Amsterdam buildings reflected on a canal.

discover amsterdam: self-guided walking tour of dutch resistance sites

(Last Updated On: July 18, 2021)

One of the most visited sites in all of Amsterdam is Anne Frank Huis, the house of famed diarist, Anne Frank. When it was first decided that I would visit Amsterdam for the first time, this was at the top of my list. Before my trip, I re-read The Diary of Anne Frank to refresh my memory and allow me to better appreciate my visit. This had me interested in learning more about the Dutch Resistance and other Holocaust sites in Amsterdam.  Lucky for me, in the gift shop at Anne Frank Huis was a small pamphlet that detailed a self-guided walking tour of Dutch Resistance sites. I immediately knew what I was doing for the remainder of the day.

Traveling is by far my favorite way to learn – the fully immersive, all-encompassing, dive-in-head-first type of learning that changes and transforms you to the core.  And this self-guided walking tour of Dutch Resistance sites does just that.

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Pinterest graphic of Amsterdam City with text: walking the path of Dutch Resistance.

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what was the dutch resistance movement and why was it formed?

The Dutch Resistance Movement were those citizens of the Netherlands who resisted German occupation of Holland during WWII. Their methods were primarily nonviolent, yet still, the Dutch Resistance was responsible for hiding and protecting over 300,000 Dutch Jews during the war. Members of the Dutch Resistance acted as spies, aided fugitives, took part in public protests, and tried to hinder the Nazi agenda in any way they could.

The Dutch Resistance Movement was formed for two primary reasons. First, a wave of fury spread throughout the citizens of the Netherlands with the news that their country had been invaded. The Dutch people were also outraged at the atrocities being committed against their Jewish neighbors.

Fun Fact: A young Audrey Hepburn gave multiple underground dance performances to raise money for the Dutch Resistance Movement.

self-guided walking tour of dutch resistance sites

anne frank huis

This is the house where Anne Frank and her family hid while she wrote her famous diary.  The Jewish families Frank, Van Pels and Mr. Pfeiffer hid in the secret annex from July 1942 until August 1944.  Some 25,000 Jews lived in hiding across the Netherlands during the war.  The Nazis arrested 1/3 of them anyway.

Visiting Anne Frank Huis isn’t as easy as walking up and buying your ticket. Be sure to purchase your tickets as far in advance as possible. The museum is tiny, which limits capacity. It took me numerous attempts over the course of a couple of weeks before I was finally able to secure my tickets. Admission for adults is €14.00, which includes the booking fee.

Be aware that there are many steep, narrow staircases in the house. If you have mobility limitations, please contact the museum to see what your options are.


the gay monument

Photo of the plaque at the Homomonument Memorial.
Gay Monument, Amsterdam

Also called Homomonument, this is the next stop on the walking tour of Dutch Resistance historical sites. The Gay Monument commemorates the persecution of homosexuals across the centuries.  Three pink triangles comprise the monument, which was the distinguishing mark homosexual prisoners had to wear on their clothes in the concentration camps in Nazi Germany.

The idea for the monument came in 1980, following the arrest of gay activists earlier that decade for placing a lavender wreath on the War Memorial in Dam Square.

Each of the three triangles are strategically placed. One triangle points to the National War Memorial in Dam Square, one to the headquarters of COC Netherlands (a historic LGBTQ rights organization), and one to Anne Frank Huis. The triangle that points to Anne Frank Huis is inscribed with a line from a homosexual Jewish poet (Jacob Israël de Haan) – “Naar Vriendschap Zulk een Mateloos Verlangen,” which means – “Such an endless desire for friendship”.


van gelder paper trading firm

Exterior façade of the Van Gelder Paper Trading Firm building.
Van Gelder Paper Trading Firm

Your next stop on the Dutch Resistance tour will be the former Van Gelder Paper Trading Firm. To keep a closer eye on the Dutch, everyone had to carry an identity card (persoonsbewijs – PB) at all times, from 1941 onwards.  Authorities stamped a large ‘J’ into the identity cards of Jewish people. 

Paper trading firm Van Gelder, which was located at this address, supplied the card for the identity cards.  This particular type of card was difficult to forge, which is why the Resistance Movement tried to steal the cardboard in armed robberies.  Stacks of stolen blank PBs can be seen at the Dutch Resistance Museum.


telephone exchange

The building pictured above, now a supermarket, was the telephone exchange through which all international telephone connections ran during the war

In 1941, there were posters of the V-campaign on the walls.  The Allies had started using the letter ‘V’ for victory.  The Germans subsequently began using the ‘V’ for their own purposes with the slogan: ‘V=Victory, because Germany is winning on all fronts.’ 

