We visited Amersfoort because of a simple enough question. “What”, had asked Rosana, “happened with the Netherlands during the war?”
Arriving in the newer part of town, our first impression of the town was a Rock. Stood proudly on a plinth the Rock looked important. The guide book made no mention of the Rock and our translation of the plaque below was probably wildly inaccurate. But it was a nice enough Rock.
We headed further into the town, crossing bridges across canals, crossing into the older part of town. Despite being out of season, tourist boats still plied their trade. We found the tourist information centre, the VVV, across a large square from an impressive looking tower that was once home to the town’s armoury. We forgot to ask about the Rock but we did get a map , which is what we really wanted.
It’s an old and pretty town and quite photogenic, worth wandering around it’s narrow streets and large squares for a few hours, with the gatehouse to the town one of the highlights.
But it was on the outskirts of the town that we’d seek the answer to Rosana’s question. The story of Anne Frank and her family is well know, but what else? Kamp Amersfoort is now a national monument, a reminder of darker times. It’s been many things during it’s life, but during the WWII German occupation it functioned as a transit camp and as a work camp.
A lonely watchtower stands over the entrance, casting a shadow both literally and metaphorically. It’s one of the few intact pieces of the camp that remains. Inside there is not much to see, but at the same time too much. Hints and reminders, plaques and photographs. It’s enough to bring alive the nature of the place, the horror and the inhumanity.
Inside the next door building we find something that’s not quite a museum and not quite an information centre. We chat with the elderly gentleman inside for a while, about the camp, about Dutch history and about the Netherlands in general, although we forget to ask about Amersfoort’s Rock. He offers us coffee and puts on an informational film for us.
Before leaving we wander into the woodland on the other side of the road. A statue stands at the end of a long corridor, a corridor that was originally a firing line. It had been dug by the prisoners and used for the murder of prisoners.
In a somber and reflective mood it was time to get out of town. We headed into the Ermelosche Heide National Park to find a campsite for a couple of days of trees and wildlife.