Resistance Museum Without Pictures

This post will have no pictures. I didn’t take any pictures in this museum, mostly because we were short on time. We wanted to visit this museum very much – we’ve read a lot about the Dutch Resistance. Even when we were visiting other museums in Amsterdam, such as Stedelijk, there were multiple mentions of how people, artists, and curators, in particular, felt compelled to aid the Resistance, and how vital the Resistance was for cultural and national preservation.

The location of the Resistance Museum is not a very central one, so it required some planning, especially because the conference had started already, but we made it. By that time, after being in Amsterdam for a couple of days, we’ve already realized how useful their museum audioguides are. They are way more convenient than the ones we have in the States, at least here in Chicago.

When we visited Brussels several years ago, we ended up being very disappointed in the Magritte Museum – there were not that many of his paintings there (then-recent Art Institute exhibit had more!) and we could not read any of his letters and diaries, which were on display in abundance. We were a little bit concerned that something like this will happen in the Resistance Museum, but the audioguides helped a lot!

That’s another reason I didn’t take any pictures inside this museum – obviously, all explanations are in Dutch, and the exhibit is mostly useless without them. I’ve learned a lot about how life in the Netherlands was unfolding during WWII. It turned out I didn’t know a lot, including brutal hunger towards the end of the war.

That won’t be the first time that I am realizing how little did I know about WWII before I came to the US. My knowledge about the events of WWII was very obscure. The way World War II history was taught at school would give you the impression that even though there was something else going on, the most significant part of it was the Great Patriotic War. When I first rented a set of DVDs about WWII in our local library was the first time I’ve realized that WWII was a WORLD war and that so many countries have participated. It was a shock for me that the USSR was mentioned on less than half of these DVDs.

Since that time the more I travel the world, the more I learn about different countries’ history, this realization becomes deeper. In this sense, the Resistance Museum was a great history lesson, and also an outstanding ethical experience. The museum is organized in such a way, that the visitors are presented with the questions the war-time Dutch citizen had to answer: should I cooperate or disobey? Should I fly or stay? Should I hide or should I protest? I could not even imagine one could build the whole museum based on these ethical choices.

And one more thought. I agree with my friend, who was saying that the visit to this museum and her subsequent research made her realize that the Soviet Union was the only country under German occupation which did not have a resistance movement. The “partisans” were organized and controlled by the communist party, or the communist party would acquire a leadership over a spontaneously organized group. Also, the focus of the “partisans” activity was on blowing bridges and military echelons, not on saving people, as it was with the Resistance in other countries. Sadly, I have to admit, that by the time the war broke out, the idea of resisting any authorities was wiped entirely off people’s minds and was not considered even a remote possibility.

4 thoughts on “Resistance Museum Without Pictures

  1. I am very glad that you visited this museum and found it interesting and thought-provoking! I hope I will have an opportunity to study it more thoroughly one day.

    “obviously, all explanations are in Dutch, and the exhibit is mostly useless without them” — it’s strange; when I was there, all the information was in Dutch and English equally, and although I have found the audioguide very cool, I just did not have time for all the listening and read everything in text form — it was quicker. I doubt that they changed the exposition THAT MUCH: you probably did not notice the English version of the explanations.


  2. Let me correct myself – the titles were indeed in both Dutch and English; however, the actual documents are in Dutch, and you had to listen to the audioguides to figure out the details. Same as with Magritte letters and dairies. The audioguides allowed way deeper exploration of the topics, although sometimes we had to cut on them. But what I loved about these audios, that they let to go deep on some topics if you want/have time, or you could skip.


    1. Not only the titles, all the information was duplicated in English. I know this because I actually READ all this. And all the video and audio materials inside the exhibition were also duplicated in English in full. There was so much to read in English that I estimated that I would need not several hours but several days to tackle all this…

      Here are some of the explanations that I photographed for myself to study later. It’s the exact translation of the Dutch text.


  3. Yes, I have given some thoughts on whether to take pictures of those ones, but for some reason, I didn’t feel it will help me to tell the story. I would have to do it for each and single display, taking both the picture of what was on display and of the write-up. Which was still not the same when the actual papers, documents or letters were displayed. I am not saying that something was NOT annotated in English – everything was, but the picture-taking didn’t fit into this process for me (although I did a lot in the other museums). Another thing is, that in this museum I could not read any of these write-ups due to the dimmed light. But that’s beside the point 🙂


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