Amsterdam Holocaust memorial to name Jews and Roma deported to Nazi camps

Architect Daniel Libeskind to design memorial

Thu, Jun 12, 2014, 19:05

After European elections that raised the ugly spectre of anti-Semitism in the Netherlands, Amsterdam has announced a major new Holocaust memorial – which will name for the first time more than 100,000 Jews and Roma deported to the Nazi concentration camps.

The memorial will be designed by the Jewish-American architect Daniel Libeskind, the master-plan architect for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site in New York’s Lower Manhattan, and is due to be completed next year – in time for the 70th anniversary of the end of the second World War.

‘Transit camp’

The decision comes just days after Brussels announced that Westerbork “transit camp” in the northeast of the country, the notorious collection point for thousands of Dutch Jews – including Anne Frank and her family – has been named a European heritage site because of its cultural significance.

The new memorial, which is expected to cost about €5 million, all of which will be raised from donations, will occupy about 1,000sq m in Wertheimpark, Amsterdam’s oldest green space, in the heart of the city’s former Jewish ghetto.

The park already features the “mirror memorial” to Auschwitz, installed in 1993, entitled Never Again, designed by the late Dutch sculptor and novelist Jan Wolkers.

Although the Libeskind design has not yet been unveiled, the work will be called the “Holocaust Names Monument”– because it will feature the names of all 102,000 Dutch Jews, Roma and Sinti (an itinerant Romani people, originally from Central Europe) who perished in Hitler’s camps.

“In percentage terms, the Netherlands had the highest deportation rate in western Europe, but there is no monument to honour their memory as individuals,” said Jacques Grishaver, chairman of the Dutch Auschwitz Committee.

“Their names simply vanished into thin air, like the people. Now, for the first time, families will have a place to go and a name on a plaque to touch.”

Most of those deported from the Netherlands were routed through Westerbork, where enclosed trains left several times a week for the extermination camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen, Sobibór and Theresienstadt.

Between 1942 and 1945, more than 107,000 captives left Westerbork in 93 trains to Germany. Only 5,200 of them survived long enough to be liberated.

Anne Frank

The hut at Westerbork where Anne Frank and her family were interned still exists. They were put on one of the last three trains to Auschwitz, leaving on September 3rd, 1944, and arriving there three days later. Westerbork was liberated by Canadian soldiers on April 12th, 1945.

Controversy before the European elections over the new alliance between Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party and the National Front in France spilled over again this week following 85-year-old Jean Marie Le Pen’s comment which appeared to suggest the French Jewish singer Patrick Bruel should be “put in an oven”.