The dead will now go with you on Olympiaplein

No one knows the names of these Jewish Amsterdammers in the picture, who had to gather on Olympiaplein during the great raid on June 20, 1943. The German occupiers transported them via Westerbork to one of the extermination camps in Eastern Europe.

On that almost summer day, a total of more than 5,500 Jews were arrested in three places in Amsterdam (including Daniel Willinkplein and Sarphatipark). The photographer of the statue on Olympiaplein is the Dutch collaborator, NSB member and SS member Herman Heukels. He took several pictures in the city that day to the greater glory of Nazism.

Photo Herman Heukels / NIOD

Last Monday, June 20, on Olympiaplein, in the southwest corner, stood the memorial shadows revealed that Dutch-Israeli artist Ram Katzir (53) has designed. He found inspiration in a poem by Eli Dasberg, who returned home from the camps in 1945, which is part of Atlas of an Occupied City (2019) by Bianca Stigter.

Studio Ram Katzir

“There was a shadow all over Amsterdam,” Ram Katzir said during a conversation at the monument. Dasberg writes about a ‘dark shadow’ of a dead friend walking with him. In our memorial, we have made the shadows of the figures in the picture visible and tangible. ” The unsuspecting passerby would walk past it. Anyone who thinks of the coal-black contours of the sidewalk tiles and the information board, exactly where the photographer stood, experiences dismay.

Involves young people

At the request of City Councilor Flora Breemer, Katzir supervised three then-students from Amsterdam Lyceum, Laura Borgstein, Zara Hoeffelman and Anne Kleijn, in making a design. Five years ago, Breemer, as a member of the district committee, put a memorial to the great raid on the agenda. She believed that one should look to the future and involve young people in a war memorial.

Breemer: “I see the almost inconspicuous presence of the work of art as a way of dealing with history and thus the past. You can ignore it carelessly or think about it for a long time. We have also developed a teaching program for schools in the South so that teachers can incorporate this raid and memorial into their history lessons. I want this to be a place of remembrance. ”

The tragedy of the picture lies in what we know now and what these people did not know at the time that they were going to die

Ram Katzir artist

That the route to this monument took so long is related to the fact that the local residents are familiar with it, she explains. “An earlier idea of ​​a man watching a football with a briefcase in his hand may indicate that people saw this event and did nothing. It met with objections, from then on Amsterdammers can say nothing back.” What is known is that many Jews were deported to this city; talking about World War II is always painful, she says. “I am proud of the subtlety of shadows† My family has also been carried away from this place. This is one of the reasons why this memorial is so dear to my heart. ”

For Katzir, the involvement of young students was important. One of them even went to study art: “I was curious about how the Instagram generation would present this theme. Following the idea of ​​the man with a suitcase, we came up with a design of two wedding rings. Only Dasberg’s poem brought the right idea: shadows. ”

Studio Ram Katzir

Katzir placed more art in the public space, such as the installation Rozenoord in Amstel Park; not far from the place where 140 men, partly from the resistance movement, were shot. He placed 106 chairs on a lawn with a stone with the victim’s name underneath. From his hand is also Luggage, a series of six stone trunks in various places in Leiden, symbolizing the absence of the deportees. “I strive for transparency,” he says. “A work of art outside must be transparent. You can walk past what applies to my war memorials. My public sculptures must be integrated into the environment, as if they were designed together with that environment. ”

Katzir carefully studied the image of June 20, 1943, on which he based his work of art. Through the program solar calculator In collaboration with architect Grisha Zotov, he was able to reconstruct the position of the sun that day and thus the time of the image: 09:19 in the morning. They made a 3D animation of the figures on the computer to get the correct visual image and determine the exact shadows. He then drew the lines of the shadows in the stone, which were cut out with a diamond drill by a specialized company. After the tiles returned to the square, the carved shapes were filled with asphalt.

Studio Ram Katzir

Jewish stars on black coats

“I studied historical maps and photos of Olympiaplein from that time,” says Katzir. The house in the background is the same as in the picture. To the right you see part of the grandstand and to the left an electric house. The Jewish stars are clearly visible on the black jackets. The tragedy of the picture lies in what we know now and what these people did not know then – that they must die. That I choose asphalt is connected with the fact that people also walked on asphalt at a time when the tiles are of a later date. ”

Katzir refers to the oppressive film Three minutes: An extension by Bianca Stigter, also about the later, fatal fate of Jewish people who will be killed. When asked, she confirms the anonymity of the photographers: “If no one knows who you are, you suddenly realize how great the extent of the destruction was. There is no one left who could recognize you. ” The anonymity of the people continues to this day, even though the image is known worldwide. shadows gives them not a name left but a place in memory.

Also read: Bianca Stigter: ‘Our knowledge of what will happen puts enormous pressure on these images’

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