Amsterdam Cries

submitted by Lynn de Vree

At the outbreak of World War II, the Netherlands, just as it did during World War I, declared itself neutral.  Nonethess, the Germans invaded the country on May 10, 1940.  They believed that by controlling Dutch territory they would draw attention from their position in Ardennes, force British and French troops deeper into Belgium, and stop a possible British invasion of North Holland.  In addtion, the Luftwaffe, was in need of airfields near the North Sea Coast, which they would gain by the invasion.

Over 140,000 Dutch residents were Jews during the time of the invasion.  Only 30,000 survived the war.  The film below intertwines pictures of life in Amsterdam's Jewish quarter prior to the war, and then scenes that occurred as a result of the invasion.  The background song, Amsterdam Cries, is sung by Rika Jansen.  Many Dutch could not believe that the Jews would be subjected to genocide and sent to death camps.  As round-ups of Jews began it became apparent that fellow countrymen would need to open their  homes to Jews.  However, this was especially difficult in dense urban areas.  Despite the risks many Dutch citizens helped shelter Jews.  Consequently, one-third of the people who hid Jews did not survive the war.

Amsterdam Cries was written by Kees Manders and performed in this Netherlands YouTube video by Rika Jansen, 1964

Amsterdam Cries

When father glances through his photo-album,
You are astonished when he tells about
The Weesperstraat* and the Jewish Quarter.
When he tells about how life started
When waking up, trade and business
Humor and fun, that was the source of life.
And if you didn’t have any mazl for a day
Then you went to the Tip Top where you could forget the tsores (worries)
Sometimes someone would call in the late hour:
“I have beautiful olives and onions in brine”

Amsterdam cries where once it laughed,
Amsterdam cries, still it feels the pain,
Amsterdam cries where once it laughed,
Amsterdam cries ‘cause away is the fun.

When father tells about how the Sabbath began,
Then you are astonished when he tells again
How the cantor sang “ad-des-jem elije nowa”.
At the Chanukah-feast the candles were lit again,
Then one wished you were blessed by God
And that everyone of them would be fine again
Before one plundered and routed out
The Jewish children romped there
One called them a race, oh God oh God
Why could it not be as it was?

Amsterdam cries where once it laughed,
 Amsterdam cries, still it felt the pain,
Amsterdam cries where once it laughed,
Amsterdam cries ‘cause away is the fun.

On Friday night kugel with pears
One who doesn’t try it,    cannot appreciate it.
The book closes and with a tear in his eyes
He whispers: mazl and blessings for the whole family
Mazl and blessings for the whole family
Mazl and blessings for the whole family

*Weesperstraat was a major street in Amsterdam’s Jewish quarter.  Weesperstraat was nearly destroyed during the winter of 1944-45.  Referred to as The Winter of Hunger, over 20,000 Dutch lost their lives due to severe cold and lack of food and fuel.  Wood and other useable material was taken from homes and apartments that were empty because of deportation of the quarters Jewish residents.

Today a monument of appreciation to Jews who tried to resist Nazi oppression and to the people who helped then is located on Weesperstraat.

The performer Rika Jansen was also known in Holland as Black Riek. She first sang Amsterdam Huilt in 1964, a song written by her partner Kees Manders.  Though it wasn’t a hit at the time, the song has since become a classic.  It depicts life as it was in Weesperstraat and the Jewish Quarter, prior to the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands during World War II.  In a melancholy chorus Rika laments that “Amsterdam cries when it once laughed.”




Amsterdam Huilt

Als vader weer bladert in zijn fotoboek
dan sta je versteld als je vertelt
van de Weesperstraat en de jodenhoek
Als vader verhaalt hoe het leven begon
Bij het ontwaken, handel en zaken
Humor en gein, dat was de levensbron
En had je een dag 'ns geen mazzel gehad
dan 's avonds naar de Tip Top waar je
't sores vergat
Soms riep d'r nog een in het nachtelijk uur:
'k Heb mooie olijven en uitjes in het zuur

Amsterdam huilt waar het eens heeft gelachen
Amsterdam huilt, nog voelt het de pijn
Amsterdam huilt waar het eens heeft gelachen
Amsterdam huilt, want weg is de gein

Als vader verhaalt hoe de sabbath begon
dan sta je versteld als hij je vertelt
hoe de voorzanger 'Ad-des-jem eilje nowa' zong
Op het Channeke-feest gingen de kaarsjes weer aan
dan werd er gewenst, door God je gebenscht
en dat het ons allemaal goed weer mocht gaan
Voor er werd geplunderd en uitgeroeid
hebben daar jiddische Jé-ledjes gestoeid
Men noemde hen ras, oh God oh God,
waarom mocht het niet zijn zoals het er was?

Amsterdam huilt waar het eens heeft gelachen
Amsterdam huilt, nog voelt het de pijn
Amsterdam huilt waar het eens heeft gelachen
Amsterdam huilt, want weg is de gein

Op vrijdagavond koegel en peren
Wie dat niet nascht, die kan het ook niet waarderen
Het boek gaat dicht en met een traan in zijn ogen
fluistert hij zachtjes: mazzel en brooche voor de hele misjpoge
Mazzel en brooche voor de hele misjpoge
Mazzel en brooche voor de hele misjpoge