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She’s the most famous victim of the Holocaust, forever memorialized from the diary she kept during the two years she spent in hiding from the Nazis. It’s easy to think Anne Frank and her family were the only victims of the Nazis from the Netherlands, what with several movies and even a play written about her. But she wasn’t. By the end of the Second World War, around 107,000 Dutch Jews had been murdered by the Nazis, almost three quarters of the Jewish population in the Netherlands, making it one of the highest percentage of Jews killed in Western Europe. When you’re in the Dutch capital, yes, you absolutely must visit the Anne Frank House. So including that, here are five Holocaust sites in Amsterdam you should visit.
1.) The Anne Frank House
One of the most visited museums in the Netherlands
“Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year old school girl.”
Each year the Anne Frank House receives over a million visitors from people around the world. If only Anne knew how much the “musings of a thirteen-year old school girl” have truly captivated the hearts and minds of millions of people for more than 70 years, ever since The Diary of a Young Girl was first published in 1947.
If you’ve ever read The Diary of a Young Girl, you’ll know from Anne’s descriptions that the rooms of the Secret Annex at Prinsengracht 263, the space where Anne hid along with her parents, older sister, and three family friends for two years, were small. That quarrels and disagreements were plentiful and often due to living in such cramped quarters, having to be quiet nearly all day, every day. But it’s not until you visit there in person and see the rooms yourself that you are bowed over with disbelief wondering how could anyone have done that, let alone a vivacious, inquisitive 13 year old girl. For me personally, the most heartbreaking aspect of my visit was seeing Anne’s room that she initially shared with her sister Margo but then shared with Fritz Pfeffer, the dentist whom Anne did not get along with. It was even smaller than I imagined and sharing it with an older man, basically a complete stranger to this child, I couldn’t even imagine.
No, Anne was not the only Jewish child to go into hiding in order to escape the Nazis. But the Anne Frank House is a way of imagining all of the other child victims of the Holocaust who hid throughout Europe, whose stories will never be known or brought to life by Hollywood but are just as remarkable and unique and heartbreaking all the same.
Information on visiting
-NO tickets are sold at the house. I can’t tell you the number of people who walked up to a staff member inquiring. In an era where just about everyone has a smart phone and everything has a website, why would you not check this out in advance? You can only visit the house with a ticket bought online AND for a specific time slot.
-80% of tickets are released exactly two months in advance at 12:00 hours (Amsterdam time/CET). Every day at 9:00 hours (Amsterdam time/CET), 20% of the remaining tickets for the day are made available also on the website.
-Tickets sell out fast and well in advance so if you have your Amsterdam travel dates booked, purchase your ticket to the Anne Frank House too. There is no reason whatsoever to procrastinate on this. The good thing is that the house has admission hours into the early evening; in addition, on Saturday nights it’s open until 10 PM, so this definitely helps if you’re more busy during the day.
The Red Headed Traveler’s personal experience and tips-
I planned my trip to Amsterdam very last minute and as such, all advance tickets to the house for the two full days I’d be there were completely sold out. So I made plans to try each morning at 9 AM to secure a ticket. On my first day I was completely shut out. I learned the hard way that unless you’re obsessively moving your mouse/track pad constantly, the website will think you’re not active and when the site becomes live at 9 AM, will basically bump you to the very end of the queue, hundreds deep as was my case. I tried again on my second day, having my laptop ready to go at 8:30 and literally moving my mouse on the Anne Frank House website itself every 30 seconds. I was too paranoid not to do this and was loath to go to another tab and occupy my time. It was a nervewracking 30 minutes but I prevailed and seeing as how I wanted to visit the house ever since I was a small child, it was worth it. Obviously, some dates will be more busy than others; it truly just depends.
2.) The Shadow Wall
An unofficial Holocaust memorial
I didn’t learn about the De Schaduwkade or the Shadow Wall as it’s known in English until I was in Amsterdam (slightly disappointed in myself since I take pride in being in the know about all things Holocaust history related). The Shadow Wall is in many ways similar to the Stolpersteine memorials that you can see throughout Western and Central Europe, but then it takes it a step deeper.
On a day in May 1943, German soldiers rounded up the Jewish residents on the Nieuwe Keizersgracht, a city block located on a canal with about 30 homes. Two hundred of these men, women, and children were murdered in death camps in the East. Two hundred murdered from one block alone.
As you walk along the north side of the canal, you’ll notice at the water’s edge the names of Holocaust victims are set in the stone quay wall opposite the homes where the victims once lived. The plaques are engraved with the names, ages, and dates of death at a concentration camp and you’ll notice the same surname on many of the plaques because entire families were destroyed on that spring day.
One lovely, positive thing that can be said about a memorial for such a horrific reason? It came about from the efforts of residents who live there today. They cared that much to remember.
Address: Nieuwe Keizersgracht 13-1
3.) Auschwitz Monument
A memorial to all of the Dutch Jews who died or were murdered at Auschwitz
This is a monument that unless you knew about it and where to find it, you wouldn’t come across since it’s definitely located outside of Amsterdam’s tourist sector (even though it’s still technically in the city center).
It’s small and unassuming, simple and plain, and yet its stark design strikes a powerful message. The monument is made up of broken mirrors and according to the Dutch artist who created it, Jan Wolkers, the mirrors represent the thought that “heaven is no longer unbroken since Auschwitz.”
4.) National Holocaust Memorial (Hollandsche Schouwburg)
Originally a theater but then a deportation center
From the outside, you would think it’s just a beautifully restored building from a bygone era. And it was- the Hollandsche Schouwburg originally began as a Dutch theater. But then in 1941 it became a Jewish theater by order of the Nazis. And not too long after that it became a deportation center where tens of thousands of men, women, and children were held before being deported to transit, concentration, and death camps.
Today it is a memorial and features a wall which lists all of the names of the people deported from here through an inscription of their surnames.
Address: Plantage Middenlaan 24
5.) The Dockworker Monument
A testament to the unity of all Dutch citizens, regardless of religion
In front of the historic and majestic Portuguese Synagogue stands a statue of a portly man. It’s called the Dockworker statue and this nameless man represents the strike started by the workers in the harbor’s docks to protest against the first roundup of the Jews in February 1941. Jews were collected on the square where the Dockworker statue stands today.
Address: Next to the Portuguese Synagogue (Mr. Visserplein 3)