Amsterdam isn’t big on statues, most commemorate not the great and the good but the people. In this case the statue represents a dockworker. Amsterdam is harbour city and has a long maritime history, the building housing the Maritime Museum dates back to 1656 and was built for the Admiralty. But the dockworker’s history is more troubled and more recent.
He commemorates a general strike held in Amsterdam from the 25 – 27 February 1941, known as “The February Strike” and that date should give you a clue to what they were striking about. The location is another clue, he stands in the middle of the old “Jodenbuurt” or Jewish Quarter, the building in the background is the Portuguese Synagogue – still in use today. The general strike was to protest the Nazi actions against the city’s Jewish community. Two weeks earlier the Nazis, helped by Dutch police, had encircled this neighbourhood with walls of barbed wire and declared it off limits to non-Jews. The city rose up and fought this, culminating in the strike on 25 February which became more widespread throughout the day. It was the first direct action undertaken against the anti-Jewish measures of the Nazis in occupied Europe.
The Netherlands surrendered to the Germans in May 1940 and remained occupied until 1945. Just seven years later the statue of the Dockworker was unveiled by Queen Juliana to acknowledge the bravery of the city’s citizens. There is a commemoration on the anniversary of the strike every year.