Since Amsterdam has a rich cultural history, it is the birthplace of many famous people. A short collection of Amsterdam’s finest.
Probably the most famous of all Amsterdammers ever. Born in the working class neighbourhood of Betondorp (Concrete village) Johan Cruijff is known as one of the best football players that have ever lived. Cruyff was voted European Player of the Century in an election held by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics, and came second behind Pelé in their World Player of the Century poll.
During his career he has played for Ajax Amsterdam, Barcelona, LA Aztecs and Ajax’ rival Feyenoord Rotterdam. After his career as a player he has been manager of Ajax, Barcelona and Catalonia. As a player he has won several national titles in The Netherlands as Spain, as well as 4 European Cups and one Worldcup for club teams. Next to a succesful player he has been a succesful manager too, winning several national and international titles with Ajax and Barcelona.
Cruijff had many nicknames, like Jopie, Number 14, El Flaco, El Salvador and The Oracle of Betondorp. In Germany they also called him something that translates best to The Steam or The Vapour, since he was an avid smoker throughout his career. He even claimed that some days he smoked about 80(!) cigarettes. Eventhough he quit smoking at 4,4 he still unfortunately died of lung cancer when he was just 68 years old.
Baruch de Spinoza
Baruch Spinoza is among the most influential modern philosophers and his monumental contributions to the field laid the groundwork for many other likeminded thinkers. Spinoza was born and raised in Amsterdam by a Sephardic Jewish family and is commonly considered to be the most important Dutch philosopher to have ever lived.
Spinoza was a pioneer in Biblical criticism, maintaining that the Bible should be read and treated like any other historical document. In the 17th century these thoughts were pretty radical, and therefore he was excommunicated by the Portuguese Jewish community he was actually from. Spinoza is thought to have died as the result of too many years of inhaling glass dust from his lens-grinding activities; he was only 44 when he passed way.
One of the most famous beers, or maybe even THE most famous beer in the world, is Heineken. The beer was first brewed in 1873 after Gerard Heineken bought De Hooiberg (The Haystack) brewery in Amsterdam and developed a new beer together with Dr. Elion. A student of Louis Pasteur who developed a yeast specifically for Heineken.
Eventhough Freddy Heineken wasn’t the founder of the brand, his grandfather was, he is considered to be the most famous person of the Heineken family. In 1941, he entered the service of the Heineken company, which by then was no longer owned by the family. He bought back stock several years later, to ensure the family controlled the company again. He created the Heineken Holding that owned 50.005% of Heineken International.
By the time of his resignation as chairman of the board in 1989 he had transformed Heineken from a brand that was known primarily in the Netherlands into a brand name recognized worldwide. At the time of his death in 2002, Heineken was one of the richest people in the Netherlands, with a net worth of 9.5 billion guilders.
Eddie Van Halen
Widely considered as a real American musician, Eddie van Halen was actually born in Amsterdam. After living a couple of years in the Dutch capital the Van Halen family moved to another Dutch city, Nijmegen. Another 3 years later the parents moved the family to the U.S. in 1962 when Eddie was just 6 years old. Since his native tongue was Dutch and he couldn’t speak any English Eddie and his brother Alex were considered minority students and were bullied by their classmates.
Since their father was a Jazz pianist and the boys wanted to focus their attention to something else than the bullying they started to learn to play the piano. They commuted from Pasadena to San Pedro regularly to study with an elderly piano teacher, named Stasys Kalvaitis. While not being able to read music, Eddie still won first place in the annual piano competition held at Long Beach City College between 1964 and 1967.
In 1972 the two brothers srated a band called Genesis. When they found out that name was already in use, they changed the name to mammoth, to finaly settle for the name Van Halen. Within a couple of years the band became a very popular rock band known for their energetic shows. Their best known song is ‘Jump’ that reached top position in a couple of countries.
Eddie van halen struggled with alcohol and drug abuse pretty much his whole life and at the age of 65 he eventually died of a stroke at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
One of Amsterdam’s most famous inhabitants is actually not born here. Anne Frank was born as Annelies Marie Frank in Frankfurt, Germany, but spent most of her short life in Amsterdam. The Frank family fled to Amsterdam to escape the Nazi persecution of Jews but was trapped in the Dutch city as the German invasion swept across Europe. Hiding in secret rooms (‘The Achterhuis’) behind a bookcase in her father’s workplace, Anne kept a diary which depicted the horror and fear of everyday life under Nazi occupation. The house in which the Frank family hid for two years before being discovered and arrested by the Nazis still exists as the Anne Frank Museum and is one of Amsterdam’s biggest tourist attractions.
On the morning of 4 August 1944, the Achterhuis was stormed by a group of German uniformed police. On 5 August, she and her family were transferred to a House of Detention. Two days later they were transported to the Westerbork transit camp, through which more than 100,000 Jews, mostly Dutch and German, had passed. Having been arrested in hiding, they were considered criminals and sent to the Punishment Barracks for hard labour.
After a month in a camp in Upper-Silesia she and 8000 other women were transferred to the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen. In early 1945, a typhus epidemic spread through the camp, killing 17,000 prisoners. Due to these chaotic conditions, it was not possible to determine the specific cause of Anne’s death; however, there was evidence that she died from the epidemic when she was only 15 years old.