October 7, 2015

National holocaust monument becomes glass house

Filed under: Architecture,History by Orangemaster @ 6:38 pm


The green and white wooden house is one of the last remaining buildings at Kamp Westerbork, a WWII Nazi transit camp in Hooghalen, Drenthe where Dutch Jews, Sinti and Romani stayed and were readied for transport to Nazi concentration camps elsewhere. German Jewess Anne Frank passed through there as well in her final months before being transported back to Germany. The house was declared a national monument in 1994.

Intended as a memorial to WWII, the large glass box creates a vitrine-like enclosure around the clapboard residence of SS commander Albert Konrad Gemmeker. According to Oving Architecten from Groningen, it will both preserve the structure and be used to host educational events.

(Link:, photo

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September 30, 2015

Dutch centuries-old bond keeps paying interest

Filed under: History by Branko Collin @ 3:43 pm


Two weeks ago Timothy Young, a librarian from Yale University in the USA, travelled to the Netherlands to collect 136 euro and 20 cents in interest from the water board De Stichtse Rijnlanden.

The interest was paid on a bond issued for 1,000 guilders in 1648 by the predecessor of the current board to fund the building of a groyne. At the time, the Netherlands was going through its Golden Age and the navigability of important trade routes like the main rivers was a priority (German link).

Interest on the bond must be collected at least once every generation, Yale News reports. The bond (issued by the water board of Lekdijk Bovendams) remains one of the oldest known living financial instruments in the world as long as interest is collected—the reason that Yale, which paid 24,000 euro for it in 2003 according to Bloomberg, is keen to collect those payments.

The document is a bearer bond, meaning the issuer needs to see it before paying out interest. The issuer will then write the payment date on the document. This would have provided a bit of a problem for Yale, because carting around a 367-year-old sheep skin across the airways might be detrimental to its health. Luckily, space on the bond proper already ran out in 1944 and in the same year an allonge was attached to it for keeping track of the payment dates. The water board allows the bearer to simply show the allonge.

The water board has records of five other bonds that still generate interest payments. The oldest of these was issued in 1624 for 1,200 guilders, also by the water board Lekdijk Bovendams. The same water board issued bonds for a total of 300,000 guilders in the first half of the 17th century after the 32-kilometre-long eponymous dike burst numerous times, the water board writes.

Water boards are a type of parallel local government that have been around since the Middle Ages. They take care of dikes and dams, among others, in a country of which 55% of the surface area is susceptible to flooding from either the sea or from rivers. Some of these boards belong to the oldest continuous governments in the Netherlands. The water board of Lekdijk Bovendams was founded in 1323 by the bishop of Utrecht and was later managed by the king, until 1971 when it was merged with a number of other water boards into the water board Kromme Rijn, which itself was later merged into the current water board De Stichtse Rijnlanden.


(Photo of groynes at the Bovendamse Lekdijk by E. Dronkert, some rights reserved; photo of the bond by Yale University)

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September 10, 2015

Dutch fishing boat scoops up a Lenin

Filed under: History,Weird by Orangemaster @ 12:52 pm

A Dutch fishing vessel from the island of Texel has caught a bust of Lenin in its net.

It’s made from bronze and nobody knows why it ended up in the sea, but we can guess and make jokes.

One of the fisherman took it home to Den Oever, North Holland, a town adjacent to the 32-kilometre-long ‘Afsluitdijk’, a dike road that connects the province of North Holland to the province of Friesland.

Back in 2013 we told you about a 10-metre statue of Lenin hovering over downtown Assen, and here are some pictures of it.

(Link:, Photo of Lenin in Ukraine by covilha, some rights reserved)

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August 17, 2015

Boy find bones of prehistoric cave lion

Filed under: Animals,History by Orangemaster @ 10:44 am


Ten-year-old Enzo Smink from Wekerom, Gelderland has found part of the jaw of a prehistoric cave lion, according to the director of prehistoric museum De Groene Poort in Boxtel, Noord-Brabant, who said a find like this only happens about every 20 years.

The boy had found the bones back in 2012 while swimming with his father near Oosterbeek, Gelderland, but nobody had realised what he had found. The bones then ended up in a box at his grandmother’s house. It was only when he decided to bring the bones to school for show and tell earlier this year did his mother take a picture of them and send it off to experts.

“The Eurasian cave lion commonly known as the European or Eurasian cave lion, is an extinct subspecies of lion. It is known from fossils and many examples of prehistoric art.”

Today the bones will become part of the De Groene Poort’s collection. They have been restored and one would imagine they’ll be on display soon enough.

(Links:,, Photo of Panthera leo spelaea in Vienna by FunkMonk, some rights reserved)

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August 14, 2015

Tram stop honouring football player spelt wrong

Filed under: History,Sports by Orangemaster @ 12:09 pm


Dutch professional football player and coach Bob ‘Bobby’ Haarms is being honoured with a tram stop in the district of IJburg in Amsterdam. However, Amsterdam’s public transport company GVB couldn’t be arsed to check the spelling of his name, as an ‘r’ is missing.

