Hello all it's Kaia and Madeline. We made it! It's the final stretch of our trip and our first full day in Amsterdam. This morning we took a tour of the Jewish Quarter where we learned some very interesting facts about Jews in Holland. Unlike most European countries, Safardic Jews were welcomed into Holland due to their wealth. Although they weren't granted civil rights, they were allowed to practice Judaism and build synagogues. We found this interesting because during this time, other countries weren't welcoming Jews.
Later in Holland's history, the Nazis invade and slowly started enforcing restrictions upon the Jews. However, this was not tolerated and many decided to stand up for their rights. One incident resulted in raids and a lock down of the Jewish neighborhoods. Amazingly, non-Jewish Dutch citizens went on strike to stand up against segregation. Unfortunately all these men were killed. We were moved upon hearing that this event is still a symbol against segregation in Amsterdam today.
The next part of our tour led us to an old theatre which was the high point for many members of our group. We learned that once the Nazis started targeting the Jews of Europe, this theatre was one of their only forms of entertainment. This was the only place where Jewish artists could perform resulting in up to three shows a day. We think it's nice that this theatre created a sense of hope for Jews during these times of fear. The theatre became so overwhelmingly popular that people who weren't Jewish would wear the Jewish Star just in order to see a performance. Unfortunately, after only 9 months this cultural haven turned into a place of despair. Due to the lack of windows, Nazis used it as a holding place for Jews before they were then deported to concentration camps. We cannot believe the Nazis would take away their only source of hope and turn it into their worst nightmare. In total, 46,000 Jews were taken to the theatre before being deported. Often times the Nazis would hold people for up to five days before they were taken away. In the end, the theatre was a symbol of lost hope rather than a theatre inspiring hope itself.
Before the war, there were 140,000 Jews living in Holland. That is 1.75% of their population. Of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust, 104,000 of them were Dutch Jews. This resulted in a major decrease in Holland's Jewish population. By the end of the war, 36,000 remained. Now almost 70 years after the liberation, the population of Jews living in Holland is about 50,000. It is hard to believe something like this could have happened only 70 short years ago.
Tomorrow we have more tours and looking forward to learning further about Jewish life in Amsterdam,
Kaia Monson and Madeline Craig