A sidewalk borders the Nieuwe Keizersgracht canal just beside the east side of the Hermitage Amsterdam, one of the few places where nothing divides you from the edge of the water. All along it, you’ll see “The Shadow Wall,” which consists of engraved metal plaques sunk into the stone opposite the houses on the other side. Each corresponds to an address.
On the nearby bridge, a sign explains that the current residents decided to commemorate the 200 people from their canal “who were murdered because they were Jewish.” Each sign shows the names and ages of the people who lived in the house. If every street in Amsterdam were labeled this way, 60,000 people’s names would be memorialized. Only 10,000 survived the war, mostly by hiding.
As you walk along and read them, relationships begin to appear: a young married couple living with the wife’s mother, two children close in age but the next not following for some years, perhaps two brothers or sisters living next door to each other. The two-year-olds, those in their seventies or eighties.
Looking across the street, you begin to imagine the people inside the houses where they lived and ate potatoes and mended their clothes, just as you do.