Monday, March 8, 2010

When you are in Amsterdam, you are an Amsterdammer. It does not matter who you are, where you are from, what you are doing, all that matters is that you are here. And you are welcome. This attitude and over all atmosphere is the greatest thing about this city. It most likely stems from the fact that Amsterdam floods a lot. It did not matter who was standing next to you as the sandbags were filled and dikes were built, they were saving your city and that was enough. It is visible today in how people will ask if you need help finding something as you stand looking confused on a street corner, or the hostel receptionist will help you figure out what to do and how to get there and recommend things to try. Or in the way a bicycle will run over anyone that comes into its path, but the rider will always ring their bell first.

It is this attitude that poured out onto the city when the Nazis started taking Jewish people off the streets during WWII. People of this city did not see a battle between the Nazis and the Jews, they saw the Nazis tearing apart the families of their friends, neighbors and coworkers.

Amsterdammers did not take this sitting down! They protested for two days with a strike. Trams did not run; shops did not open. The first day 10,000 Amsterdammers gathered in New Market Square, near the Jewish neighborhoods. The second day the square held 15,000. At the point, the Nazi's had brought in more troops and shot at the crowds, killing several and wounding hundreds more. The went back to work, but did not stop caring and standing up for their Jewish neighbors. Even though most of the trees had to be cut down to supply families with food and fuel during the war, many Amsterdammers not only took care of their own families, but also provided for Jewish families hiding in their houses. All of the trees along the canals are the same height due to the devastation of that time, but nonetheless, they helped as much as they could.

Amsterdam was the only, THE ONLY city in the world to take a stand for their Jewish neighbors. The only one. I wish that when people thought of Amsterdam, this example of courage and sense of community was the first thing that came to mind.

I love this city. It is overwhelmingly joyful to be considered an Amsterdammer for at least one week of my life.

-Kate J

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