The Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam has an exhibition about the photographer Philip Mechanicus (1936-2005). The Amsterdam photographer was best known for his black-and-white portraits of figures from the cultural world. But he also built his reputation with photos taken around 1960 in the streets of Amsterdam's former jewish quarter, where he had born and raised. He would wander there for hours with a borrowed camera.
Nineteen large panels with photographs by Mechanicus are installed in and around Waterloo square in exactly the spots where he originally took the photos. He has an eye for the melancholy atmosphere of the deserted streets, but also for the high spirits of the children at play there, for whom the ruined neighbourhood by WWII and its heaps of rubble formed the ideal playground.
All the old houses are demolished and the Operahouse has raised here now. Watching the photos and walking through the neighbourhood is very interesting. So many has gone and watching your own childhood is weird. Children looked so different at that time and lived such a different life as today. We walked through the city on our own, there was hardly any traffic, we played in the streets every day after school. I didn't realise it all looked so old and ruined. As a child you take things for as it is.
Many houses in the postwar Jewish quarter were so run down that theyn had to be knocked down before they collapsed. They were in such poor condition because they had been unoccuppied for so long, but also because during the winter famine of 1944-1945 the desperate people of Amsterdam had stripped away the wood from the houses of deported Jews.