The first day in Amsterdam Dave and I decided to do a little exploring in the “Jewish Quarter.” We went to the Jewish Historical Museum and the Hollandsche Schouwburg (Theater). It became know as the Joodsche Schouwburg when the Jews were no longer allowed to go to the same theater as the rest of the population. They could only go to shows here.
The facade of the building is still there with its white marble bas-relief. It looks like a grand building. You walk into what was once the lobby and you immediately know that things changed from the evenings of Shakespeare and cabaret. This theater became the place that the Nazis gathered the Jews of Amsterdam before they were put on trains and taken to Westerbork (the transit camp in the northeast of The Netherlands). The average stay at the theater was five days.
The lobby now holds a memorial for all the Jews from Amsterdam that were murdered during the war. There is an eternal flame, a wall of names, and a computer station where you can connect to the Joods Monument and find the fate of a particular person.
Where the theater seating once was is now an open air area. There are benches and what was once the stage now has a black obelisk that rises out of a base that is shaped like a Star of David. The original walls of the stage area are still there.
The day we visited it was drizzly and gray. The mood was somber and we were tired as we had been flying all night and had little shut-eye. I thought of the Jews brought here. They too had little sleep the night before they arrived, as most had been caught in a razzia (round-up) in the wee hours of the morning. When they were brought here they found a closed building with boarded up windows. The theater seating had been removed and they had to wait, sitting or lying on the floor, sometimes for days. There was one men’s bathroom and one women’s. There were often up to 1000 people inside and there was little to eat or drink. Some people chose to take control of their own deaths and jumped off the balcony.
My mother remembers being here. She doesn’t remember how long but thinks it was a couple of days. She remembers it being very dark and stuffy and that she was thirsty. She was eight years old.
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Heidi, thanks for sharing this. So important to tell these stories.