Amsterdam in the early 1980s

Old Aug 10th, 2014, 12:21 AM
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Amsterdam in the early 1980s

In 1982, Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken shot a film of "his" Amsterdam. Amsterdam has always been both the subject and the object of his work. He started of living on Nieuwmarkt, and indeed, this area, the old jewish quarter that had just survived the war, featured massively in his early work.

But this is Amsterdam in the 1980s, at the time of Ed's film, "the present". Amsterdam is more eccentric, grubbier, edgier, than it is now. He's shooting during the "Festival of Fools" which explains the presence of many mimes.

The backbone of the film is a number of "flying shots", that take you through Amsterdam's topography, the meat of the film is the series of street shot sequences, with Ed's commentary.

Enjoy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHUoqM3iyag
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Old Aug 10th, 2014, 12:36 AM
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As context, I'm adding a video that catalogues the whole sale demolition of the old Jewish area in the late 1970s:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Te8jo7ZKu0o

Van der Elsken's film should be seen in that context too, because these demolitions had spawned an active and belligerent squatter's movement, which flourished right at the time when he shot his film.
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Old Aug 10th, 2014, 02:27 AM
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Very interesting - thanks for sharing.
The first film is how I remember Amsterdam on my first trip there with my parents when I was around 13/14. I don't remember many details but an overall impression of a city where quaint/cute and rough/edgy were very close together.. pretty exciting for a kid from the countryside.
Looking back, I have to smile when people nowadays warn others to avoid the "seedy" or dangerous places of Amsterdam.
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Old Aug 10th, 2014, 03:43 AM
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Yes exactly. All that is gone and has been cleaned up.
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Old Aug 10th, 2014, 04:48 AM
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I shall watch the films later when I am at the PC.
My first visit to Amsterdam was in 1978, when you had to walk through a mass of dodgy characters offering all sorts of things, upon arrival at C.S. As a twenty year old woman it was a bit scary.
An American friend described it at the time as the armpit of the world.
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Old Aug 10th, 2014, 08:34 AM
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The haunting and at times mournful clarinet says it all. Thank you Menachem.
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Old Dec 8th, 2014, 11:40 AM
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Ah yes the sleaze was ubiquitous in the early 80s in Amsterdam - a time when I took hundreds of folks thru it on tours and more than a few were victimized by folks selling bogus drugs or pickpockets or real drugs - I had a guy put his hands in my shirt pocket just out of the blue.

Acid and hard drugs were sold over the counter at the Flying Dutchman pub on Zeedijk - I used to see an old grungily dressed man come in the Dutchman and then roll open the newspaper he was carrying and out came thousands of hits of acid the pub owner sold to customers - often hundreds at a time.

The Other Place in the red-light district was a complete reprobate place - again open trade in acid and hard drugs by a loose cannon Hells Angel guy who seemed to run the place (owned it was said by the Hell's Angels - the pub did not even have pub beer - no license or whatever but just cans bought from Albert Heijn probably. a totally gruzzy (and fun!) place where you never new what would happen - from brawls to shouting matches with the crazy guy who seemed to run the place.

Squats were still at several places right in the heart of things - like at Vondel Kirche on the edge of Vondel Park - my groups had parties in this abandoned chruch with sand floor for a few years until the building was reclaimed by owners.

The old jail at the entrance to Museumplein was a squat I think with a renegade cafe - now an established cafe. A group of reggae bands held court in the basement.

Amsterdam in the 80s - fun but rough and yes that is all cleaned up now - all for the better I guess.
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Old Dec 9th, 2014, 11:38 AM
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Cool, I worked in Vondelkerk, after they converted it to office space. Lucky Luyk, De Grote Keizer, all well known squats.

One of the biggest ones is the Handelsblad complex on Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, which was legalized. As now, there was a huge housing shortage, while a lot of the real estate stood empty. That was the idealistic starting point, later on, the squatters' movement started to attract lots and lots of criminal drifters.

