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.