In the five years that the Netherlands was occupied, no people in hiding in Artis were discovered by the occupiers.
History of Artis
Artis, zoo in Amsterdam was founded in 1838 under the name Natura Artis Magistra by Messrs Westerman, Werlemann and Wijsmuller, with the aim of " Promoting the knowledge of Natural History".
Most European zoos were then privately owned, but following the London Zoo (1828), Artis also wanted to be generally accessible. Artis started on the site around the current Children's Farm, then called the Buiten Middenhof.
the first collection
The first collection was not very startling – a few parrots, monkeys and a Surinamese forest cat – but a year later the whole "traveling animal stuff" could from C. van Aken. An animal procession headed by the large elephant Jack, accompanied by, among others, lions, a panther, a tiger, a cougar, hyenas, polar bears, brown bears, a zebra, a wildebeest, a kangaroo, and even a boa constrictor of more than five meters long. In one fell swoop Artis had become a real zoo.
In the first forty years of its existence from 1838 to around 1878 Artis was able to expand to an area of more than 10 hectares and the animal collection also expanded slowly from. In addition, the collection of "dead objects" grew, for which an impressive museum was built in 1850-1855, the "Groote Museum".
The idea for Arti & Amicitiae originated in the Artis zoo;
Natura Artis Magistra, a private initiative of natural science practitioners, opened a building for the stuffed animals collection. Everyone who mattered in Amsterdam was invited.
This opening brought two visitors, architect Tetar van Elven and engraver Taurel, to the idea that artists could also unite. Together with the painters Pieneman and Kruseman and the sculptor Royer, they founded Arti & Amicitiae.
Jewish artists and Artis
Because Artis was located in the Portuguese part of the Jewish Quarter, Sephardic artists were very much at home there. Among them were Henri Teixeira de Mattos, an internationally acclaimed animal sculptor, his two cousins Joseph Teixeira de Mattos and Joseph Mendes da Costa, the painter-illustrator David Bueno de Mesquita , the famous Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita , whose oeuvre consists of graphic representations of animals, and the Ashkenazi painter Martin Monnickendam .
'Mr. Artis "
'Mr. Artis ’, Jaap Kaas was the Ashkenazi sculptor, the only one who had his studio in the zoo. In the early years of the war he was in charge of the Jewish art academy and when he had to go into hiding it was of course in Artis.
A series of measures gradually separated the Jews from the rest of the population. And like all cafes, parks and public places, Artis was banned for Jews from September 1941.
"forbidden to Jews"
Artis hung the sign 'forbidden for Jews' on the fence, they fell in the flattery of the Germans and the NSB. There were rarely controls. In total 335 members had to "thank". Artis very nicely paid them half of the contribution paid for that year.
open the whole war
Artis was one of the few places in Amsterdam in the Second World War where people could still relax. The zoo remained open throughout the war and many Germans also spent an afternoon there.
dismissal Rudolf Polak
On December 4, 1940, director Armand Sunier could no longer leave the new regulations and Rudolf Polak, founder and manager of the insectarium, had to be fired. As a token of appreciation for his services rendered to Artis, payment of his fee was maintained.
Through the Provincial Executive of Noord-Holland, Sunier subsequently managed to annul the dismissal, because the "volunteer" Polak could not be considered a member of the Artis staff. In addition, he received no wages for his work but only an expense allowance.
Sunier had meanwhile extensively praised Polak as an indispensable entomological scholar, of which there was no second in the Netherlands.
Eventually Polak was taken to a Dutch concentration camp. Sunier, however, ensured that he was placed on a list of particularly valuable and indispensable persons; "Jews, who could possibly be exchanged or sold for goods from Switzerland." And with success!
At the first board meeting after the war, on June 21, 1945, Sunier announced:
" The former manager of the insectarium is alive. He was taken away by the Germans, but is now in Switzerland and doing well. "
Jewish board members
Although Artis had no other Jewish employees, the zoo had three Jewish board members, Eduard Polak, Emanuel Boekman and the chairman, flamboyant Robert May, director of the bank Lippmann Rosenthal & Co .
The Provincial Executive of the Province of North Holland, Eduard Polak, was able to escape to England in time.
On May 15, 1940, when the German occupation was a fact, Dr. Emanuel Boekman, member of the Artis board on behalf of the municipality of Amsterdam, committed suicide with his wife. He was one of the best known Jews in Amsterdam: Councilor for Education and Art, and prominent socialist.