Amsterdam was a wild place then, much wilder than the sanitized, yuppified tourist space it is now:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65icombpmdM

"I threw stones from here"
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Old Dec 9th, 2014, 11:50 AM
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1969 was my first visit to AmsterdamdamdamDAMN! and there were riots every night near my youth hostel on a canal near the University of Amsterdam - from Ann Arbor, Michigan and a large prestigious university we had had our fair share of activism on campus and town with broken windows, occupied buildings, etc.

But nothing like I saw in Amsterdam where the students and protestors seemed much more militant inopposing the U.S. efforts in Viet Nam - a few years later I did see violent protests in favor of the squattors.

But those anti-war protests were something else - police on horses and with water cannon blowing protestors right into canals!

Menachem working at Vondel Kerk after it was turned into upscale (looking) offices - what a coincidence! We climbed the steeple there several times during out parties - the places was all dustry because the floor had been removed - quite a memory - thanks for the memories Amsterdamneddamneddamned!

Oh and the Heroin Boat - can you imagine a city where they had a boat anchored near Centraal Station where folks could come and buy for sure clean sxxt as they called it and get new needles, etc (I did not partake!) - Switzerland did have these in Zurich and Bern where addicts were shooting up in pulbic parks.

ah Amsterdam in its wild west days!
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Old Dec 9th, 2014, 12:37 PM
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Thanks for this. A highlight of my first visit to Amsterdam in the late 70s was being chased along a lane in the red light district after trying to photograph a neon sign unlike I'd encountered anywhere else - 'Real F***ing Live Sex'. And returning to my middle bunk in a shady hostel where my top and bottom bunk neighbours turned out to be German and Scottish junkies/ dealers who spent the night coming and going and threatening to kill each other.
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Old Dec 9th, 2014, 03:54 PM
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I was there in the early 70's when the hippies/junkies completely clogged and trashed up Dam Square, panhandling all who passed by. In the name of "sanitation" the cops started guarding the fire department each evening when they would blast the Square with fire hoses to at least clear the bums out once a day.

Many/most of the panhandlers were Americans, which caused me some personal problems. Their cry was, "Hey Buddy, can you spare a Guilder?" I was almost broke and living with my girlfriend after I had lost my job in London. We went to a party, and one of the guests was being really obnoxious. When we were introduced he snottily said to me, "Oh, you are an American!", and handed me a Guilder.

I hit him. Not my finest moment, but the Dutch host threw him out, not me.
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Old Dec 9th, 2014, 09:31 PM
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PalenQ, you have to remember that in the 1960s, much of the police leadership in Amsterdam, high ranking officers, but also many the officers on the beat, had been collaborators with the German occupiers in the 1940s. High ranks often had been street cops during the war and might well have assisted in deporting jews. Much of the violence was directed at this "Schalkhaar generation". All of this culminated in violent protests against the marriage of then Princess Beatrix and Claus von Amsberg, a German, who had been a Hitler youth member.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLZftjSq3Bc

But also. Amsterdam was in the grips of a real anarchist revolt: the Provo movement.

Such a shame none of this is subtitled, but this is Louis van Gasteren's short Because my bike was there, which publicized the flash point of much of the demonstrations: the random police violence against bystanders

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZ870Ml8_lU
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Old Dec 9th, 2014, 09:36 PM
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Fast forward to 2002: the wedding of Prince Willem Alexander and Maxima Zorreguieta. Controversial because her father may or may not have been complicit in the Argentinian "dirty war" during the Videla regime.

In any case, there was a reference to 1966 in the form of a "smoke art" installation on the roof of the Bijenkorf.

