Gebouw Plancius/Plancius Building
Built in 1875-1876. Address: 61 Kerklaan, in the eastern part of the centre of Amsterdam. Served many purposes, varying from concert-hall to garage. Became in 1999 the new housing of the Verzetsmuseum, the Dutch Resistance Museum (in existence since 1985).
Plancius Building was established on the initiative of the Jewish choral society Oefening Baart Kunst (Practice creates Art). To make place, an old house had to be removed. The founders of the new building respectfully stuck to the name of that house: Plancius.
It was a time-honoured name indeed, although it had nothing to do with music, singing or any Jewish tradition. Petrus Plancius (1550-1622) was a Calvinist clergyman and a geographer, an expert in voyages of discovery.
The members of the choir liked to meet in Plancius, not only to practice and to sing in the concert-hall, but also to find cosiness among the palm trees of the Winter Garden.
The Star of David in the pediment is still a reminder of the Jewish cultural origins of Plancius. And, for that matter, the whole façade may be considered a keepsake of the time when Amsterdam contained a large Jewish community.
From the Jewish neighbourhood to Plancius was only a ten minutes walk. (This legendary old neighbourhood - the Joodse Buurt or Jodenhoek - was already in decay before the nazi's arrived; in 1910-1940 two-thirds of the Jews had moved out to other, new parts of the city.)
Turbulent political meetings
Plancius Building became a popular site for concerts, performances, parties and also, on Jewish holidays, for synagogue services. The large hall below was especially famous because of its turbulent political meetings. During the 1890's socialism won many followers among the Jews of Amsterdam.
One of the prominent socialist speakers appearing in Plancius was Henri Polak: the Jewish founder and leader of the ANDB, the General Netherlands Diamond Workers Union.
Garage for taxi's
After 1900 the roaring years of Plancius were over. It was sold (1913), and then renovated and expanded with a hall at the rear, to become a garage for taxi's. A garage it would stay for almost eighty years. From 1970 till 1993 the Amsterdam traffic police finally used the dilapidated building to store unfit private cars. Part of of it stood empty, until some countercultural dance groups moved in. However, proposals to turn Plancius into a permanent mime and dance centre proved to be unfeasable.
In 1998 the Verzetsmuseum left its original accommodation, a former synagogue (address: 63 Lekstraat, in the southern part of Amsterdam). On the 1st of May 1999 the new Verzetsmuseum officially opened its doors. Plancius Building began its third life.
Information about history and culture of the Jews:
» Joods Historisch Museum, 2-4 Jonas Daniël Meijerplein, Amsterdam, tel. (020) 626 99 45, located in the heart of the former Jewish Neighbourhood.
» Holocaust Monument/exhibition: Hollandsche Schouwburg, 24 Plantage Middenlaan, Amsterdam.
» Also about the Holocaust: Anne Frank Huis, 263 Prinsengracht, Amsterdam, tel. (020) 556 71 00.