Rehumanization of the victims of the Shoah and attention to their personal fortunes: these will be the guiding principles for the design of the new National Holocaust Museum that will open in 2023 on Plantage Middenlaan in Amsterdam. Director Emile Schrijver of the Jewish Cultural Quarter (JCK), architectural firm Office Winhov and Opera Amsterdam in collaboration with Studio Louter, which will furnish the permanent exhibition spaces, announced the plans on Thursday.
In September, construction of the museum will begin in the former Reformed Kweekschool, diagonally opposite the Hollandsche Schouwburg. The theater already offers space for contemplation and reflection on the Holocaust, but it does not have an informative, museological function. At the same time as the renovation of the training college, the theater is being renovated.
The JCK has received 26 million euros for the renovation and furnishing from numerous private and institutional funds, including from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the Municipality of Amsterdam and the German Bundestag.
Plans for a Holocaust museum were already started in 2000. The decision to completely convert the training college into a museum has to do with this historically important, loaded place. While tens of thousands of Jews were held captive in the theater by the German occupier prior to their deportation, their young children were housed in the opposite crèche. This was next to the nursery school. The resistance smuggled many children away from the crèche to a safer place through the garden of the school and the escape corridor at the side of the building.
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Architectural firm Office Winhov depicts the rescue of the children by making the garden wall that stood there and over which the children were lifted visible again. The training college, which has been thoroughly renovated several times, will also regain its original facade.
The ‘rehumanization’ is also expressed in the permanent presentation of the Holocaust Museum. The organizers of Opera Amsterdam and Studio Louter found a sheet in the gigantic archive of the JCK with three passport photos of anonymous Jewish victims. Underneath it is written: “Do not forget us.” They chose to take this call, or rather ‘cry for help’, as a guideline for designing the presentation. They want to tell the system of dehumanization in the Holocaust and its massiveness as individual stories.
For Annemiek Gringold, curator and project leader at the National Holocaust Museum, the “personal stories of the victims should make visitors think about essential questions about the Holocaust.” Such as: how could a total annihilation of the Jewish population come about, who were the perpetrators? But also: what was it like for survivors of the Holocaust to start a new life and start families after the war. That is why she added a phrase to the call “Don’t forget us,” namely, “Don’t forget.”