and the fishing industry was considered 'doomed'), the proposal was even made that only half of the population and the future growth would be "out." to push "( move). This proposal did not make it, but it was clear that the Urkers were not included in the plans: the polder was renamed 'Noord-Oostelijke Polder' to keep the thought of Urk in the background as much as possible. Although the island was thus already connected to the land in 1939, the village did not get a road connection until 1948. The population of Urk was also not involved in the occupation, as they did not meet the "model population" that had to be attracted to the polder. Even the question from a Urk mayor to engineer Sikke Smeding , who was responsible for the layout of the polder, or Urk students at the agricultural school in Meppela chance on a farm in the polder, in response to the overpopulation of Urk, only resulted in a single allocation of a farm. The fishing industry was seriously damaged by the Zuiderzee works; with the arrival of the Noordoostpolder, fishing grounds disappeared (which in the early years sometimes manifested itself in a hostile attitude towards the new residents) and the loss of the IJsselmeer forced the Urk fishing fleet to move to other ports on the North Sea and Wadden Sea .

Urk during the First World War
During the First World War, an internment camp for foreign officers was set up on Urk. Until 1917 there were a few dozen officers, who came from Belgium, France and the United Kingdom . In addition to the officers, Belgian soldiers were also interned for service functions. Because of the Dutch policy of neutrality , soldiers of foreign powers had to be kept away from acts of war directed against one of the warring parties.

Urk during the Second World War
The German occupation also affected Urk. As a small and rather isolated fishing village, Urk had no permanent occupation during the first years of the war. The Noordoostpolder had not yet been drained, which meant that Urk was still difficult to reach via land. Raids generally had little result, because the Urkers saw the German boats approaching from afar across the water. An exception was the 'Great Razzia' of November 18, 1944, in which the Germans approached Urk via the polder and were able to pick up eighty men and boys in one go.

From the air, Urk was an easy point of reference for Allied airmen who carried out attacks on Germany. In the course of the war it became more and more crowded in the air above Urk. Allied airmen who crashed above the Noordoostpolder were sometimes hidden by Urkers. A pilot line ran from Urk via the boat service to Enkhuizen. Killed airmen found a resting place in the cemetery of the Kerkje aan de Zee .

From 1944 Urk was faced with permanent occupation by the Germans. A NSB mayor was appointed. As the war progressed, the food situation became more dire, but people in Urk were not really hungry. Some children from the west even found shelter with Urk families, where there was always some fish on the table.

The fishing industry suffered greatly from the occupation. In the course of the war, the occupying forces claimed most of the Urk cutter fleet and many Urkers lost their livelihood. After the war, most of the cutters were found scattered across Europe and the Urk fleet could be rebuilt.

The liberation of Urk took place on April 17, 1945, a few weeks before the capitulation. On April 20, the first Canadians in Urk were warmly welcomed. Some Urkers were killed during the German occupation. Among them one Jewish family, the Kropveld family. Their names have been immortalized on the war memorial at the Kerkje aan de Zee.

After the war
The population of Urk doubled in the first twenty years after the Second World War. The enormous population pressure may not have led to migration in the 1950s, because there was also a great housing shortage in other parts of the Netherlands. To relieve the pressure, it was eventually decided to make border corrections with the Noordoostpolder municipality, which was formed in 1962. However, the housing shortage has remained and many Urkers have therefore moved (among others) to the neighboring Tollebeek and Emmeloord .

The economic tide turned in the 1960s when a fish auction was opened in Urk and a lively fishing industry was established. The Urk fish auction is the largest in the Netherlands.


The skull issue
Some scientists have long thought that the "ancient Dutch race" would have been preserved on Urk. This led to studies into the skull size of the population in the 1930s (among others by the racial eugenicist H. Tj. Piebenga ) and before that to the robbery of skulls from Urk as part of scientific research (among others in 1877 by the Hilversum doctor Johannes Fredericus van Hengel , who managed to steal three skulls by means of an exchange trick and passed them on to Utrecht University ). Six of them remained in the possession of various Dutch universities and the German university of Göttingen until the early 21st century. However, the entire skull examination yielded hardly any scientific results. In 2005 these facts were discovered and published on Urk by investigation. However, the universities refused to return the skulls, which prompted residents to set up the Urk Skulls Committee in 2007 to try and get the skulls back on the island. In September 2009, the ethical advisory committee of the Dutch Museum Association ruled in favor of the committee. On June 5, 2010, six skulls were returned in a ceremony and church service.

Recent history
In 2008, the Urkers fought in vain against the construction of 48 windmills on the coast, which would obscure them from the sea. After the closure of the Zuiderzee by the Afsluitdijk in 1932, this was a new battle.

On 1 January 2019, the municipality on the north and south sides was expanded with parts of the Noordoostpolder municipality to enable the expansion of the Urkerbos on the north side and the construction of a business park to the south of the town. Since only a small number of residents were involved in this, Urk was not involved in the 2018 municipal redivision elections.