AMSTERDAM, 26 AUGUST 2021 - September sees the start of renovation work at Hollandsche Schouwburg and the former Hervormde Kweekschool on Plantage Middenlaan. These two historic buildings, which played such a central role in the destruction of Dutch Jewry in the Second World War, are home to the new National Holocaust Museum, set to open in early 2024. A central theme is rehumanising the victims. Annemiek Gringold, National Holocaust Museum curator and project leader: “Personal stories allow visitors to explore existential questions relating to the Holocaust.”
The Jewish Cultural Quarter is currently developing the National Holocaust Museum in these two historic buildings. Architectural Office Winhov has designed the renovation. “The architecture of the National Holocaust Museum reflects the history of the neighbourhood. By shaping the design to convey this history, we help visitors use their imagination. The fence separating the former kindergarten, where children were smuggled to the resistance, is out of view. By making it visible, visitors can reflect on the personal stories of these youngsters and their rescuers,” Office Winhov’s Uri Gilad and Inez Tan explain. The construction work by Bouwbedrijf M.J. de Nijs en Zonen, Klomp Technisch Buro and Elektropartners, is supervised by Wijngaarde & Partners.
Rehumanising the victims
Hollandsche Schouwburg is a place in which to reflect and remember. The Kweekschool hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions about the history of the persecution of Jews in the Netherlands. OPERA Amsterdam and Studio Louter are developing the permanent displays. Barend Verheijen of Studio Louter: “The Holocaust was a system of dehumanisation. We want visitors to realise that the dry statistics of the destruction of Dutch Jewry are about individuals. We are turning the way we present the permanent display around completely: we approach the victims, so unimaginably many of them, on an individual level. The crimes and perpetrators are presented in all their enormity.” Boaz Bar-Adon of OPERA Amsterdam: “To tell the personal stories of the victims we have developed Forget-Me-Not: a tribute in the form of a uniquely designed showcase with space for personal objects, photos and memories.”
“One of these Forget-Me-Nots is a tribute to Simon Vos and his wife Roza,” Annemiek Gringold continues. Simon and Roza had been in hiding until they were betrayed and deported to Auschwitz. Simon got someone to make a ring from a piece of aluminium he had acquired. This was smuggled to the women’s camp and passed to Roza, giving her hope and courage. Roza survived the hardships she endured there; Simon died shortly before the liberation on one of the death marches. After the war, Roza managed to rebuild her life, marrying and raising a family. Gringold: “When visitors see Roza’s ring in the museum and realise the incredible resilience with which she picked up the threads of her life, they ask themselves a fundamental question. If Roza could do that under those circumstances, would I have that same resilience? What can I learn from this?”
The indescribable cruelty of the perpetrators raises another existential question. Gringold: “When disinformation and propaganda turn a person into someone capable of killing in cold blood, is that person human? Are we all capable of that? I hope visitors to the National Holocaust Museum will understand the mechanisms that influence the choices we make and wonder about the humanity of everyone involved, victims, bystanders, collaborators and perpetrators. We need to be vigilant.”
About the National Holocaust Museum
In early 2024, National Holocaust Museum will open at two historic locations: Hollandsche Schouwburg and the former Hervormde Kweekschool. In the course of the Second World War, the German occupiers used the theatre to hold tens of thousands of Jews prisoner before deporting them to the concentration camps. Young children were kept at the kindergarten across the road. Over several months, hundreds of these children were smuggled through the adjacent school to relative safety by the resistance. The National Holocaust Museum is the first and only museum to tell the complete history of the destruction of the Jewish community in the Netherlands.
The National Holocaust Museum is part of the Jewish Cultural Quarter and is developed with support from various government departments, funds, companies and private contributors.