The Dutch Theater
This week I want to share with you a place in Amsterdam that was used by the Germans during World War II. It’s the Dutch Theater, called in Dutch Hollandsche Schouwburg, located in the Plantage district of Amsterdam. The Dutch Theater was a popular theater from 1892 to 1941. Then in 1941 it became a Jewish theater where only Jews could perform and only Jews could attend. This was another way of segregating the Jewish people. In 1942 the theater became the assembly point for the Jews being deported. They were first sent to Westerbork transit camp, formerly a refugee camp, and then on to extermination camps in Poland such as Auschwitz/Birkenau or Sobibor.
Of course, the Jews weren’t told they were being sent to extermination camps in Poland when given notice to report. Who would report to be sent to an extermination camp? No, instead they were told to report to the Dutch Theater to be sent to labor camps because workers were needed. Others were rounded up in a raid with no choice at all. Often they weren’t sent away right away, and were required to stay at the Dutch Theater while they waited. It in essence became their prison.
De Creche (Nursery)
The building was too small for everyone at one time. The small children were held in a building across the street and were brought over to see their parents. The children were taken care of by people who were part of the resistance and helped them survive. Offers were quietly made to the parents to allow their children to be taken away to be hidden. If the parents agreed, the children would be taken away in the night to a safe place til they could be sent off to be protected.
The National Holocaust Memorial
In the 196o’s the building became a memorial to those who were lost. The theater itself was in bad shape due to disuse and disrepair and it was torn down. Given what had happened here, there should never be entertainment here again. This building became The National Holocaust Memorial. What you see here is outdoors, where the theater itself once stood, and the monument, an obelisk, is where the stage had been. There is also seating where people can linger and remember their family and loved ones.
In the lobby on the ground floor is a name wall with 6,700 surnames of the 80,000 Jews who were deported from the Dutch Theater. This is significant because The Talmud says that a person is only forgotten when his or her name is forgotten. This wall is a way of remembering those who were victims of the Nazi Regime.
There was something about this wall, with the many names listed in alphabetical order, that drew me to it. As I stood there looking at the name wall, I wondered if my last name was on the wall. Since I didn’t expect to see it on the list, can you imagine my surprise. There was my family name on the wall, and it rocked me. This experience suddenly became much more personal.
On the first floor is an exhibit about Jewish Persecution in the Netherlands. It has a life size cut out of a woman lifting a child down from a wall. It’s a visual of how a resistance worker might have saved a child with the blessing of the parents.
There is so much more to say about this. If you would like to know more, go to the website for the National Holocaust Memorial, which has more and better images of The Dutch Theater. Also the website that explains more about the Westerbork transit camp elaborates on this site.
Have you liked what you have read so far? Has it sparked in you a desire to actually see these sites, and to experience first hand and learn about this time in our history? Click here to make an appointment and we can begin to plan your trip to the Netherlands.