Amsterdam moves postcard-sized Shoah plaque after residents complain

Small memorial cobblestone too confrontational, ‘compromised atmosphere of upscale neighborhood,’ locals say

Illustrative photo of Amsterdam, Holland, December 19, 2011. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of Amsterdam, Holland, December 19, 2011. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

AMSTERDAM — City workers dislodged and relocated a postcard-sized memorial plaque from the entrance to the former home in Amsterdam of a Holocaust victim following complaints by residents.

The plaque — a brass cobblestone bearing the name of Joachim Elte that in 2014 embedded into the sidewalk of 3 Nicolass Maes Street — was moved to a location “as far away as possible from the door” of the two residents, who recently sued the city to have the plaque removed altogether, Sebastiaan Capel, the mayor of Amsterdam’s South district, told Het Parool daily on Friday.

The two residents, who were not named, filed with a preliminary relief judge a motion for an injunction ordering the memorial cobblestone’s removal because Capel had ignored their demands that it be removed from anywhere in front of their residence, the daily reported.

In their motion, the two residents said they found it too confrontational to have to constantly be reminded, because of the memorial cobblestone, of the deportation and murder of Elte, a 51-year-old accountant who died at a Nazi concentration camp in 1945. They also argued it “compromises the atmosphere” of their upscale neighborhood and their privacy and that of their children because it attracts onlookers.

The judge who reviewed the motion did not issue an injunction but ruled it merited judicial review by an administrative court.

Amsterdam has 400 memorial cobblestones, which have been placed in front of the former homes of Holocaust victims as part of a commemoration project that a German artist began in Berlin in 1996. To date, more than 50,000 of the cobblestones have been laid in 18 countries in Europe.

The district in which the complainants live does not require the consent of residents for the installation of memorial cobblestones.

The City of Amsterdam has received two complaints in the past over memorial cobblestones: one by a Holocaust survivor who said it brought back bad memories and another by a hotel whose owners said it was bad for business. Following the survivor’s request, the cobblestone was moved elsewhere on the same street. The second objection was ignored, Paul de Haan, a municipal worker whose responsibilities include issuing permits for memorial cobblestones, told Het Parool.

The two plaintiffs from Amsterdam South are not Holocaust survivors and have no known traumas from World War II specifically, the report said. They were not immediately available to be interviewed on their decision to sue the city, the paper reported.

In recent years, Dutch media has reported on several cases of resistance to Holocaust commemorations, including by the Dutch Railway Museum in Utrecht and by residents of the capital who blocked plans to erect a commemorative wall at a central park.

Approximately 75 percent of the 140,000 Jews who lived in the Netherlands when Germany invaded it in 1940 were murdered in the Holocaust. The Holocaust in the Netherlands had the highest death rate in Nazi-occupied Western Europe.

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