Amsterdam residents altered the German posters with paint and turned the ‘V’ into the ‘V’ for Verliest (is losing) or Verzuipt (is drowning).  Or, they changed the ‘V’ into a ‘W’ for Wilhelmina, the name of the Dutch Queen


die port van cleve

Restaurant Die Port Van Cleve exterior façade.
Restaurant Die Port Van Cleve

Beginning in October 1944, Amsterdam residents were able to get a small pan of food from one of the city’s soup kitchens.  Restaurant Die Port van Cleve was one of those soup kitchens, where long lines of Amsterdam residents waited for ‘hunger gruel,’ made of meat waste, sugar beets and tulip bulbs. 

The cellars of the building held weapons and ammunition which Allied planes had dropped for the Interior Forces. 

Earlier in the war, the building had acted as a gathering place for the CS6 Dutch Resistance group. The CS6, organized around the Boissevain family, helped Jews find places to hide and killed several traitors.  This kind of resistance work was extremely risky. 

Nazis arrested the family patriarch, Jan Boissevain, who died in Buchenwald concentration camp.  They executed his sons, Jan Karel and Gideon, in the dunes.  The mother, Mies Boissevain, and her third son, Frans, survived detention in a concentration camp. 


dam square

Dam Square in Amsterdam, one of the prominent historical sites of WWII and the Dutch Resistance.

On May 7, 1945, a celebrating crowd had gathered on Dam Square to welcome the Allied liberators and celebrate the long-overdue end of war

While this was happening, German soldiers were inside de Groote Club in Dam Square. Nearby, two other German soldiers were arrested. One became angry and refused to surrender his weapon, and subsequently fired a shot. Suddenly, the party in Dam Square turned into a bloodbath when members of the German Kriegsmarine started shooting at the crowd from the balcony of de Groote Club, across the square on the right-hand corner of the shopping street. 

In blind panic, the celebrating crowds tried to hide behind lampposts and the street organ.  Bicycles, bags, hats and people hit by bullets were left, scattered in the square. The Kriegsmarine killed (possibly – the numbers are unclear) 32 people and injured dozens more.


the national monument

The National Monument in Amsterdam is a National Heritage Monument in the Netherlands located in Dam Square. It’s the Netherlands’ most important memorial to WWII and the next stop on the walking tour of Dutch Resistance sites.

Every year, on the 4th of May, the Dutch Queen lays a wreath at the National Monument.  This is followed by two minutes of silence throughout the country to commemorate the victims of war.  Shields can be seen on the rear side of the monument.  Behind it there are urns with soil from execution sites in the eleven Dutch provinces and the former Dutch East Indies colony.


the eekenes’ tobacco firm

Photo of the exterior facade of the Eekenes' former tobacco firm.
The Eekenes’ former tobacco firm

The basement of this former tobacco firm, owned by the Eekenes couple, was home to people in hiding throughout the Dutch Resistance movement.  The people in hiding lived close together, had little distraction, and were terrified of discovery.  With any and all provisions becoming increasingly scarce, finding food for those in hiding was a real problem. 

From 1943, illegal assault groups began cooperating to raid distribution offices in order to steal food coupons for people in hiding.  Women distributed the coupons across the country by hiding them in shopping bags or maternity corsets. 


amstel monument

Photo of the Amstel monument with canals in the background.
Amstel Monument

The Amstel Monument commemorates the Jewish Dutch Resistance.  Benny Bluhm was the de facto leader of the Jewish Resistance movement. Part of the Jewish Dutch Resistance was the formation of assault groups in the basement of a Jewish Boxing School. These groups protected those living in the Jewish quarter from NSB harassments.


statue de dokwerker

Statue of the Amsterdam 'dokwerker' (dock worker) that commemorates the February strike of 1941.  Dockworkers and local authority employees showed their outrage to the first major raids on Jews by going on strike.
Statue de Dokwerker

Many Amsterdam residents witnessed the first major raids on Jews on the 22nd and 23rd of February, 1941.  Understandably so, these raids made lasting impressions on those who witnessed them.  In response, dock workers and local authority employees demonstrated their outrage by going on strike

They distributed posters calling on all Amsterdam residents to join the strike.  The response was huge.  On February 25, there were no trams in the streets and numerous companies closed.  The strikers marched through the streets of the city.  On the second day of the strike, the Germans took harsh action

Nine strikers died and many local authority employees lost their jobs. Pro-German mayor Voute replaced Mayor De Vlugt, and Amsterdam suffered heavy fines. The Dokwerker (dock worker) statue commemorates the February strike of 1941. 

