Sunday, January 30, 2011

July 30 and 31 Amsterdam

Boogard’s Bed and Breakfast is just lovely, and Peter and Tomasz are
great hosts. On the 30th, breakfast was not until 0930, at the request of
Dave and Renie, the American couple who had the other room on our
second floor. Peter’s cuisine is just phenomenal, and so breakfast was a
leisurely experience. Penny and I did not leave to go out until about 1100.
We went to the Jewish Historical Museum, traveling by foot. Being a
pedestrian in Amsterdam is its own great adventure. You have to across the
bicycle lane first to get to the curb to deal with the automobile lanes!

Boogard's Bed and Breakfast is a great place!

The Jewish Historical Museum occupies the space of four Ashkenazi
synagogues located side by side, one of which is called the Grand
Synagogue. That contained Amsterdam Jewish history and relics up to
about 1900. It also explained some aspects of Judaism such as Shabat, the
Torah, the arrangement of the synagogue’s space, the variouis holidays,
celebrations of the life cycle including birth, coming of age, marriage, and
mourning the deceased. The displays were all in Dutch and in English, and
we also used the audio-guide in English. The New Synagogue displays
covered the twentieth century.

Afterward, Penny and I got lunch at the museum café. We came back
to the B and B, and stopped along the way at a supermarket to buy some
cheese, crackers, fruit, and Diet 7-Up. Our path back to the B and B took
us through the famous Red Light District, where two girls were already
working the window displays. One of them may not have been a woman at
all. The hype is that in Amsterdam, prostitution is a free-enterprise business
with free choice on all sides. Somehow I just don’t believe it. I would be
astonished if it turned out that there was no trafficking in Eastern European
women going on here. Not that the Dutch authorities would bother to do
anything about it. At any rate, the whole sex and drugs scene in central
Amsterdam seems somehow childish. Enough said. I will leave this topic
alone now.

Amsterdam is famous for its canals.

On July 31, it was just us and Peter for breakfast but it was just as
leisurely. Breakfast was at 0900, which was great because it helped us get
out earlier than yesterday. We made it out the door at 1050. How about that?
We made our way to the Canal Bus stop at the eastern side of Amsterdam
Centraal and we rode the blue line boat. Lots of stuff to see as we went by,
including the seventeenth century naval supply depot which now houses the
maritime museum. (Closed for renovation just now! ) We got off the
boat in the Plantage district, and went to the Dutch resistance museum. It
was very interesting, especially in its portrayals of quotidian life under the
occupation. (How’s that for a six-bit word?) A nationalist spin is evident,
but it is also clear to anyone who looks, that Dutch performance in the war
can be charitably called "dismal," and that “disgraceful” is more on the money.
The minority who did resist did their best. The Socialists and Communists
engineered a railway strike to protest the first deportations of Jews. The
resistance network, including clandestine radios, newspapers, etc., is shown
with artifacts from the time.

There were two special exhibitions. The first was an oral history of
Belgian resistance, displayed in “then-and-now” photographs of various
individual resisters. The first display contrasted the percentage of Dutch
Jews (almost all) who perish in the Holocaust versus that of Belgian Jews
(less than half). A very stark, in-your-face statement for any Dutch person
passing through this part of the museum. I also learned for the first time of
the only known attack by any group on a deportation train headed east.
Three young Belgian men stopped the train and managed to set free more
than two hundred of the doomed prisoners. One hundred fifty-five of them
were never recaptured. So I have raised my estimation of the Belgian people
a couple of notches.

Another display was about Hannie Schaft, a Dutch girl who became a
resistance operative. She was executed in 1945 after she was caught.
Apparently a movie called “The Girl with Red Hair” tells her story. Het
meisje met het rode haar. Schaft was part of a trio of young women who
generally worked as a team, but I can’t recall the other names and will have
to look them up.

I first saw “The Diary of Anne Frank” with Millie Perkins in 1964 or
1965 when I was a junior high school student in Duluth. It was on NBC’s
“Saturday Night at the Movies” one week. Our social studies teacher started
a discussion about it on the following Monday, although I don’t think that
we had been assigned to watch it. Most of the class had watched it, as I
recall. At any rate, an extensive discussion followed about Anne Frank
herself, as well as this film, which had a significant impact on the students,
myself included.

So this afternoon I went to Anne Frank Huis. Penny had gone in the
spring and so she did not go again. They had artifacts from the secret annex,
including the recently discovered post card with the signature of each
member of the Frank family. The rooms were empty because all of the
furniture was removed by the Gestapo when the Franks were arrested. There
was a scale model in doll-house size, and some videos with Miep Gies’s
reminiscences were made with furniture in place. It was eerie in a way and
unsettling. But I could in another way sense Anne’s presence as I looked at
the walls and blacked out windows, and at the sky through the small loft
window. I have wanted to go to this place for many years, and I am glad I
finally made it.

Otto Frank said in one of the videos that he never realized the depth of
Anne’s thoughts until he read her diary after the war. It made him wonder
whether parents ever really know their children. Hmmmm.

When I got back to the B and B, Wilma had arrived and they were all
having dinner, Penny included. Tomasz arrived home from Den Haag, and
we bought some zlotys from him. He called María at Pension Jolie and
resolved the outstanding questions that we had. María had e-mailed that
there was a water-main break next door and that she had arranged with a
friend for us to stay at the latter’s bed and breakfast. Our Polish adventure
continues, and we haven’t even got there! It sounds okay, and we will use
this B and B instead of booking a hotel.
Amsterdam City Hall.

This parking structure,  by the central railway station, is for bicycles only.

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