Mokum’s Broken Heart

Posted here (week 2356).

Yesterday was Remembrance Day. It is very solemn here in Amsterdam; advertising displays in the center are turned into memorials, there are many events and speeches, and two minutes of silence at 20:00. That silence is taken very seriously. Auto traffic, trams, trains, and businesses all stop. The airport holds all airplane movements.

Even the Domino’s guy pauses.

It is incredibly solemn, but this year I learned a new poignant detail.

In the heart of Amsterdam there is a bridge, originally built in the 17th century, called the Magere Brug (skinny bridge).The current version is only 85 years old, but with Instagram-friendly and bestowed with a few tour-guide-invented legends.

This bridge connects to the Jodenbuurt, the Jewish quarter that was mostly demolished for the Stopera after WWII. You can guess why the neighborhood was available.

In February of 1941, the relative calm of occupied Amsterdam came to an abrupt end. First, some fascist asshole went into this neighborhood against orders and picked a fight, which he lost. The Nazis responded by closing off the neighborhood, including raising the Magere Brug. Eventually the Germans picked another fight and lost, then retaliated by deporting 425 Jewish men.They eventually ended up in concentration camps. Two of them survived. The city responded with a general strike and any sense of “we can live with this” was gone.

Yesterday during the ceremonies the Magere Brug was raised to remind us of those events.