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1945 The winter of starvation takes its toll
Events in and around the area of the Waterlooplein.
Events in and around the area of the Waterlooplein.
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© Ghetto Fighters' House / Boris Kowadlo

Boris Kowadlo - ‘Everything is grey and terrible’

“In Amsterdam, there seems to be less Nazi terror and you see more and more people coming out of hiding and going out onto the streets. But we have to be very careful; there could be a raid at any time. Up to now I’ve only been out on the street once.

We walk through the Jodenbreestraat, over the Daniël Meijerplein and the Weesperstraat.(…) Many houses have been destroyed, whole blocks. A lot has changed: before you could find all the big Amsterdam shops here. It was a wealthy neighbourhood; all the wealthy Jews and Jewish tradespeople lived here. But unfortunately they have all been deported to Poland or other concentration camps.

On the Muiderplein there is no one, everywhere is abandoned. Walking down the streets you feel the emptiness. It used to be lively and there was laughter but now everything has changed and you can see the Jewish tragedy: everything is dead. There aren’t any Jews anymore. Everything is grey and terrible.”

When Kowadlo dares to go onto the street again in the last few months before the liberation he starts helping the illegal organization the Verborgen Camera (the Hidden Camera). This group of about 30 photographers was established around Dolle Dinsdag (Crazy Tuesday) on 5 September 1944. Their aim is to photograph the liberation, but that doesn’t happen yet. Instead, hunger and resistance become the most important subjects.

On 24 April 1945 Boris Kowadlo just manages to escape when the Nazis catch him taking photographs. He runs way and they shoot. He’s captured and is taken to the building which houses the Groote Club (Big Club). He is interrogated but set free. Probably because his false papers are very good and he doesn’t look Jewish.


Source: Boris Kowadlo: fotograaf tussen herinnering en toekomst by Bernadette van Woerkom. Translated from Yiddish by Ariane Zwiers.

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Boris Kowadlo

Boris Kowadlo, a Polish Jew, arrives in Amsterdam in the 1930s. Because of the economic crisis, it is difficult finding work as a photographer. During the occupation he goes into hiding and in the last months before the liberation he works for an illegal organisation known as the De Ondergedoken Camara (the Hidden Camara). After the war Kowadlo publishes an impressive series of photographs of the Jewish neighbourhood which is completely empty and bare.

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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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