Unveiling Holocaust Names Memorial affects relatives: “You can touch your mother again”

The opening of the National Holocaust Memorial of Names was an emotional experience for many attendees. The more than 102,000 Dutch people who died in the Second World War now have a physical memorial on the Weesperstraat and that is an overwhelming moment for family members and acquaintances.

The 85-year-old Max Arpels Reader lost his mother and grandparents in the war. For a long time he looked forward to the moment to see her stone in real life. “If you’re sitting at home and you think back to the past and to your mother, you can do that with dry eyes, but now I’ve been crying enormously here,” he says at the monument. “You can touch her here and it’s such a big difference. If you can touch your mother, although she’s not alive, you can’t smell her and feel her. But still she’s closer now.”

The monument to names was unveiled by King Willem-Alexander. There were speeches by, among others, Mayor Femke Halsema, outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the architect of the monument Daniel Libeskind. Initiator and chairman of the Dutch Auschwitz Committee, Jacques Grishaver, also took the floor. He indicated that he was happy with the arrival, but also sad. The idea was born 15 years ago and the road to today was long. So long that, according to him, many survivors and relatives have never been able to see the monument.

Still, those who were there indicated that they were grateful to him. “After everyone has been in the monument, there was a kind of explosion of emotion among the people,” said the creator. “Everyone is happy, by the way, because they found what they were looking for.”

More than 75 years after the Second World War, the victims of Jewish, Sinti and Roma descent have a physical memorial. This is because almost all victims do not have a grave. The 94-year-old Ellen Stoppelman-Frankenhuis comes from The Hague and was looking for the stones of her loved ones. “For example, my in-laws, whom I did not know”, she describes her search. “My husband was also in a concentration camp, but luckily he came back. His brother is here. Just like my parents, they are on the other side.”

AT5 previously made an extensive report about the Namur Monument with, among others, initiator Jacques Grishaver and surviving relative Max Arpels Reader.

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