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1940 Amsterdam occupied
© Privécollectie Paula Bakker

Paula Bakker – Days in May

I was ten when the war started. I thought it was very strange. I didn’t think war existed anymore I thought it was something from the Middle Ages even though I’d heard of the 1914-18 war. I didn’t really believe that it really existed. But it had started.

There was a lot of talk about us getting help from the Americans and the French but it didn’t happen.

My mother said – my stepfather’s opinion didn’t count - “You go to the P.C. Hooftstraat.” It was possible that the post office could be bombed. My mother had a friend called Yvonne. Yvonne’s friend who was called Stas, and his father had a lovely toy shop in the  P.C. Hooftstraat. They thought that I’d be safe there. It’s only a stone’s throw away from the Singel, but in those days the distances seemed further.

A bomb did fall on the corner of the Blauwburgwal en de Herengracht, and that was close. Just imagine, if they’d dropped the bomb one second earlier then it would have fallen on me in the P.C. Hooftstraat! My mother was on her way back from the market and everything was cordoned off. She thought: “Oh my God! Our house has been bombed!” The maid was alone in the house on the Singel and was just beating her duster out. It was as if she had been paralyzed. A good friend of mine who lived on the Blauwburgwal died in the explosion. She was playing outside and was thrown against a tree. Dead. She was my age. Another girl from my school had lost a leg.

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Paula Bakker

Paula Bakker is 10 years old when war breaks out. Her unmarried mother runs a boarding house on the Singel with Paula’s stepfather. 10 people live in the house: people who rent rooms and those who are boarding house guests. Most of them are unmarried or divorced and with some of them she has a lot of contact with others none. Paula experiences the occupation in many different ways.

More about this person

1938 Many Jewish refugees after Kristallnacht

Many Jewish refugees flee to the Netherlands after Kristallnacht. Princess Juliana also feels connected to the Jewish community. But while more attention is drawn to the admittance of more Jews, NSB members threaten more intervention.

1940 Amsterdam occupied

Nothing changes too much for the Frank family in the beginning. Opekta moves to the Prinsengracht. During air raids bombs cause death and injury in Amsterdam.

1940  Amsterdam occupied

1941 Jews allowed to do and less

It starts with a cinema ban but rapidly Jews are banned from virtually all public places. Jewish children must attend separate schools. This also applies to Anne and Margot Frank.

1941  Jews allowed to do and less

1942 It becomes more dangerous for Jews

On her thirteenth birthday Anne Frank receives a diary. A few days later she writes about the situation in Amsterdam. The introduction of the Jewish star and the raids. In July the Frank family goes into hiding.

1942  It becomes more dangerous for Jews

1943 Deportations and attacks

While the Frank family is in hiding thousands of Jews are deported from Amsterdam. The resistance tries to hinder the deportations by attacks including one on the Public Registry. It doesn’t stop them.

1943  Deportations and attacks

1944 Discovered and arrested

On 4 August the people in hiding in the secret annex are discovered and arrested. From Westerbork they are taken to Auschwitz. When the Allies land in the south of the Netherlands there is hope that the country will be liberated. German soldiers and NSB members flee the country after Dolle Dinsdag (‘Mad Tuesday’).

1944  Discovered and arrested

1945 Joy and sadness

A celebration at the Dam on 7 May is ruined when people are killed after German soldiers shoot at the crowd. On 8 May Amsterdam is officially liberated. Otto Frank returns. He knows that Edith is dead. He only hears later that his two daughters have not survived.

1945  Joy and sadness

1946 Slowly the threads are picked up again

On 3 May 1946 the first official commemoration for those who died during the war is held. Anne Frank’s diary is published on 25 June 1947. Life in Amsterdam slowly gets back to normal. Of the 70,000 Jews who lived in the city in 1940 only 10,000 have survived the war.

1950 Lasting memory

Even five years after the liberation the reverberations from the war are still clearly noticeable. The Jewish community thanks Amsterdam for the help given to Jews with a monument.

1950  Lasting memory
  • 1950
  • To those who protected the Dutch Jews during the years of the occupation. Protected by your love. Encouraged by your resistance. Mourning with you.

    Part of the citation on the monument ‘Jewish Gratitude’
  • picture:Once a year, two minutes silence

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