Just a few steps from the tourist heart of Amsterdam, the buzzing Leideseplein, stands a building that once was a notorious Nazi prison. Not that there was any other kind, but this one was for political prisoners, including Anne Frank and her family who were here for several days in August 1945. There are reports of Jewish prisoners being forced to walk endlessly in the courtyard while saying they are Jews and deserve whatever they get. Unlike the Franks, most prisoners were sent on to prison camps elsewhere in the Netherlands, or were taken directly to the dunes at Overveen and executed.
Inside is a plaque with two huge tears, and a paragraph describing in the barest factual
terms that what the building was during the war, and two of the Resistance attempts to free prisoners. The saddest in my view involved Gerrit van der Veen, a noted sculptor and father of two little girls who had become a leader in forging, the underground press and the bombing of Amsterdam’s population registry (a key factor in the roundups). He was shot twice and half paralyzed during the attempt to break into the prison. His comrades dragged him to his hiding place, but he was betrayed, arrested and shot, on June 10,1944.
In the 1990s, the building façade was redesigned to evoke a different image.
Right in front, just off the Leidesplein, are some more emotional words carved in stone::
Vision won an open city.
To get there, walk on the Weteringschans with your back to the Stadschouwberg with the Apple Store on your right, keep going, and you’ll find the big pillars on the right.