The End of Erc’s Quest

August 12, 2009

Eric’s journey continues, onto Henri Chapelle, the American Cemetery located at the point where Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, meet. Eight thousand graves line up in a green valley nestled in the Hillside with an American flag fluttering at the back. It was a beautiful day with the sun shining but not too hot, the grounds tended so well that it is hard to find a pebble to place on the graves with Jewish stars. But I did, and wandered up and down the rows reading the names of men who were contemporaries of my father, men with old Jewish men names, but who never got to grow old. I wondered, were they happy to be in the army? Where the grateful to have unlimited food for the first time in their lives, as my father was? Many were from New York, a few from and Illinois or Massachusetts, but also, I saw Tennessee, Missouri and Maine carved along the triangular sides of the simple headstones, even a captain from Louisiana.

Eric asked for the location of the grave of the man from his father’s unit.

“Are you family?”

The administrators of the cemetery still do escorted tours and present a flag to family members. But he declined, only an interested descendent of a compatriot.

I tried to get a stone on each Jewish grave, some mental figuring- if Jews were 3 per cent of the population and there were 8,000 graves that was 240 graves. ( I was compulsive enough to check- I counted of a section of ten rows by ten rows and sure enough there were three Stars of Davids among 97 crosses) I apologize for any graves I missed, and I apologize to all the others for not physically acknowledging my gratitude.

We drove straight north through Holland, through driving rain and no apparent windmills. We made it to Utrecht in the late afternoon with an hour left to visit the Rietveld-Schröder House. With the rain finally letting up a bit we arrived at the corner of Prinz Hendrkslaan Strree and parked in front of a square cement house outlined with primary colors- a three dimensional version of a Mondrian painting.
The audio tour (hey-its included in the admission) described the house a young widow created with the architect Reitveld in 1924, a cubic space with open floor plans and moveable walls that illustrate the de Stijl movement. The man in the ticket office explained it like this- when you want to develop of movement beyond realism you remove everything from the page and what you are left with is a blank page and a line. The house in the spacial manifestation of simplicity, all horizontal and vertical lines and primary colors (including the specially made radiators) with symmetry not to be found anywhere. It is a house that alludes to a love story as well, as the audio tells us. The architect, Reitveld moves into the house, only after his wife dies. But the friendly audio voice assures us they were not only collaborators(women could not really be architects at that time) as well as lovers and soul mates.

Back to Amsterdam- including almost a complete ring around the ring road since we are no better at auto maps than street plans, too late to return to the car to Europa Car we fed the parking machine an incredible amount of Euros and then dinner at Greek restaurant.

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