Friday, April 23, 2010


I have been hearing stories of Zwolle, the small city in Holland where my Oma (grandmother) grew up and where my mother was born since I was a little kid. My Oma's family owned a small kosher hotel next to a cattle market, and detailed stories from their lives there before the second world war, and most of their deaths in Nazi concentration camps have peppered my life leaving me with vivid mental images of what life there must have been like. It was amazing to walk into this world decades later with my grandmother, only a few weeks before her 88th birthday. What we found was a beautiful small city, one of the few that had not been destroyed during the war. Most of the old buildings were still there, and the brick streets of the town center, lined with stores and restaurants is closed to cars. 

My Oma walked through the town saying, "my friend lived there, I used to wait for her on those steps" or " that was the butchershop, and there was the drug store where I used to buy dropjes (licorice), and the harmony (music hall)" She remembered the names of most of the streets, back allies and shortcuts through town and endless stories about events during the war, like when she pointed to the home of the catholic priest on his bicycle who told her she needed a place to hide and returned later that day with a family to hide her away from her family and the Nazis. This was just the beginning of an incredible and emotionally difficult trip through Holland.

The Hotel Wijnberg, now has students squating in it, which is legal in holland. The first floor has a community art center run by two young artists. All the people living in the former hotel are pictured below with my Oma. We talked with the Mayor and also our family about the possibility of declaring it a historical building and helping to maintain it. we shall see....

We missed the old candy shop before it closed, but pressed our noses against the window and snapped one picture. Earlier, we had a quick lunch at a pub in town. Mustard soup served in little pots and great bread! The two kinds of gouda I bought at the organic farmers' market in Amsterdam the day before made a second appearance.
A family friend and Zwolle archivist Marco, took us around town and seemed to know as much about the Jewish history there as my Oma. People stopped my Oma on the street, they had seen her on TV and heard her story. We went to the old Jewish cemetery in Zwolle and found my great grandfather's grave, he died before the war, and it also had my great grandmother's name on it, saying he was married to her, so while she died in Aushwitz it felt as though she had a memorial place as well. We also went to Assen and found the old jewish cemetary in the woods where my great great grandparents are buried.
We also visited the old synagogue in Zwolle, where there is a memorial to the people from the town who died in the holocaust. the names of my Oma's mother, and 2 of her brothers are listed.

I know this post is not standard fare for a food blog, but it was so important, that I couldn't resist sharing the experience. Please let me know if you have questions or leave comments below.


  1. It is important, and I enjoyed reading about it all. Please keep posting food AND history!

  2. This is so moving, Tagan, thanks for sharing it! What an amazing trip.