There are centuries long ties between Amsterdam and Poland. Much of Amsterdam’s 17th-century canal ring and Damplein are built on oak poles from Poland; the historic canal houses of Gdansk (Danzig) are built with Dutch bricks. Amsterdam ships took these stones from the Netherlands with them on their journey to Danzig, and brought back grain from Poland. Amsterdam is now also popular with Poland to live and work.
Poolsche Coffijhuis, later Hotel Polen
In 1781, the Poolsche Coffijhuis was located in the Kalverstraat, at the corner of Papenbroeksteeg. This later became Hotel Polen. In 1941, by order of the German occupier, the hotel had to change its name to Paleis Hotel. The hotel burned down in 1977. A monument has been erected at the Nieuwe Oosterbegraafplaats for the 33 victims of this fire.
17th century painter Jurriaen Pool (1666-1745) was a portrait painter with Polish roots. He grew up in the Burgerweeshuis on the Kalverstraat in Amsterdam. In 1693 he married Rachel Ruysch, one of the few female painters at the time. Both were buried in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam. The Amsterdam Museum owns a number of paintings by Jurriaen Pool.
Abraham Krasnapolsky from ‘Beautiful Poland’
In 1865 Abraham W. Krasnapolsky (1838-1912), a Polish emigrant son, bought the Nieuwe Poolsche Koffiehuis at 181 Warmoesstraat. In 1883 the business was expanded with a hotel under the name Krasnapolsky. The Winter Garden became famous with its colossal plants and palms under a glass domed roof; this Winter Garden is still in use. The hotel is one of the first buildings in Amsterdam with electric lighting. Krasnapolsky means “Beautiful Poland”.
The Tuschinski Theater was commissioned by Abraham Tuschinski and is considered one of the most beautiful cinemas in the world. When it opened in 1921, the interior was a sensation. Tuschinski was born in Poland; the Tuschinski Theater was his big dream. The impressive carpet in the foyer depicts the Polish eagle, a tribute to Tuschinski’s homeland. Tragic are the circumstances under which Tuschinski eventually died in his homeland: in 1943 in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
In 1959 a school was opened in the refugee society. Het Leeuwenpoortje at 5 Prinsenhofsteeg for the children of Poles living in Amsterdam. Most of these Poles arrived in 1944 with the first Polish armored division via the south of the country to Amsterdam. Many Polish soldiers married Dutch girls.
A stone in the warehouse facade of Kerkstraat 322 shows a man wearing a turban, in an exotic robe. His hand rests on a stick. Above him is the year 1688, below him is POOL.
In the facade of the house Keizersgracht 145 you can find a stone with the name Breslaw. The house was built around 1720 for Jacques Grijspeert, who comes from Breslau: the present day Wroclaw.
Polish royal crown
The Singel 45 property is crowned by the Polish royal crown.
In Spuistraat 42, the plaque ‘Polish Kamay’ can be seen: nine men rowing a square vessel. A kamay was a riverboat with a house in the middle. It was used to transport grain.
Jewish immigrants from Poland
A common family name in Amsterdam is Polak, an indication for someone from Poland. In the 17th and 18th centuries, many Jews from Germany and Poland settled in prosperous Amsterdam. Famous Amsterdammers with the name Polak include Henri Polak (1868-1943), socialist and chairman of the General Dutch Diamond Workers Association; Benjamin Polak (1917-1993), councilor and general practitioner, and Wim Polak, mayor of Amsterdam from 1977-1983. In 2008, a wide natural stone staircase on the Amstel, corner Nieuwe Prinsengracht, was named after former mayor Wim Polak.
Image: Damplein, ©communications-unlimited.nl