Nine Must See Sights of Jewish Amsterdam

The Dockworker Statue commemorating the February 1941 Strike

The Dockworker Statue commemorating the February 1941 Strike

  1. The Verzetmuseum, the Museum of Dutch Resistance, is rated one of the top ten museums in the country and rightly so. It examines the dilemmas of 1940-45 and how people who resisted managed it.  It is inspiring in ways I never thought a museum on this subject could be.
  1. The Jewish Historical Museum retraces the proud history of Amsterdam’s Jewish community for over 400 years, as well as discussing contemporary issues. Housed in adjacent former synagogues, it includes stunning objects and moving oral histories.
  1. The Portuguese Synagogue is still in use today. Its lofty presence on the Jonas Daniel Meijerplein was an eloquent statement of the community’s strength and significance when it was built in the 1600s.  Go inside to appreciate the sacred space, view the exhibits and see the most beautiful brass chandeliers on earth as well as other marvels.
  1. The statue of the Dockworker stands between the Museum and Synagogue, and commemorates the only general strike in Europe to protest the first roundup of 425 Jewish men on that very spot. On February 25, 1941, communist dockworkers and tram drivers led the way for others.
  1. The nearby Dutch Schouwburg Theatre was once a delightful cabaret theatre, with many Jewish performers and a broad audience until the Nazis restricted it to Jews only. Then, ironically, they turned it into a deportation center for people rounded up from October 1942 onwards.  Just across the street is a marker for the center for detained children.
  1. It’s worth walking a few blocks to find De Burcht, the Diamond Workers’ Union headquarters, number 9 on a street named for its visionary leader, Henri Polak. The Union was almost entirely Jewish and led the way to the eight-hour work day in addition to other accomplishments.
  1. The Amsterdam Museum has a small but very affecting exhibit on 1940-45. It even has a film made by people in hiding to illustrate how they lived and their plight as well as sources of amusement.  You can climb a ladder to see some of the secret activities in the attic.
  1. The Anne Frank House is a shrine which also manages to be much more.  Be sure to read the Diary again before you go.  Get your tickets in advance to avoid hours in line.  If you visit the sites above first, you’ll have a sense of how unusual the Franks’ story is.
  1. Challenge yourself to find this monument to the Jewish Boys’ Orphanage. It is between the Netherlands Opera and Ballet (the Stopera), and the Amstel River, facing the River near the Blaubrug.  A granite line in the pavement shows where virtually all the boys and their caregivers were rounded up and killed.  A hint:  the corner of the big rectangle is under the building, so if you walk right along the edge you will find it.

Hidden Amsterdam      For information on the hidden aspects of the city –- both those related to 1940-45 and others that aren’t readily apparent –- explore my blog at seehiddenamsterdam.com.