Ever since I learned about the Holocaust in school, I have always wanted to learn more. I always seemed to connect to the suffering and was always amazed by the resiliency of the Jewish people. I also have always been baffled to think that the world took so long to come to their rescue. How could people sit by and let this happen??
When searching for things to do in Amsterdam, I knew first of all that I wanted to go to Anne Frank House. While searching on Tripadvisor, I also came across a highly rated WWII/Holocaust walking tour through Amsterdam. If you have read Anne Frank's diary or have studied history, you know that Germany took over and occupied the Netherlands with little effort. And eventually, over 104,000 Jews were deported from The Netherlands and murdered. So, I booked our tour, which was to be about 3 hours long, and hoped for good weather. Not only did this tour offer some history in the city, but we would be able to walk around and see parts of the city that we would not normally seek out.
Well, the good weather did not come. But we met Ben, our guide, at 10:15 on a Sunday morning to begin our tour. It was cold, windy and raining but we decided to go on with the tour. We started at Anne Frank's House and Ben gave us some background info on the family.
|Anne Frank House|
|Anne Frank Memorial|
We crossed the bridge (above and below) to reach the Jewish Quarter. Unfortunately, I do not have many pictures due to the rain, but the area is just like any other nice area of Amsterdam. Lively, quaint shops and gorgeous buildings. During WWII, Jews in Amsterdam were set to live in this quarter and were completely shut off from the rest of the city. It was easy to do this because of the canal system. Ben handed us a booklet while standing on the street. The booklet listed each Jewish family that was deported from each flat on the street. It was a really profound moment. To be standing a on the street where the victims stood and know that they were just normal people like you and me, it was heart wrenching. I really appreciated that Ben honors the fallen by giving you their names, ages and dates of death and has done the research.
We arrived at the Jewish Resistance Monument. On the side is a quotation from the Old Testament, from the prophet Jeremiah in Dutch and Hebrew: 'Were my eyes fountains of tears then I would weep day and night for the fallen warriors of my beloved people.'
We were brought to the edge of the canal to take a look at the inscriptions in the stone below. Across from each house was a list of each victim from the house with the house number. It was hard to imagine these families and their struggles. The hardest was to see the names of a young couple and their young children listed.
If you were strolling along the street in Amsterdam, would you even notice what is shown in the photo below? I wouldn't have. I wish I could find what was inscripted in the border, but sadly, I cannot find it. It is a monument dedicated to the 100 orphans and their caretakers who were once housed in a building here. The Nazi's arrested them all and sent them to Sobibor to be killed. This part of the tour shook me up tremendously. I didn't even have words.
Above is Dam Square and many people gather here on a daily basis. Little did I know the significance of where we were standing. Two days after the Germans surrendered, crowds gathered in the square cheering and celebrating their freedom. German soldiers were still in the area. Some had gathered in their drinking club (top floor of the building on the left). At some point during the day, they begin to open fire on the crowds with a machine gun. The jubilant crowd rushed to hide behind lamp posts and anything they could find for cover. 22 were pronounced dead, possibly more. Can you imagine....having been freed 2 days earlier and suffering another brutal attack?
Here is a photo that Ben showed us, showing the lone child wandering out into danger.
This tour was a somber one. It was not the type of tour you take to get warm happy feelings while you are travelling. But what you learn and witness here on this tour is the truth. A truth that we must keep passing along so that this never happens again. The above photos are not inclusive. There were many more places and scenes that Ben showed to us that were all just as important. Although the weather was absolutely terrible, I would have done it all over again.
We ended the tour at the Auschwitz Memorial. The monument artist chose to lay six panes of glass down for the 6 million Jews that were killed. Each pane is cracked and reflects the sky, day and night. Each time one looks at the cracked sky it reminds them that the sky is forever wounded because of the Holocaust.
The tour was very informative and luckily we were able to visit the Anne Frank House as well. I appreciated that the tour also focused on the struggles of the non-Nazi Germans at the time as well. The tour furthered my desire to visit the concentration camps. I know the day will come and I am not in a rush. But I do wish to stand there one day and say a prayer and shed a tear for those who were so brutally killed.