Of memory

I suspect every major Dutch town has one of these –  a statue in memory of the Nazi Occupation from 1940 – 1945.  Their beauty lies in simplicity. The Amsterdam and Rotterdam ones are singular, evocative figures and like this one in Leiden, the plinth is engraved only with the dates.

I visited the Anne Frank Huis today. It’s something that I wanted to be prepared for, to have time to take it in at my own pace. As a museum it tells a complex story with simplicity and humanity. I read the book as a young teenager – I have to confess my aspie special interest was (and remains) the Holocaust – and to see and move inside the house was a revelation. To have come inside, to be confined, to walk from daylight to rooms with blackout curtains was to understand the enormity of hiding as survival.

Primo Levi, an Italian Holocaust survivor and writer of his experiences, said of the popularity of Anne Frank’s story:

“One single Anne Frank moves us more than the countless others who suffered just as she did, but whose faces have remained in the shadows. Perhaps it is better that way: If we were capable of taking in the suffering of all those people, we would not be able to live.”

I think perhaps that also explains those single figures who stand for the Nazi Occupation of the Netherlands. That in the singular we each find and share the universal.

3 Comments

  1. Mary said,

    November 9, 2010 at 10:44 am

    I too am fascinated by the holocaust, not least because my Dutch grandfather worked for the dutch underground and then worked for the UN going around the concentration camps once they were liberated. My uncle hid in an attic in holland for the duration of the war and survived.

    If you get a chance the Dutch resistance museum in Amsterdam gives you a fantastic insight into what the war was like for the dutch

    • froginthepond said,

      November 9, 2010 at 9:02 pm

      I was able to go to the Resistance museum during my summer visit. It was fascinating to see the Dutch experience. What has always intrigued me about Occupation was the various forms of national resistance and how so many people in so many different ways fought back and protected others.

      While the Second World War offers far too many examples of inhumanity, we can find also many instances of grace and compassion.

  2. Stomper Girl said,

    November 10, 2010 at 11:40 am

    The Anne Frank Huis was one of the highlights of my very short visit to Amsterdam, along with being in the Art Gallery at the same time as Paul Simon and doing a cycle trip past the windmills.


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