Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Death and Ghosts in Amsterdam.

In 12 hours I had a whole lot of fun in Amsterdam but then you probably know me by now; I always look out for some friendly ghosts to pay my respects to as well.

When you are in the city it’s hard to avoid death – it’s a medieval city and it has a lot of ghosts.

Luckily, I managed to avoid this guy – he had someone else in view. He's standing in Dam Square just in front of the royal palace and on the site of the first 'dam' and settlement on the river Amstel - where the city was born.
The three crosses on the reapers cloak are taken from the city flag. They stand for Fire, Flood and Plague, the city’s three greatest fears.

Some fears are more modern. I don’t recognise the face on this graffiti but my guess is that it’s satirical. Amsterdam has its fair share of gangsters anyway, while at weekends the red light district attracts every pimp and gangster from northern Europe.


This is a display of Mexican ‘Day of the Dead’ material at ‘The Kitsch Kitchen’ (more about that later).

This is what I was really looking for and where I go whenever I’m in the city; ‘De Dokwerker’;

There aren’t many statues of working people anywhere in the world and even fewer to commemorate a General Strike. The clue is in the date – 25 February 1941. It’s an amazing statue; powerful and strong.


In 1941, as the Nazi occupiers began the first pogroms and deportations of the Jews – the dockers, tramworkers, market porters, seamstresses and diamond cutters of the city (perhaps half a million of them) began a general strike in protest.

Mercilessly crushed, this selfless protest lasted only a day; the mainly communist leadership were murdered or sent to the camps but it began the process that led to the formation of the Dutch resistance.

Their courage lives on forever in J.D. Meyerplein, just past the fleamarket at Waterlooplein and opposite The Jewish Historical Museum. It is the scene of a major Labour Movement march and wreath laying ceremony every year.

The first time I was in the city I was very moved by my visit to The Resistance Museum where I read all about this remarkable workers action and which led to me seeking out the statue.

The next morning I was surprised to find that the city was silent and calm – no hum of the trams, no bells or hooters - everybody walking. It was a different city. Then I realised what had happened; the tramworkers were on strike again. Suddenly I was taken back in time – back to 1941 as everybody trudged over the cobblestones.

So some very good ghosts in Amsterdam.
Click on a picture for a slideshow.

Tomorrow some real fun……

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

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