The Dutch Resistance Museum, known in Nederlands as Verzetsmuseum, is the best historical museum in the Netherlands. And you probably have never heard of it. I certainly hadn’t until I flew into Amsterdam a couple of days early before my scheduled tour began. I wanted something that would be memorable and impactful on my free day. The Dutch Resistance Museum was not included in my tour itinerary, and so that’s what I choose. After spending an afternoon there, myself, it was clear to see why the Dutch Resistance Museum has been selected as the best historical museum in the Netherlands.
The Dutch Resistance Museum is located in De Plantage neighborhood, across the street from the Artis Zoo. There are other museums and memorials that also tell the story of the Dutch people during this terrible time in history in this same area. Those will be covered in other articles.
This museum holds a wealth of exhibits that educates on the living conditions of the Dutch during the occupation of World War II. But first, you’ll be directed to a viewing room where an introductory film sets the stage for your exploration of this museum. It speaks to what occurred and the different attitudes and beliefs of the people in that regard. It will show you the different attitudes people had, by looking at 3 different people. As you will soon see, each person had to make a decision that would impact their lives and the lives of others.
Each person had to decide for him or herself whether to: ADJUST, COOPERATE, OR RESIST
Whichever decision that they made, there were consequences. As you walk through the museum, you will watch time go by. As time passes, things change. The takeover by the Germans was slow and insidious. The word ‘Insidious’ means “proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects, treacherous, crafty.” That word describes what you will see.
The Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940 as occupiers. But their approach to the citizens was to be friendly and helpful people. Even getting to know people like your familiar neighborhood beat cop. But then the changes began with the gradual, subtle things at first, then restrictions designed to take away the freedom of the Jews.
There is a temporary exhibition space that changes five times a year. The exhibit during my visit was “Food in Wartime.” I took some time in this room to learn the changes over time, and see how they relate to us now. I learned about the foodstuffs available to the people living in occupied Netherlands, and how it transformed over time as certain staples became less accessible and then wholly unavailable. A sign states, “Sugar rationing was introduced in 1939 as a trial for the distribution system. Everyone was entitled to one pound of sugar every two weeks.” That’s a lot of sugar!
One exhibit shows the way German helmets were repurposed to make colanders and bedpans. This was an amusing example of the Dutch people’s ingenuity to use what they had and the resilience to recover from difficult situations.
The Resistance Museum Junior is found within the Dutch Resistance Museum. This exhibit space was created to speak to children ages 9 – 14. As such, it’s the first museum about World War II designed for children. Addressed through the lives of four children, each from a different background, who are between the ages of 9 and 14 years.
Of course, there are consequences to all behavior. The Dutch Resistance Museum does a fantastic job of teaching this lesson through the experience of others.
When visiting this museum, give yourself several hours. It will take at least a couple of hours to take it all in. And definitely take your children too. I promise you it will be time well spent.
The Dutch Resistance Museum tells the story of how people had a choice to Adjust, Cooperate or Resist. Many people not only resisted but helped those Jews to live on at their own risk.
One such family was the Ten Boom Family. Cornelia “Corrie” Ten Boom tells their story in the autobiography “The Hiding Place.” Living out their Christian faith, they hid Jewish people and helped them to escape. They didn’t hide only Jews; they also hid students and others who didn’t agree with the Nazi regime. The betrayal by a neighbor resulted in imprisonment at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. Corrie was the only one in her family who survived the camps.
Want to know more about the Ten Boom family, how they lived, how they died, and how they are still remembered today? The Corrie Ten Boom House is now a museum in Haarlem in the same watchmaker’s house where they lived. Tours are available from Tuesday to Saturday, but be sure to reserve at least five days in advance. Haarlem is a short day trip from Amsterdam by train and is an outing well worth your time.
Of course, there’s nothing like seeing it in person. I hope you have been as stirred to learn and see more as I have been. Do you like this type of travel that brings history to life? If the answer is yes, what are you waiting for? Set up an appointment and let’s begin to work together to make your history vacation a reality.
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