The Hollandsche Schouwburg, a memorial Site
Until 1940, The Hollandsche Schouwburg, located just outside the Jewish quarter
of Amsterdam, was a popular theatre, putting on many well-known Dutch plays. In 1941 the Nazi occupiers changed the theatre's
name into Joodsche Schouwburg (Jewish Theatre). After that, only Jewish actors and artistes were allowed to perform there
- for a strictly Jewish audience. Between July 1942 and September 1943 more than 46 000 Jewish men, women and children were
detained in the theatre and transported from there to the Dutch transit camps in Westerbork or Vught. These were the last
stop before they were herded into trains bound for one of the extermination camps.
The Creche, a day nursery located
opposite The Hollandsche Schouwburg, was annexed for Jewish children. They were separated from their parents while they awaited
deportation. Walter Süskind, a Jew who had fled Germany in 1938 and was a member of the Dutch Jewish Council (Judenrat), had
been designated by the Nazis as the manager of The Schouwburg. He decided to start rescuing hundreds of children. Helped by
several Dutch Resistance groups and the director of the School, Bernard van Huls, around 600 children were smuggled out of
the Creche, through the adjacent Hervormde Kweekschool (Teacher Training College).
After the liberation, attempts to
put on public performances in the Hollandsche Schouwburg led to a storm of protest. In 1949 the theatre was sold to the Hollandsche
Schouwburg Comittee, aimed at preventing the Schouwburg from ever being used again as a theatre. The Comittee donated the
building to the city council of Amsterdam, but only after long years of discussions and controversy within the Jewish Community
and with the city council , the decision was taken to transform the neglected buildings of the Schouwburg into a Memorial
In 1962, the city council of Amsterdam inaugurated a monument here in remembrance of the Jewish victims of the
Nazi terror. In 1993, a memorial chapel was installed, listing the 6 700 family names of the 104 000 Jews from the Netherlands
who were murdered in the war. Today, the Hollandsche Schouwburg serves as a monument and war memorial.
Actually, the project
of reuniting the two buildings,The Hollandsche Schouwburg and the former Hervormde Kweekschool directly across the street,
in a National Shoa Museum, is being carried out. in order to tell the comprehensive story of the persecution, deportation
and murder of more than three-quarters of the Netherlands' Jews (104.000). On May 15th 2016 a first exhibition space in the
former Kweekschool has been inaugurated by the Mayor of Amsterdam.
Since 2005, the Dutch Auschwitz Committee has endeavoured
to establish a Holocaust Memorial of Names that will bear the names of all the Dutch Holocaust Victims, including Roma and
Sinti. A design for the Memorial has been made by the American architect of Polish-Jewish descent Daniel Libeskind. A longstanding
controversy about the location of this voluminous Monument (tantamount to a wall of 400 meters length) has been solved in
April 2016: all involved parties seem to rest their case.