Amsterdam Holocaust memorial to open on Sunday

AMSTERDAM - After a long run-up with a lot of legal haggling, the Holocaust Names Monument will open in Amsterdam on Sunday. Here, 76 years after the Second World War, the names of more than 102,000 Dutch victims of the Holocaust are brought together. "It is fantastic that after fifteen years of struggle it is finally here," said Jacques Grishaver, chairman of the Dutch Auschwitz Committee, which took the initiative for the construction of the memorial site. "Although it is of course impossible to describe what happened."

According to Grishaver, who will open the monument with the King, the initial reactions are overwhelming. "That endless row of names, you don't get through it easily. One stone bears the name of a six-month-old child, who was gassed in mother's arms. Next to it is the name of a 98-year-old, who could have been the grandfather. You can think of a whole story." Also, there are entire rows with the same names. "From entire families that have been massacred. That is now very visible."

A long legal battle preceded the construction of the monument of names, a design by the Polish-Jewish-American architect Daniel Libeskind. Initially, the Wertheim Park was the intended location, but under pressure from local residents, the municipality moved it to the green belt between Weesperstraat and the Hoftuin. Locals also objected to this. They thought the design was too big, were afraid of a large influx of visitors, and feared security incidents. Ultimately, the Council of State gave the green light for the construction of the monument at the end of 2019.

Grishaver knows that the monument is too late for some surviving relatives. "Many people who were waiting for it are no longer here. Recently a son called whose father's entire family died in the war. The father became ill and his mother promised him on his deathbed that she would place the stones with names in the monument on his behalf. But the mother also got sick and it looked like she wouldn't make it to 19 September. We arranged for her to come with an ambulance on 1 September, but she was too sick by then and died two days later."

Unlike other war memorials in our country, this memorial is the first and only one on which all the Dutch victims of the Holocaust - both Jews, Sinti and Roma - are listed with their first and last name, date of birth and age at death. Anyone can adopt a name for an amount of 50 euros. The proceeds will go towards financing the monument, which cost 15 million euros. According to Grishaver, between 70,000 and 80,000 names have been adopted so far and requests are still coming in.

 

The monument also has an educational role, to warn future generations about the consequences that racism and discrimination can ultimately have. 3,200 students have already signed up to visit, in combination with the Resistance Museum or Jewish Historical Museum.




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