The Hollandsche Schouwburg as a place of remembrance
from 1945 to now
What should happen to the Hollandsche Schouwburg after the war? What kind of destination should such a notorious place have? These questions were central to dealing with the building after the war. And that at a time when little attention was paid to the persecution of the Jews, to the suffering of the victims and survivors, and in which reconstruction and looking ahead was the motto. After the war, the theater still had a commercial destination, was then neglected and demolished. In 1962 it became a monument and a place to commemorate.
Hans Krieg: Where did the Jews of our Amsterdam stay?
Conductor and composer Hans Krieg (1899-1961) wrote in 1947 a melancholy song about the disappeared Jewish community of Amsterdam. The first verse:
‘In Amsterdam, a neighborhood is very deserted. The houses are empty and rotting again.
The streets are so quietly full of gaping holes. Where are the people? Do I never see them again?
Where are the hawkers with fruits and flowers and where is the voddeman, who always came.
Where are the tens of thousands here not to mention. Where are the Jews of us Amsterdam? ”
Only in 2010 did his daughter discover the sheet music in his legacy.
Feasts and parties
After the Second World War, the Schouwburg opened at the Plantage Middenlaan as a kind of hall rental under the name Piccadilly. The building was owned by the brothers Linthorst, who had bought the building in 1944. J.P. Senff operated the building and rented it for parties, parties, weddings and meetings. The city of Amsterdam occasionally stumbled on this: too festive gatherings were not appropriate in this place and the municipality forbade it.
In 1946, the Zuid-Nederlands Toneel received permission to enter the Theater. They planned to hold a theater performance, and many protests arose. Also director Eduard Veterman and conductor Hans Krieg, self-surviving, did not want to cooperate. While they were just involved in the intended stage performance, Oranje Hotel. That is why the Zuid-Nederlands Toneel did not want to use the theater. Mayor d’Ailly decided to no longer grant permission for public meetings. Private companies could still go there.
The collection action
From those protests against the theater performance, a committee emerged in 1946 that wanted to redeem the building: the Hollandsche Schouwburg Committee. Founders were Sam de Wolff and journalist Johan Winkler. The committee quickly came into conflict with the owners and with the operators of the building. After a valuation, it was decided, in consultation with the municipality, that 300,000 guilders were needed for the purchase and a collection action was started. It was successful because they managed to gather 200,000 guilders together, and that in the poor post-war years. The last ton was donated anonymously by the Jewish entrepreneur and philanthropist Bernard van Leer. And despite the conflict with the owners, the sale was settled in 1947. A new Stichting Hollandsche Schouwburg was created for this purpose, which now became the owner.
Robbed but from whom?
In 2006 there was an important and large exhibition in the Hollandsche Schouwburg: Robbed but from whom? An exhibition of stolen artifacts of which the Jewish owners were not known. The Origin Search Agency was looking for owners of tens of thousands of art objects that had once been Jewish property and had been stolen by the Nazis or forcibly sold. The aim of the exhibition was to reach as many potential owners as possible, who could then submit a claim. The project was a collaboration between the Jewish Historical Museum, Bureau Herkomst Gezocht, The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage.
A new destination for the Hollandsche Schouwburg?
The foundation donated the building to the municipality of Amsterdam, on two conditions: no more entertainment and the layout of a funeral parlor with an eternal lamp, a so-called Chapelle Ardente. Now a long period of disagreements about the destination began, in which different plans were reviewed: an Israel center, housing of the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, or of the auditorium of the university, the establishment of the RIOD and even of a church.
Meanwhile, the building was empty and visibly declined. The municipality removed the statues on the façade in 1952 because they threatened to fall on the street. The committee, which had been re-established, and the municipality could not come to a decision together, and there were also great differences of opinion within the Jewish community. In all these years it was commemorated before the Hollandsche Schouwburg, as a private initiative. Every year, survivors and Amsterdammers kept two minutes of silence on the streets.
In 1958 there was another shot in the case: the Israeli president Itzhak Ben-Zwi visited the Netherlands. He wanted to go to the theater and even gave a speech in front of the building. After that visit, the municipality decided to make it a memorial site. Only the façade would remain, the rest of the building could be missed: “One does not hold a gas chamber,” says alderman Goos van ‘t Hull. In 1962 it was then that far: the new monument was unveiled by the mayor of Hall van Amsterdam. Only the façade was still there and behind it was a funeral parlor with an eternal lamp and a monument in the courtyard. In the Chapelle Ardente there was a wall built from Israeli stone.