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: www.dezeen.com, photo ovingarchitecten.nl)

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June 14, 2015

Waterloo Square in Amsterdam turns 130

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 11:07 pm


On one of my first visits to Amsterdam as a child we went to Waterloo Square, and what an impression it left on me.

You could buy everything at the daily flea market. Pins and suits and sabres and boat lamps, it was like walking around in a Tintin story. It was bigger then, before the city of Amsterdam decided to ban the market in 1977 for 11 years so that it could build its monstrously ugly city hall there.

Waterloo Square (Dutch: Waterlooplein) was where the merchants from the nearby Jewish quarter were told to ply their trade from 1885 onwards. Last Saturday I visited the festivities surrounding the 130th anniversary. A lot of the stalls these days offer the same knickknacks you can get from every generic tourist shop in Amsterdam, from wooden tulips to gable shaped fridge magnets, from T-shirts with marijuana leaf print to colourful chullos. You can still find something special there if you know where to look, but politics and the likes of Lonely Planet seem to have done a number on the flea market I remember.




Update 15-6: I added 9 more photos to our Flickr page.

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December 8, 2014

Dutch professor’s past changes view on Holocaust

Filed under: History,Literature by Orangemaster @ 1:04 pm


Dutch-American Saskia Sassen, 67, is a professor of sociology at Columbia University in New York City whose Nazi collaborator father is part of a recently translated book from German into English entitled ‘Eichmann Before Jerusalem’ written by German philosopher Bettina Stangneth in 2011. Sassen’s father, Willem Sassen was a Nazi journalist and close to Adolf Eichmann when they both lived in Argentina in the 1950s. Sassen would extensively interview Adolf Eichmann, a major Holocaust figure, at their home in Argentina on Sundays, which upset Saskia’s mother a great deal and had her parents arguing after he left.

For a long time Saskia Sassen refused to talk about that chapter of her life, leading a very successful career as a professor author and authority on many subjects in her own right. However, in recent years Sassen has, “found herself repeatedly confronting this missing chapter of her biography, as archival records emerge and scholars, journalists, and filmmakers seek her participation in projects connected to her father’s history.”

In 1948 Willem Sassen escaped with his family to Argentina, where he met a group of local and refugee Nazis who were obsessed with discrediting what they saw as enemy propaganda about the Holocaust. Sassen was horrified by the bloody details he learned about the concentration camps, but was sure Eichmann had been manipulated into organizing such crimes. Sassen wanted to write a book about it all, but it never materialised. In 1960, Israeli agents abducted Eichmann and rumors spread in Argentina that Sassen had betrayed him.

The rest reads like a thriller and could make an excellent holiday gift for some of you.

(Link: chronicle.com)

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April 19, 2014

“Amsterdam, give Holocaust survivors their money back!”, says NIOD

Filed under: History by Branko Collin @ 1:39 pm

museumplein-jcm718What should a city do when its citizens survive the death camps and arrive home to find all their possessions stolen, even their homes (where now Nazi collaborators live)?

With possible answers ranging from “give them a hero’s welcome” to “do everything in your power to restore normality” to “charge them back taxes for property they haven’t had the use of”, after World War II was over, the city of Amsterdam chose the latter.

Three years ago university student Charlotte van den Berg stumbled upon 342 cases of retroactive taxes for Holocaust victims in Amsterdam’s city archives where she worked part-time. Toby Sterling reports:

Van den Berg notified city officials about the documents and received assurances they would be fully investigated. Now and then she checked in, only to learn that nothing had been done. […] In desperation, she turned her findings over to Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool in March 2013.

There is a method that seems to be favoured by Dutch officials who wish to deal with the wrongs their predecessors committed long ago, whether they had assisted Nazis with persecuting Jews or killed civilians in the revolutionary Indonesian war, and that method is to let the passage of time finish what the evil-doers started.

Parool’s publication of Van den Berg’s findings in 2013 got the ball rolling though and the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies started its own research. NIOD’s report is due later this month, but in the meantime details were leaked to the press. The institute will allegedly recommend that the city repay 400,000 euro in fines and 4.5 million euro in back taxes. That’s just for one very narrow category of taxes, “fees for long-term leases when the city owns the ground a house is built on”.

(Photo by Flickr user jcm718, some rights reserved. Here you see the Van Gogh Museum on Museumplein in Amsterdam. Currently a prime real estate location, Jewish owners of a house in this location had to sell the land because they couldn’t afford the costs involved in making the house liveable again and partly because of retroactive taxes, according to Nieuw Israëlitisch Weekblad)

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April 18, 2010

The other ‘Anne Frank’ houses

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 12:08 pm

The Anne Frank House is called Het Achterhuis in Dutch, the apartment in the back, simply because that is what it was. The andereachterhuizen.nl website has collected 30 stories of other hiding places of Jewish refugees in World War II.