It was the only mass protest against the persecution of Jews in Europe.  However, the strike didn’t prevent the deportation of 60,000 Amsterdam Jews in 1942 and 1943.  The tram workers who had joined the strike lost their courage and drove the Jews to the station.


auschwitz monument

Auschwitz memorial in Amsterdam.  'Heaven is no longer unbroken since Auschwitz'
Auschwitz Memorial

The Auschwitz Monument was unveiled in 1993 to commemorate the Dutch Jews who died in the extermination camps.  The broken mirrors represent the thought that ‘heaven is no longer unbroken since Auschwitz.’


hollandsche schouwburg

Hollandsche Schouwburg deportation site - Amsterdam Jews temporarily gathered there together before being deported to concentration camps.
Hollandsche Schouwburg deportation site

The theatre was given a new purpose in the summer of 1942, as it became the location where Amsterdam Jews were temporarily gathered together before being deported to the concentration camps. It was often full to overflowing.  The former theatre is now a place of commemoration.


day care center plaque

Plaque that honors the Dutch people who ensured that more than 500 Jewish children were saved from the day care center next door.  The children housed there were awaiting deportation.
The Day Care Center Plaque

The plaque above honors the people who ensured that more than 500 Jewish children were saved from the day care center which stood to the right of the school building.  The young Jewish children were housed there awaiting deportation.  The day care workers smuggled them out, sometimes in bins, sometimes via the school.  Whenever the tram passed through the street, the day care center was temporarily out of sight of the guards outside the theater. 

“When tram line 9 arrived, we would walk out the door, each with a baby under our arm. We ran alongside the tram and would get on at the next stop, completely out of breath.’

Semmy Woortman, member of the Dutch Resistance Movement


verzetsmuseum

Exhibition at the Dutch Resistance Museum

Verzetsmuseum is the final stop on the self-guided walking tour of Dutch Resistance sites – the Dutch Resistance Museum! This is one of the best museums in Amsterdam, particularly if you’re more into history than fine art. This is a small museum that gives tremendous insight into the everyday life of Nazi occupation in Amsterdam and those brave residents who took a stand. The museum houses many permanent exhibits depicting the streets of the city during German occupation in WWII. There are photographs, newspapers, mini-films, personal letters, and other artifacts that were recovered from the time. It’s the perfect way to wrap-up a day of learning about the Dutch Resistance Movement and the heroic, seemingly average, citizens who risked it all to help those who needed it most.

Admission to the museum is €11 for adults. If you have the Tulip Ticket, Amsterdam City Pass or the Museum Card, admission is FREE!

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Pinterest graphic of Amsterdam buildings along the canal with text: Walking Tour of the Dutch Resistance.
Pinterest graphic of Amsterdam City with text: walking the path of Dutch Resistance.

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I loved learning about the Dutch Resistance. Still, as fascinating and awe-inspiring as I find these trips, they are sobering. Particularly with regard to how normalized life had become during the Holocaust, in Amsterdam and throughout Europe. Stand up for what is right.  Live your truth.  We’re all on the same journey – be kind to your fellow earthlings.

Want more related to WWII? Check out Capitulations of the Third Reich, a post on Germany’s surrender in France!

Had enough history for one day and ready to relax? Don’t worry, Amsterdam is also about fun – once you’ve wrapped up your day and have had your fill of somber history, go enjoy some of these top activities in Amsterdam, and afterwards, unique things to do in Amsterdam at night. Need a break from all of the bicycles? There are some awesome day trips from Amsterdam that will give a reprieve from city life and introduce you to some of the most beautiful cities in the Netherlands. Be sure to visit Keukenhof, the most beautiful garden in Europe, if you’re visiting during the months of March – May.

netherlands covid resources

Before making any travel reservations, be sure to check the COVID restrictions currently implemented in the Netherlands. Be aware that things are subject to change with no notice and that most travel insurance companies do not cover COVID-19 for cancellations or treatment. Travel safely, wear a mask, socially distance, and follow all local regulations.

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