Theater Lesson

Upstairs in the Hollandsche Schouwburg is a small display. There are pictures, documents and letters from the 1940’s when the theater was used as a place to hold the Jews until they were transported out of Amsterdam. While we were visiting, there was also a school group there. From the students’ accents, I assume they were from Great Britain. The children looked to be about 14 years old.

The teacher picked out one particular display to discuss. It was a map of Amsterdam with dots all over it. Each dot represented ten Jews. She pointed out that a regular Dutch civil servant, someone who worked for the Dutch government, had meticulously put this together for the Nazi occupying forces.

It showed where every Jew in Amsterdam lived. No wonder it was so easy for the Nazis to find, deport, and murder the Jews of Holland! Later in the week I was at the Amsterdam City Archives. I was astonished by the amount of information they have. You can look up any address and find out who lived there; where they lived previously; and where they may have moved to. This was complete with birth date and place, occupation, and more. The Dutch kept such meticulous records that anyone could be found.

The teacher pointed out to her class that the Dutch tax records included religion, race and other personal factors. She herself never checks off the race or religion box on forms. Why does the government need to know? What good can come from such classification?

Published by K Heidi Fishman


4 thoughts on “Theater Lesson

  1. Dear Heidi, yes, Dutch civil registratiion did record religion but has stopped doing so about 15 years ago. Race was never recorded: that was and is not a category in Dutch civil record. They only time I had to state my ‘race’ was when registering as a visiting fellow at Princeton University. They had to tell me what race I was becasue I didn’t know.
    Certainly the meticulous Dutch civil records very much facilitated the rounding up of Jews during the war. But you have to know that 1. in 1940-1941 the Germans demanded all Dutch Jews to have themselves registered. Al most complied… 2. the Germans of course held racial criteria for listing jews, not only religious. This meant theu had to make new list, recording the number of Jewish grandparents.
    Hartelijke groeten



    1. Arnoud Jan,
      Thanks for the corrections and added information. The fact the fact that you didn’t know your race until you came to the USA is telling.

      I didn’t mean to imply that the Dutch civil servants were to blame or that The Netherlands still keeps the same type of records.



      1. The purpose of recording religion in Dutch society was that everything was divided along religious lines. Statistics were used to distribute resources along those lines. That is not the case anymore.
        The purpose of address registration is of course different. Lots of rights and duties are – still now – address related. But in the wrong hands, those informations can and did become dangerous and even lethal.
        As for the registration of the race of immigrants – or anybody, for that matter…We humans are a mixed bag of genes. So why still stick a racial label on people when race is a remnant of unscientific bigotry?


  2. Myriam,
    Thanks for your input as well. And I would paraphrase your words to say “why stick any any label on people?” So many of the labels we use for people are remnants of bigotry, aren’t they?


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