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Five Jewish Historical Sites to Visit in Amsterdam

February 14, 2012 at 6:12 PM | by | Comments (0)


A display at the Verzetsmuseum

All this week, traveler and writer Lilit Marcus will share her favorite unique spots in Amsterdam, a city Jaunted can never get enough of.

As a Jewish traveler, or simply one interested in checking out the local Jewish sites, there’s more to do than simply patronize kosher restaurants. Holland lost the largest percentage of its Jewish community during the Holocaust, and since then the country has worked overtime to make sure that the community’s history didn’t disappear. These sites help give a broader picture of Jewish life in Amsterdam—past and present:

· Verzetsmuseum
The Verzetsmuseum (Resistance Museum) paints a picture of what life was like for ordinary Dutch people during the German occupation. The rooms in the center depict everyday life, complete with food rationing and forced military service, while rooms on the side share stories of Dutch citizens who worked against the Nazis and in some cases paid with their lives. The museum successfully gives a broad representation of what Holland was like during the war without resorting to victimhood.

· The Anne Frank House
This isn’t just the most prominent Jewish site in town—it’s probably the most iconic site in all of Amsterdam. The ‘secret Annex’ where the Frank family and four others hid out for several years during World War II has been lovingly preserved without its furniture, as per the request of Anne’s father Otto Frank, the only member of the household who survived the war. The empty rooms echo with history, and exhibits and videos throughout the house drive home how the extermination of the Jews didn’t just lose people, it destroyed families and stifled creative voices. Don’t leave without seeing the Oscar that Shelley Winters won for playing Mrs. Van Daan in the film version of The Diary of Anne Frank, which the actress later donated.

· Portuguese Synagogue
Some of the Jews expelled during the Spanish Inquisition made their way to Holland, where they built this Sephardic synagogue in the 1600s. Despite the fact that many of these Jews were Spanish, they called themselves Portuguese because the Spanish and Dutch were at war. Come here for the history, but stay for the architectural details, which include a sand-covered floor (keeps people from walking too loudly) and a gorgeous gold chandelier.

· Ravensbruck Memorial
Ravensbruck was a women’s concentration camp that many Dutch Jews and resistance members were sent to, including Corrie ten Boom, whose experiences hiding Jews and evading the Nazis was the basis of her famous book The Hiding Place. The memorial is in Museumplein, the square that houses the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, and stands as a stark but powerful contrast to the cultural points.

· Jewish Historical Museum
Housed inside a series of four synagogues that were converted into a large single-use building, the Jewish Historical Museum looks at Dutch Jewish Life from multiple perspectives. There’s a little something for everyone here: parts of the old synagogues, Jewish artifacts dating back to the 13th century, modern works by prominent Jewish artists, personal archives, and even kids’ activities. The café is kosher, natch.

[Photo: begangenes & museumnacht]

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