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Reporting from Amsterdam: Nazi chess

We flew overnight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam and arrived happily on time this morning. We hit the ground running, touring the Rijksmuseum this afternoon. The museum is of course the home of many magnificent works including, perhaps most famously, Rembrandt’s Night Watch. The museum just reopened this year after a 10-year reconstruction project. The reconstructed museum is magnificent.

We are taking in what Amsterdam has to offer for a few days before we catch the National Review cruise of the Norwegian fjords with the NR all stars. Thanks to the several readers who posted kind comments on my post regarding the trip yesterday.

Heading over to pick up our luggage when we arrived this morning, Carole W. of Park City, Utah stopped us to say hello. Carole had been on the flight from Minneapolis with us and said her friend Jane W. of Boston, Mass. had texted her to let her know that we would be on the cruise. We met up with Jane at the baggage carousel. Carole and Jane are traveling together on the NR cruise. This will be their seventh time around on a National Review cruise and I gather it will be a form of group therapy for all of us. I certainly feel better already.

The Rijksmuseum holds over a million pieces, only a fraction of which are on display at any given time. A few of the items on display recall the Nazi occupation. The museum is reputedly the only national museum in the world that is not only a museum of painting, not only a museum of the decorative arts, but also a museum of history.

The museum is now arranged chronologically, with the twentieth century gallery on the top (third) floor. On the third floor we happened on to the item below, one of the most sinister I have ever seen in a museum. As Dan Hayes put it for CNN: “It looks like a large, ugly, ostentatious chess set at first sight, but look closer and the pawns are helmeted soldiers, the rooks howitzers and the bishops fighter aircraft. The set was a gift from leading Nazi Heinrich Himmler to Anton Mussert, a senior figure in the Dutch National Socialist party, as a reward for his loyalty.” Engravings around the board list the names of countries the Nazis had occupied by 1940. They don’t show up on the photo I took, but they are there.

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