The GVB has six more days to modify the sign before the Haarms family officially drives through a banner on a tram to unveil the tram stop. Haarmslaan is spelt properly online so far. Amusingly enough, the tweet is from a police officer and it’s not clear if she noticed the mistake.

(Link: www.at5)

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August 2, 2015

Dutch city buses enjoy second life in Cuba

Filed under: Automobiles,History by Branko Collin @ 10:39 pm


This is what the buses from my childhood look like and yet I’ve never even been to Cuba.

It appears Cuba buys up old buses from all over the world and doesn’t bother to change the signs denoting the line number and destination. This one says: “Geen dienst”, i.e. no service. RTVNH spotted the old line 14 bus to Uitgeest (a town north of Amsterdam). Checking the Flickr group Dutch Buses in Cuba is like looking at a small history of Dutch public transport.

Yellow is just the livery of this company, it doesn’t denote any specific type of service. The curtain with the sassy fringe seems to be a recent addition though.

See also: NZH timetables using European comics.

(Photo by Paul Arps, some rights reserved)

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May 23, 2015

Very rare copy of Mein Kampf on display in Amsterdam

Filed under: History,Literature by Orangemaster @ 5:28 pm


After having been prosecuted for selling ‘Mein Kampf’ and getting a slap on the wrist for it, the Totalitarian Art Gallery in Amsterdam is back in the news with a ‘very rare’ signed copy of Hitler’s controversial book.

The local Anti-Facist League is demanding the book be confiscated and that the gallery be closed down, but the police told them they cannot legally do either of those things. ‘Mein Kampf’ (‘My Struggle’) can easily be found on the Internet since about 1998, but the book version is still banned. As well, the copyright on the book will run out in 2016, making it even more difficult to control any distribution of the work.

Gallery owner Michiel van Eyck is currently displaying the book in his shop, not selling it, and there’s nothing illegal about that. There’s an appeal currently ongoing on the original verdict against Van Eyck. However, banning a physical book that can be found easily and for free is ‘mopping the floor with the faucet running’, as the Dutch would say.

(Link:, Photo by Adam Jones, some rights reserved)

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May 18, 2015

ISIS terrorists use fake passports from ‘Enshede’

Filed under: History by Branko Collin @ 4:01 pm


When rebels raided an ISIS safe house in northern Syria, they secured dozens of passports stolen from Westerners, Al Aan TV reports.

Among the many real passports was also this forged Dutch passport signed by the mayor of ‘Enshede’. Since there is no place called Enshede (but Enschede exists), border controls should have no problems stopping the holders of other copies.

Using the sch-sound to separate the good guys from the bad has long been practice in the Netherlands and Flanders, especially since foreigners don’t seem to be able to pronounce it correctly. The Flemish are said to have used the war cry ‘schild ende vriend‘ (shield and friend) during the Battle of the Golden Spurs to differentiate themselves from the French, and fishermen returning to the main land after the Nazi attack on 10 May 1940 were told to use the password Scheveningen to tell them apart from German agents.

I am guessing the forger wrote the name Enschede the way he heard it.

(Link: RTL Nieuws, Photo: Al Aan TV / RTL Nieuws)

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May 16, 2015

Windmills that generate twice the power of traditional windmills

Filed under: History,Technology by Branko Collin @ 9:27 pm

windmill-leiden-branko-collinAlthough windmills are an iconic representation of the Netherlands, they haven’t actually been used much for the past two centuries.

The ‘invention’ of the practical steam engine by James Watt in the 18th century made short work of the Dutch reliance on windmills. The use of wind power for pumping water out of polders saw a sharp decline in the 19th century.

Ironically, the abandonment of windmills did not stop the development of these devices in the Netherlands. According to Low Tech Magazine:

In the 1920s and 1930s, however, when windmills had stopped working almost everywhere in Europe, the Dutch started a research program that led to the final development of the classical windmill. In 1923, the “Dutch Windmill Society” was founded, with the mission to improve the performance of windmills generating mechanical energy. Among the members were famous millwright builders like the Dekker Brothers. The results were spectacular.


[While] a traditional windmill could be worked for around 2,671 hours per year in the Netherlands, the new streamlined design could be operated for 4,442 hours per year – more or less doubling the annual energy output.

(Link: Making Light; photo: regular windmill De Put in Leiden by me)

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April 1, 2015

Anne Frank died earlier than recorded

Filed under: History by Orangemaster @ 3:23 pm

Anne Frank and her sister Margot probably died a month earlier than previously recorded at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. According to Erika Prins, a researcher at the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam, her death was placed in February instead of March. Both girls died of typhus, with most typhus deaths happening some 12 days after the first symptoms.

Anyone who knows the story of Anne Frank often has the feeling that if she had held on a bit longer, she could have been liberated, which was never really the case, but now even less so.

“The new date of her death changes little about the tragic lives of Anne and her sister Margot, who went into hiding with their family in an Amsterdam canal house but were eventually betrayed, sent to Nazi concentration camps and died in the Holocaust along with millions of other Jews.”

Jews hid in many places across the country (in Dutch). You can also see Anne Frank on YouTube in a film fragment, the only time ever apparently. As well, many people think Anne Frank was Dutch, but she was German.

(Links:,, Photo of famous chestnut tree:

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