AMSTERDAM – King Willem-Alexander officially unveiled a new memorial in the heart of Amsterdam's historic Jewish Quarter on Sunday honoring more than 102,000 Dutch victims of the Holocaust, and the Dutch prime minister vowed that it would remind citizens today to be vigilant against antisemitism.
Designed by Polish-Jewish architect Daniel Libeskind, the memorial is made up of walls shaped to form four Hebrew letters spelling out a word that translates as “In Memory Of.”
The walls are built using bricks, each of which is inscribed with the name, date of birth and age when they died of one of the more than 102,000 Jews, Roma and Sinti who were murdered in Nazi concentration camps during World War II or who died on their way to the camps.
Jacques Grishaver, chairman of the Dutch Auschwitz Committee, officially opened the monument with the king in the presence of dignitaries and Holocaust survivors. After walking through the gates, each picked up a white stone and placed it in front of a commemorative wall, a Jewish tradition when visiting graves.
The king helped Grishaver to pick up and put down his stone. After the ceremony, he spoke to three survivors of the Holocaust.
Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the monument also should force people to confront the question of whether the Netherlands did enough to protect Jews during the war and what he called “the cold reception for the small group who returned from hell after the war.”
He called the era “a black page in the history of our country" and said the monument also has an important contemporary message "in our time when antisemitism is never far away. The monument says — no, it screams — be vigilant.”
The memorial is built close to a former concert hall where Jews rounded up by Amsterdam's wartime Nazi occupiers were held before being sent to the camps.
Amsterdam Municipality granted permission for construction to start in 2017, but building work was delayed after residents argued that the monument was too big for the location. It was paid for in part by crowd-funding — 84,000 people paid 50 euros ($58) each to “adopt” one of the bricks.
The official unveiling came a year after a friend of Anne Frank, Jacqueline van Maarsen, laid the first stone, which bears the name of 20-year-old Dina Frankenhuis, who was murdered in Sobibor.
Rutte said the monument carries a vital message.
“This name monument says 102,163 times: ‘No, we will not forget you. No, we won’t accept that your name is erased. No, evil does not have the last word,’” he said. “Every one of them was somebody and today they get back their names.”