This article analyses key changes in public memory in the Netherlands. Its examination of memorials, and their relationships to official memory and creative practices, shows a gradual shift in focus from war heroes to collective and individual victims of the Nazi persecution. The second part of the article focuses on contemporary visual artists, whose works are inspired by their own family histories and by changing attitudes to the memory of the Shoah, which has gained increasing public visibility. In line with the changes observed in some memorials, their artworks demonstrate a key development of Holocaust remembrance since the end of the war, with a shift in emphasis towards remembering individual victims and circumstances. This shows a transition from commemorating the unpronounceable through symbols, towards a detailed memorialising of the Shoah through the names of victims and minute reconstructions via maps, models and portraits.
Joël J. Cahen (born 1948) is a historian. He was Head Curator of Museum Beth Hatefutsoth, now Museum ANU, Tel Aviv until 2002 and Director of the Jewish Cultural Quarter, Amsterdam until 2016. He works as a consultant for museums and regularly publishes on the history of the Jews in the Netherlands.