We've come a long way...
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Old Dec 10th, 2014, 08:36 AM
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Menachem..now I notice that it's a flute. Still rather mournful but more lively as you listen, in a way. Menachem...I've been meaning to ask you, with a Hebrew/Yiddish name(like Begin had) where are you originally from?
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Old Dec 10th, 2014, 10:29 AM
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interesting stuff menachem who I suppose like Anne Frank and many others if Jewish is Dutch! Kind of like asking an American with a Jewish name - where do you originally come from?

anyways thanks a load menachem for those precious insights about a fascinating city I am so happy to have spent so much time in, on business and pleasure, for so long.
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Old Dec 10th, 2014, 11:53 AM
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Pal..you just don't get it old boy. After WW II, surviving Jews left Europe in droves, some to North America, some to Argentina, some to Western Europe, including Netherlands. A very logical question, so what's your beef, Mr. Roscommon? Only 120,000 survivors remained in Central and Eastern Europe, not including 2 million in the former Soviet Union...others went west as I said (or east to Israel). In California we frequently ask where someone originally came from, since "immigration" from the east, south and midwest USA to this state has been enormous. There are, by the way well over 150,000 Jews in Southern California who came from Iran and Russia in the past 10-50 years. So we ask. With the steady flow of Californians who have come here fom Central and South America, I have found that they proudly tell you about their homeland. As well they should. Since I speak a credible Spanish, that helps. I am a first generation American as are all my cousins. Our family came to America during the mass migrations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries...from Russia.
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Old Dec 10th, 2014, 11:58 AM
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Stu - sorry for any ill tone in my query - you are one of my very favorite Fodorites - ever since I met you in Palenque (I think) - and yes I guess there were not many Jewish folks left in Holland after the war - just seems that menachem has been working in Amsterdam since the late 1970s or so - but I get your point. My grandparents came from Bohemia but I never consider myself a Bohunk - but I do understand with all the atrocities and discriminations pointed at Jewish folk they would more retain their ethnic ID.

Sorry about a perceived tone I did not mean to come across and even thought of it just after posting.
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Old Dec 10th, 2014, 12:17 PM
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Being Jewish is not an ethnic identity, it is religious. And considering there is a 6,000 year tradition and all the achievements both religious and secular, there is more to retaining one's Jewish identity than atrocities.

Thank you for your understanding.
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Old Dec 10th, 2014, 12:26 PM
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Just a little history lesson, Pal.

By the way, Anne was German. She was born in Germany (she was born 6 months after me)...the family left Germany to get some respite in Holland when things were getting too hot for Jews in Germany. Only problem was, they didn't go far enough west, Happened to many who thought Belgium, France and Netherands would be their safe havens. Even Switzerland or Sweden would have been a better move for the Franks.
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Old Dec 13th, 2014, 12:18 PM
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Oops, I missed a lot it seems (was in Amsterdam today, shooting photographs and cycling around, dodging droves of visitors who were walking on bike paths)

Anyway. There still is a somewhat sizeable jewish community in the Netherlands, of about 45000, 15000 of whom live in Amsterdam. But there's very little organized jewish life in the city centre. For that you have to go to Buitenveldert or Amstelveen.

And IMDonehere, let's say "jewish" is a kind of nationality, with an ethnic component (born of a jewish mother) and a religious component (converted)

My entire family comes from the north, Groningen from my mother's side, Friesland from my father's side. My father's family ended up in Friesland because his brother was deemed too ill to travel to America, and so they were stuck in Rotterdam, having travelled there from Poland (well, Lvov, so technically present day Ukraine) A benevolence society helped them resettle in Heerenveen, where they stayed up to WW2, when they were deported. My father was the sole survivor of his family. My mother's parents hid her and her brother with farmers up north. My grandfather was a psychiatrist and he followed his patients to, eventually, a death camp, where they were murdered, but he survived. And my grandmother hid for a while, then gave herself up for deportation. But it was towards the end of the war so she survived in the Westerbork transit camp where she was liberated. Amazingly, my mother's family survived, but the rest of her relatives were murdered.

It's good to know that before WW2 there was jewish life almost everywhere in the Netherlands, and NL was divided into Amsterdam (Mokum, makkom) and the rest, the countryside, the "Mediene". Those communities were completely wiped out, but even outside Amsterdam there has been a resurgence (of sorts) of jewish life. I've been involved personally in the founding of a new jewish kehilla in the town in Friesland where my father was born and this was of immense significance to me.
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