We commemorate the 2,800 local Jewish residents who were deported from the streets of the Oosterpark neighbourhood and murdered during World War II on 4th May.
The commemoration will begin at 7.30pm sharp with a performance by the Hejmisj Zain choir. Stories will then be told and names of Jewish victims mentioned. At 8pm, we will be silent for two minutes.
Do you want to know more about the commemoration, where exactly the memorial posters are hung or about the Jewish history of the Oosterpark neighbourhood? Then visit www.4meioosterpark.nl. You will also find more information here about tours that will take you on a route through the posters.
The persecution of Jews left deep scars in the immediate vicinity of Kastanjeplein in Amsterdam East. From four nearby streets alone, 2,800 Jews were taken from their homes and deported. In the entire Oosterpark neighbourhood, home to 5,500 Jews during the war, most of them were deported and never returned.
A commemoration takes place at the Kastanjeplein (Chestnut Square) every year on 4th May, even though there is no tangible or permanent monument there. During the gathering, attendees commemorate the local Jewish residents who were murdered. The harrowing stories of the victims are given centre stage.
In the years before the war, many Jews came to live in the Oosterpark neighbourhood. They moved from the old neighbourhoods around Waterlooplein and Weesperstraat to this neighbourhood, which offered new and improved housing. In 1928, nearby in the Linnaeusstraat on the Polderweg, a large synagogue was built and festively inaugurated. A thriving Jewish community had emerged in the Oost. The German occupation put a definitive end to all this. The neighbouring Transvaal neighbourhood was designated a Jewish quarter by order of the occupying forces. Jews from other parts of the city were forced to live there. Some chose the Oosterpark neighbourhood. By this time, much of their freedom was taken away. Jews could be recognised by the obligatory yellow Star of David they had to wear on their clothes and many public places were forbidden to them. Step by step, the German occupiers worked towards their ultimate goal: to deport and murder the Jews. In 1943, several raids took place in the neighbourhood. Jewish men, women and children are rounded up in large numbers. At Muiderpoort station, which was within walking distance, they were put on trains and transported to the Westerbork transit camp in Drenthe. From here, trains took them to the extermination camps.
It’s almost unimaginable to consider the removal of 2,800 Jews from the four streets around Kastanjeplein. From almost every door, Jewish families were taken from their homes and were never to return. in 2011, neighbourhood resident and artist Ida van der Lee realised what this meant. She discovered that a Jewish couple lived in her home during the war. The couple were deported and did not survive the war. The fate of the previous residents touched her so deeply that she wanted to bring these two people, as well as the other local residents that were removed, symbolically back to their homes. Her idea was the origin of the annual 4th May commemoration on the Kastanjeplein. Ida organised an event where each victim from the neighbourhood was personally remembered. Participating local residents brought the Oosterpark victims back to their homes, one by one, by adding a homemade nameplate bearing the victim’s name to a large map, at the address where they lived. Every year around 4th May, the map is spread out on the square and the name plates are added. This is how the temporary monument grows. The project has taken off and has spread its reach beyond the neighbourhood. As from 2021, the ‘Names and Numbers’ initiative now lives on as a national online monument. Anyone in the Netherlands can create a digital (virtual) nameplate at home and share stories and information about the victims in their neighbourhood or area online (https://www.namenennummers.nl/).
On the Kastanjeplein, the commemoration continues on 4th May. Residents hang posters up at windows where victims lived at the time. They also post texts on road signs, read the victims’ names and lay flowers. Each year, the commemoration takes on a new meaning.