For instance, the story of Johan Sanders, who was separated from his parents and sisters. When he once met his sisters on the street, naturally he smiled. The other kids, not knowing the real deal, yelled that “ha ha, Johan van den Berk is in love with Lenie Vissermans.”

“That had a real impact on me.”

The people in these stories were hiding at one of 42 addresses. They received warmth or beatings. They were in the city or the countryside, alone or with others. They were in hiding or were not. They had to pay a lot, or nothing at all. They were treated like equals or as slaves. They were betrayed or not.

(The site is entirely in Dutch. Via Trendbeheer)

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April 9, 2010

Holocaust survivor finally to receive Dutch apologies

Filed under: General,History by Branko Collin @ 3:23 pm

Selma Wijnberg (87) was the only Dutch survivor of the Nazi concentration camp Sobibor, but the Dutch government once almost made sure that even she would not have had that distinction.

Wijnberg managed to escape the death camp in Poland in 1943 and to hide in the countryside. After the war she returned to the Netherlands where she married a fellow escapee, Polish Jew Chaim Engel. Her marriage was reason for the Dutch government to threaten to revoke her Dutch nationality.

Although the government never acted upon its threat, Wijnberg was incensed about her treatment, and emigrated to the US, where she has lived ever since.

Wijnberg’s children managed to convince her to return to the Netherlands to attend the commemoration ceremony at Westerbork, a camp in the Netherlands from which Jews were transported to the death camps. At Westerbork Dutch minister Ab Klink will offer Wijnberg apologies on behalf of the Dutch government, according to De Volkskrant.

Many Jews were treated badly by their fellow Dutch countrymen after the war. During the war, 100,000 of the 140,000 Dutch Jews were killed in concentration camps, a percentage only trumped by Poland. The government’s policy of storing much information about its citizens enabled the Nazis to efficiently murder as many Jews as possible.

(Photo by Jacques Lahitte, some rights reserved)

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February 16, 2009

Miep Gies turned 100

Filed under: General,History by Branko Collin @ 8:31 am

Miep Gies, the woman who was important in Anne Frank’s life and pivotal in what we now know about Anne Frank turned 100 yesterday. In 1942, when the Frank family looked for a place to hide, Miep Gies, her husband Jan and three others helped the Franks stay hidden in the Achterhuis. Then, when through betrayal the Franks were taken to concentration camps, Gies managed to hide Anne Frank’s diary from the Nazis with the idea of giving it back to Anne after the war.

As a result, the world can now put a face to one of the millions that were murdered.

Even without the meddling of evildoers not many are given to live to a hundred. Sometimes karma just works. Miep, I hope you had a very good 100th birthday.

Photo: Anne Frank Stichting (Miep Gies in 1993).

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September 19, 2008

Recently discovered Jewish interior will not be wrecked for now

Filed under: Architecture,History by Branko Collin @ 5:30 pm

A uniquely preserved WWII Jewish living room in Amsterdam will stay intact a little bit longer. The room which we wrote about last week, was discovered last year by a student at that time Alexander Westra (currently of the University of Amsterdam). AT5 reports that Lebo, the company that now owns the house, has stopped the wrecking works of the property.

The house used to belong to banker Korijn who died in 1942, after which his entire family was deported to the concentration camps where they died at the hands of the Nazis. One source called the room “more authentic than the Anne Frank House.” After the war, the house at the J.J. Viottastraat in Amsterdam came into the hands of Catholic theology students who barely touched the room, although Westra apparently did uncover some traces of parties.

In the next month and a half the owner will look at possibilities to preserve the room which is built in the Amsterdamse School style. One possibility is to turn the luxurious room into a museum.

According to a spokesperson for Het Schip, the museum for the Amsterdamse School, focus for this architectural movement usually lies on exteriors. To answer a question asked earlier by one our readers, Jay Vos, the spokesperson did not know of any books that focussed solely on Amsterdamse School interiors, although the museum is currently working on a book that will also document these interiors.

The students who lived there recorded a corny video invitation to their new year’s bash in the living room last year, which 24 Oranges discovered at that wonder-wasteland of archeology, YouTube.

Photo: Alexander Westra, republished with permission. Westra sent us several photos, a selection of which we showed in our earlier article.

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