For the general population in Holland, the Second World War (1939-1945) came as a terrifying bolt out of the blue.
Everything seems to happen in Holland some 50 years later than in the rest of Europe, wrote Heinrich Heine. Starting in the eighteenth century, Holland had become an inward-looking, old fashioned, sleepy petty-bourgeois Garden of Eden. The evil outside world had stayed neatly outside the national borders for many centuries, and Holland remained even untouched by the horrors of World War I between 1914 and 1918. In fact, these lowlands had not been overrun for many centuries - except perhaps for the more or less welcome invasion of French troops bringing the new-found ideals of Liberty, Egality, Fraternity in 1795. Oh yes of course, there had been some dangers way back in 1672.
On May 10, 1940 the German troops suddenly invaded Holland, Belgium and Luxemburg. Heavily outnumbered, the Dutch troops kept on fighting for four days until on May 14th, when Rotterdam was flattened by the Germans in order to effectively quell all further military resistance. The threat was to flatten all historic Dutch cities in the same way.
Thus within living history or living experience the Dutch had really no inkling about resistance... how to think it up or shape or start any action against a foreign invader. Protestants had been taught for centuries to respect and obey the civic authorities put above the population and catholics were told to be meek. National and city government branches and the education system had been steeped in centuries in ideals of obedience and duty. All trains and buses kept on running and factories remained open after May 14, 1940.
Amsterdam life seemed pretty much normal at first. Slowly, with small incremental steps, the situation got difficult for the Jews, from scary to bad and then to worse. Jews were instructed by the authorities to wear a recognition star of David as a badge. And then they were to keep out of trams and buses, to keep out of public parks, to stay out of cafes and restaurants. Jewish teachers and students were expelled from schools. The great sorting between the "aryans" and the "Jews" had begun. A Jewish Quarter was cordonned off (see b/w photo above) ominously called "Juden viertel" or "Joodsche wijk".
This was unprecedented and painful, but initially nobody, neither civilian nor government official knew what to do about dealing with the foreign authority during those first months of German occupation. Mayors and Aldermen went about their business as if nothing had happened, having to adhere to the dictates of German occupational rule.
The Jewish Quarter was sealed off and at nightfall by bridges and barriers that could be closed. In October 1942 large scale razzia's took place where great numbers of Jews were lifted from their homes.
Our tour will probably include:
The area of Jewish Historical Museum. Area of the Zoo with the "Hollandse Schouwburg" theatre from which Jews were deported. Also in the Zoo area, we visit the site of the Attack by the Resistance on the Registry office of of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Then on to Statue of the Dockworker, reminding us of the workers' general strike against the deportation of the Jews. Then the Wertheim park monument. We will also visit the Opera, built on site of the Jewish Quarter.
During our tour we will discuss the hiding places for persecuted Jews, such as the Anne Frank house. And we will discuss the many traitors and the general la-di-da attitude in the post-war era which was: "We all suffered, stop complaining". One of the painful public monuments of that era is the monument commemorating the Protectors of the Jews, built in 1947 by a small committee of surviving Jews - one could say under duress in the time when the self image of the Dutch was ecstatic: just about the entire Dutch nation had consisted of resistance heroes.
A large percentage of the Dutch were in fact no heroes at all. In 1940 there were about 140.000 jews in Holland of which 80.000 lived in Amsterdam - and after the war there remained only some 20.000 alive. This is a truly shocking statistic. No other country in Europe, perhaps except for Germany and Poland reached such levels off mass destruction. We will discuss the reasons why.
The map on the right was created in 1941 by a dutiful civil servant of the Statistics department: "Distribution of Jews across the city / Verspreiding van de Joden over de gemeente". The idea was to chart the Jews in Amsterdam, each dot representing 10 Jews. With hindsight and with knowledge of mass extermination this map sends chills up the spine. One of the first steps towards desk-driven white collar murder machine.
Amsterdam, North Holland. Above is the Aerial photo shows Amsterdam, North Holland. To the left you see the square grid of the Jordaan district, built in the early 17th century for artisans and the poorer souls. Next to it you see the four grand, major tree-lined curving canals: counting from the outside to the inside they are named Prinsen (Princes) gracht, Keizers (Emperors) gracht, then the most important one, the Heren (Gentleman's) gracht and finally the Singel. Thus the order is PKHS, Please Kiss Her Softly.
As an art historian based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, I can meet you in Amsterdam for a personalized guided tour of art museums and the historic center. Great Amsterdam tours!
Together we will experience the beauty and history. Enjoy yourself and learn about history while strolling and discussing the country's history, art and culture. In doing so, we may touch a number of bases - spanning not only fine art and architecture but also the city's history and current social issues.Starting at your hotel I will take you on a wonderful private cultural walking tour of your choice. My guided itinerary offers you accessable informative conversation in English, Dutch, or German (my French and Italian are more limited).
Drs. Kaldenbach is chairman of the Circle of Academic Tour Guides of the Netherlands and Flanders (CATON)
Please contact me for time and fees of the tailor-made tour you ar interested in.
These tailor made tours are available upon request - please contact me to book a date. Minimum group size: 1 person. Maximum group size is limited to about 10 persons. With a megaphone I can also manage larger groups on the streets.
Drs. Kees Kaldenbach has been featured in television and radio documentaries, including BBC2 TV, NTV Japan, Danish TV and Radio Netherlands World Service. In July 2004 he was interviewed about Delft artists by Tetsuya Tsuruhara for the leading Japanese newspaper The Yomiuri Shimbun. In 2004 and 2005 he acted in an advisory role to additional BBC teams. Kaldenbach has written extensively on Vermeer and 17th century Delft, on Vincent van Gogh and on other art history topics.
Generally for small groups. In case of Bike hire = extra cost. Contact me for information on higher amounts with other venues and more people.
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