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Published: July 22nd 2019
Issy has been having a lot of trouble sleeping since we left home, and sleeping tablets don’t seem to have been helping too much. In desperation as we strolled home last night she went into a late night shop and bought a chop chip cookie. This wasn’t just any chop chip cookie; it had a slightly greenish tinge to it, and pictures of a very suspicious looking leaf splattered all over the packaging. I’ve heard stories about hard narcotics staying in your system long after you’ve used them, and that drug testing can pick this up for weeks afterwards. We’re going to the United States in a few weeks time, and I’ve heard stories about what they do to druggies there, none of which are nice. I’m not even sure I should be writing about this. I’m sure the US DEA monitors all sorts of intelligence in their relentless efforts to track down druggies, although that said I’d probably be quite flattered, not to mention surprised, if anyone ever referred to anything I’d written as intelligence. Issy tries to tempt me into trying some of her contraband. Maybe I should; at least then we’d be locked up together. She tells me
this morning that her narcotics didn’t have any effect on her. This is very worrying. Everything I’ve read since we arrived here tells me that these cookies are very strong, and that they’d be guaranteed to have a very strong effect on you unless you were a serious addict. I wonder if I should try to arrange to get her into rehab now, before it’s too late. I hope it’s not too late.
Walking home last night through the ever present stream of bikes seemed to be more hazardous than usual, so I do some research on what might be behind this. It seems that a recent study showed that although riding your bike in The Netherlands with a blood alcohol level above .05% is illegal, at 1am on an average morning 89% of Dutch cyclists have at least some alcohol in their blood, and 68% are over the legal limit. I don’t think that we really needed too much more evidence that the Dutch know how to drink and party. We’ve been woken up at about 3am every night since we’ve been here by partying Amsterdamers, who, no matter where they actually are, always manage to sound like
they’re sitting on our balcony.
I leave Issy to sleep off her stoner hangover and go out for an early morning wander along the very attractive canals of the Jordaan district. I think all the Amsterdamers might have left for the summer; the only people on the streets seem to be tourists.
Back at the apartment, Issy has awoken from her stupor, so we decide to try out the Metro for the first time. The tunnel is very deep, and I can’t help but remember that even at the surface we’re a couple of metres below sea level. We’ve also noticed that just about every building here seems to have a basement. I wonder what would happen here if there was a tsunami.
We catch the train to Central Station and then the free ferry across the water to Amsterdam’s northern suburbs. We head for the A’Dam lookout which is at the top of a 100 metre high building on the water’s edge. The views from here over Amsterdam and the surrounding countryside are stunning. What really stands out is how absolutely flat the landscape is. There’s no sign of anything that could even be described as
a mound as far as the eye can see in any direction. I think again that a tsunami here definitely wouldn’t be good. I know now that virtually everyone here is a cyclist, but I wonder how Dutch cyclists go in the Tour de France. I suspect hill climbs mightn’t be their forte.
This afternoon we have booked to go to the Anne Frank House Holocaust Museum. Our tour starts with a presentation on the story behind Anne’s famous diary. I didn’t realise that she was born in Germany and that the family only moved to The Netherlands after Hitler came to power and it became obvious that life was going to become very difficult for Jews in Germany. I’d also not realised a lot of the background behind the hatred for Jews in Germany in the 1930s. The country was virtually broke as a result of the Great Depression and the aftermath of World War I. The Government responded by printing money, which resulted in hyperinflation, which made most ordinary Germans life’s savings worthless; 30% of Germans were unemployed. Hitler promised to end all of this, and desperate Germans swallowed his promises. What they also swallowed was Hitler’s
ridiculous assertion that the Jews were virtually entirely to blame for the country’s ills. It seems hard to believe that an entire population could be conned into believing such baseless propaganda to the extent that it engendered such incredibly strong hatred of one minority section of its population.
The Dutch invaded The Netherlands in 1940, and when roundups of Jews started in 1942, Anne’s father Otto, with the help of some very brave non-Jewish friends, hatched a plan to hide his family of four, plus another four Jewish friends, in a hidden annex at the rear of what had formally been his wife’s business premises. Eventually they were betrayed, although no one knows to this day by whom, and all eight were arrested and transferred to concentration camps. Of the eight, only Otto survived.
It’s impossible not to feel an overwhelming sense of sadness as we walk through the house. The actual bookcase that hid the entrance to the annex is still there, as are the family photos and newspaper pictures of film stars that Anne had glued to one wall of her tiny bedroom. It is almost impossible to imagine the magnitude of the fear of discovery
that they must have experienced on a day to day basis for the two years that they hid here. Equally unimaginable is the courage of the four friends who helped them every day, feeding them and keeping them hidden, knowing that they too were risking their lives.
We’re both feeling very emotional, and as was the case when we visited the museum at Hiroshima last year, it’s a long time after we leave before we can resume normal conversation. I think what makes this even sadder is how personal Anne’s story is, and that it happened right here and not all that long ago; Anne was just a normal teenager with pictures of film stars glued to her wall, and yet she had to suffer the most horrendous experiences, all because she just happened to be Jewish. Will we ever learn?
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