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  • Writer's pictureBen West

A Brief History of Verzetsmuseum (Dutch Resistance Museum) in Amsterdam

What is Verzetsmuseum?

Verzetsmuseum, also known as the Dutch Resistance Museum, is an absorbing museum in Amsterdam that gives a glimpse of what it would have been like living through the Second World War in the Netherlands, one of the worst periods in Dutch history.

Dutch Resistance

Cezary p, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Verzetsmuseum History

From May 1940 to May 1945, the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany. These dark days in Amsterdam's history and the emergence of the resistance movement in response to the invasion are vividly documented by this museum. Visitors of all ages will come away not only with a deeper understanding of this time, but also perhaps pondering the decisions they personally would have made if faced with an army of occupation bent on running the country according to the totalitarian beliefs of the Third Reich.

It was a horrific time, with many of the Jewish population deported and murdered. Thousands of Dutch Jews went into hiding, and up to half a million Dutch men were transported to Germany and used as forced labour. When the Allies failed to liberate Arnhem in 1944, many people in the north-west of the Netherlands endured severe hunger.

The Verzetsmuseum (or Resistance Museum) powerfully brings to life the reality of Nazi Occupation of the Netherlands, using a combination of film, photographs, personal stories, posters, objects, letters and sounds from the time. Located here in the Plantage neighbourhood of the city, exhibits are arranged chronologically and begin with the prelude to war in the 1930s.

All kinds of resistance against the Nazis are covered, including underground newspapers, escape routes, strikes, forging of documents, espionage, helping people to go into hiding, and armed resistance. The punishments for such behaviour were often harsh; simply going on strike could lead to death. The museum details ordinary, day-to-day existence as well as exceptional events and truly heroic acts, also covering the actions of those who decided to collaborate with the Nazis.

There are further sections on the Holocaust, and about the former colony of the Dutch East Indies where the population suffered badly under the Japanese regime of terror.

There’s also a museum especially for children aged nine and over, Verzetsmuseum Junior, which recounts the stories of four Dutch children aged between nine and 14, living through the war. The interactive display is designed to fire children’s imagination. Visitors are told they will travel by time machine back to the days of the Second World War, getting off in a square somewhere in the Netherlands during Nazi Occupation. The experience reveals what daily life would have been like for children and young people, the choices, problems and dilemmas they faced, and what the outcome of the war was for them.

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