Oh, Waterlooplein...

The old Jewish quarter of Amsterdam

From 24 June until 4 September 2005, the Jewish Historical Museum is presenting the summer exhibition Oh, Waterlooplein… The old Jewish quarter of Amsterdam. Paintings, drawings, photographs and film material give an impression of the changes that took place in the neighbourhood from c. 1860 to 1967. The artworks also reflect a development in the way in which various artists depicted what they saw. Most of the exhibits come from the collection of the Jewish Historical Museum itself, which is located at the heart of this old neighbourhood.

The former Jewish quarter of Amsterdam has served as a key source of inspiration to many artists. Max Liebermann, Eduard Frankfort, Johan Staller, Martin Monnickendam and others show life as it was lived in the streets and alleyways. Their mode of representation is largely dependent on the time in which they lived. Those working in the mid-nineteenth century tended to adopt a Romantic approach, while their early twentieth-century counterparts presented a realistic picture of the neighbourhood. 

The drawings and paintings that Cor Hund (born in 1915) made of the Jewish quarter and those who lived there have never been exhibited before. With his bold style of drawing, shorn of superfluous detail, he evoked a powerful sense of the atmosphere in this part of Amsterdam. 

Few pictures were made of the Jewish quarter during the Second World War. The best-known images are snapshots recorded hurriedly by anonymous photographers. After the war, photographers such as Philip Mechanicus and Emmy Andriesse and the painter Cor Dik recorded the cheerless picture presented by the semi-demolished houses. While the demolition of the old houses had been started decades before the war, the permanent loss of the families that had once lived in them changed the old Jewish quarter forever. All that remained was the Waterlooplein market - almost without Jewish stall-holders. In 1967 the market ceased to do business at Waterlooplein for many years, while a new complex was being built that would house Amsterdam's town hall and music theatre. Ed van der Elsken recorded that last day in his film Het Waterlooplein verdwijnt (The end of Waterlooplein). 

During the exhibition, which is being held in the context of the event Amsterdam, City on the Water, the JHM is organizing a number of special events on and around the river Amstel. There will be canal tours of the visible remains of the old Jewish quarter and literary walking tours around Amsterdam's Jewish quarter.