The Dutch Resistance Museum Amsterdam (Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam)
Securing the historical value of individual destinies
Jezelf een vraag stellen
Daarmee begint verzet
En dan die vraag aan een ander stellen
Asking yourself a question
that’s how resistance begins
and then ask that very question
of someone else
[Quotes from the poem “Iemand stelt de vraag” (“Someone asks the question”) by Remco Campert (1970), son of poet and resistance activist Jan Campert who died in the concentration camp Neuengamme in 1943.]
Resistance is a choice. Not to accept something without fearing possible consequences may be the “easiest” situation to decide whether one should resist something or not, but what if there seems to be no choice? What if everything that could be seen as some kind of denial or resistance would endanger your family, friends and yourself? Your whole life as you know it?
Many people that grew up in freedom cannot imagine how they would act. Fortunately, they never have experienced that kind of repression. Although we have historical examples, there are still parts in this world where freedom is limited, where repression is reality and where people choose – to obey or to resist.
During World War II many people suffered under the repression of the national socialist dictatorship below the leadership of Adolf Hitler and his political party, the NSDAP. The persecution of Jews, the political opposition and people that were critical of the system in general caused many deaths and a lot of physical and mental pain. Words cannot summarize the sorrow that was caused by their terror. The choice to resist the national socialists was hard to make. The Resistance Museum Amsterdam illustrates and emphasizes the struggle of Dutch people on how to act during the German occupation from 1940 to 1945.
The history of the occupation and the question whether to resist or not is shown chronologically in the main exhibition of the museum. It starts in the 1930s and explains the structures of the Dutch society back in the days, that helps to understand the following developments after the German invasion. The exhibitions leads the visitor through Dutch society during the German occupation until they got liberated by the Allies. Everywhere in the museum the visitor finds guiding questions, that people encountered in their everyday life. They are referred to individual destinies, but are also meant to speak to the visitor – What would you do? Adapt? Cooperate? Boycott? Help? Hide? Strike? Report? Resist? The amount of questions made deciding unbelievably hard and from the point of view of a person that grew up in freedom, it seems to be even more impossible to imagine the inner conflicts people had to deal with – they had everything to lose.
The Resistance Museum is not only for adults – children and curious adults can also learn about the Netherlands during World War II in the Junior Museum. Everyone is welcome to travel back in time with the time machine and to experience history very closely! Through the eyes of four children – Eva, Nelly, Henk and Jan - different perspectives on the challenging time during the occupation are shown. Although it is mainly designed with and for children, the Junior Museum is made for every curious person despite their age. The interactive parts are extremely handy and perfect to discover the destinies of many children during World War II. Spending time in the Junior Museum time flies by while learning about history and having fun – after the blink of an eye you enter reality after having traveled back in time. A highlight that has to be emphasized: at the end of the junior exhibition the matured Nelly, Eva, Henk and Jan speak about the developments of their lives after the liberation and what they learned in their lives.
Besides the main and the junior exhibition there is also a small exhibition about the Dutch colonies during World War II and a temporary exhibition that changes regularly – recently the exhibition is called “100 photos of World War II” and shows the results of a photography competition that was established by an initiative of the same name.
Not only as a visitor, but also as an employee, a guide or a volunteer working at the Resistance Museum is connected to learning new things every day. Encountering visitors, that have personal and emotional connections to the content of the Museum, welcoming people from all over the world, researching about interesting destinies and historical objects, various events and workshops – working and visiting the Resistance Museum never gets boring and it is worth being visited several times to discover everything it has to offer.
The team is always working on projects to keep the Museum as interactive, interesting and special as it is. A current development is the introduction of special audio- and video-guided tours for deaf and blind people. Starting with the Junior Museum, the main exhibition is planned soon to be available with special tours, too.
Being interested in the Resistance Museum, history in general or the Netherlands? I can only recommend to visit the Dutch Resistance Museum in Amsterdam!
Verzet begint niet met grote woorden
maar met kleine daden
Resistance doesn't start with big words
But with small actions
[Quotes from the poem “Iemand stelt de vraag” (“Someone asks the question”) by Remco Campert (1970)]
- Het Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam / The Dutch Resistance Museum [2007, Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam, tweede druk 2016]