President Robert May managed to "declare himself administratively dead" and survived the occupation years in his own apartment. May died on August 21, 1962 at the age of 88.
Submerged in Artis
During the war years, between two and three hundred people found shelter in the garden – hidden in numerous animal enclosures, on hay lofts and in the hollow monkey rock and goat rock; especially Jewish local residents, young men who tried to escape forced labor in Germany and people from the resistance.
No one knew exactly how many people there were. It was also not discussed for security reasons.
For example, they were hidden in the Monkey Rock, the Bokken Rock and in the attic of the Predator Gallery. People fled to Artis during raids in the Jewish Quarter, where they reported to caretaker Van Schalkwijk. He laid a plank over the moat around the Monkey Rock, so that people could hide in it. Because of the water around the rock, the Germans had no idea that people were hiding in it.
For some people in hiding it was a surprise to hear after the war that a good friend had camped only a few stables away.
The ddirector Armand Sunier
Director Sunier made sure that the various people in hiding could go to the zoo so that people were at least temporarily safe. He was not actively involved in the resistance, but he had a pragmatic attitude. He maintained a business relationship with the Germans, but meanwhile helped people who were in danger. His tactic of not focusing too much attention on Artis went so far that his own son simply had to go to work in Germany. Director Sunier did not want to be bothered, so the Germans would leave Artis alone and not carry out too many inspections.
That the permanent and temporary residents of Artis have not succumbed to hunger is due to director Armand Sunier. As a precautionary measure, he had already smashed large quantities of fuel, hay, seeds and meat before the war. Moreover, with a lot of persuasion, Dr. Sunier had managed to get a substantial allocation (the Germans loved animals very much) for the necessary quantities of hay and straw, and a reasonable assortment of fish, meat, vegetables, fruit and seeds. In the first years of the war in Artis, for example, animals and people did not have to go hungry.
Even there were cigarettes; 2 sons of tobacconist Swaan were hiding above the lions.
In addition to Sunier, there was also the Inspector of Living Have, Dr. Anton Portielje. Only after the war it turned out that both, independently of each other, had hiding all kinds of people. They never knew about each other during the war.
hunger years 40-45
During the hunger years in 1944-1945, almost three times as much entry fees were collected as before; some visitors came for the warmth in the reptile house, the bird house and the aquarium. Others came for the pet food. " We were skinny and slipped in through the bars of the fence," said an Amsterdammer after the war . "Then we hid in the bushes, and after the food cart had stopped, we tried to take the knuckles out of the bear's house with crooked knitting needles and sticks with a nail."
resistance fighter Henk Blonk
The resistance fighter Henk Blonk went into hiding in the garden in 1942 because he was wanted by the German police. Het Parool from January 13, 1982: “Henk Blonk, one of the people in hiding who hid in Artis on Plantage Middenlaan during the war, spent several weeks in the wolves' residence because he made or repaired weapons for the resistance. It became a little too hot for him when he escaped in the nick of time during a raid by the Grüne Polizei at a hiding place near the Loosdrecht lakes. I had lost all my contact addresses and then I spoke with babysitter Van Schalkwijk of the monkey house.
"He said," Go into the cage of the chimpanzee tonight. "So I slept in the cage of the chimpanzee. They walked over me and even ate a piece of my eyebrow.
In the cage next to it was the gorilla Japie. Japie was watching me all the time through a hole in the wall. You thought you were reasonably safe, but that monkey actually did everything. "
During the day, Blonk, just like all other people in hiding from Artis, simply mixed with the public. There was a strange atmosphere in the garden.
Only two staff members are known to have NSB sympathies. The one resigned himself and the other left for the Eastern bloc with the promise that he would never talk about what he had seen in Artis. And he has kept to that.
Of course the occupiers sometimes came to Artis to look for people in hiding. But the management and caregivers always had a story ready, so they didn't look any further. Such as "animals often carry germs with them and that is ok for animals, but dangerous for humans."
Artis was a relatively peaceful port during the war years; most residents of Artis seemed to feel relatively safe there.
A Jewish man in hiding who spent some time in the birdhouse's kitchen told in 2008 that he had definitely had a good time there – the austere menu of carrots, onions, leftover home-made bread and syrup sugar beet boiled in the stove regrets. Another of them afterwards remembered the night walks by a 'beautiful, light moon'.