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Jewish Historical Museum


The first Jews to settle permanently in the Netherlands were descendents of Spanish and Portuguese Jews. Their arrival in the Netherlands was a result of dramatic changes on the Iberian peninsula, where Jews had lived for centuries. In 1492, under the pressure of the Inquisition, the Jews of Spain were forced to chose between exile and conversion to Catholicism. Many Spanish Jews fled to Portugal where, in 1497, they were subjected to forced conversion en masse. Nevertheless, in Spain and Portugal some Jewish converts remained secretly faithful to Judaism in the privacy of their homes while living as Catholics in the eyes of the larger world.

Following the establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal in 1536, a close watch was kept on forcibly converted Jews. This led many to seek refuge elsewhere,  including Brazil and France. A half century later, some arrived in the Republic of the United Netherlands as merchants. They settled in Amsterdam from where they dealt in Brazilian sugar and tobacco and in Indian diamonds, spices, and cotton, often via commercial connections they still maintained with Lisbon. In Amsterdam, many Spanish and Portuguese converts and their descendents chose to revert to Judaism. Because of their Iberian origins, we refer to this group as Sephardic Jews (Sepharad being Hebrew for Iberia); and, because their vernacular language was Portuguese, we also refer to them as Portuguese Jews.

Jews from Central and Eastern Europe began to arrive in the Republic following 1630. These so-called Hoogduitse (High-German) and Ashkenazim (Ashkenazic Jews, Ashkenaz being the Hebrew word for the German lands) spoke Yiddish, a mixture of vernacular German with Hebrew and Slavic elements and written in Hebrew characters. Most of the Ashkenazim who arrived in Amsterdam were refugees from the carnage of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and from the depredations of Bogdan Chmielnitski during the Ukrainian uprising against Polish rule in 1648.

Many of the Ashkenazic immigrants arrived in Amsterdam in desperate straights. They were permitted to settle in Amsterdam in part because of the openness of the city and in part because of the financial support and guarantees forthcoming from their Sephardic co-religionists, this despite the differences between the two communities. Indeed, Portuguese and Ashkenazic Jews spoke different languages and came from quite different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Despite these differences both groups were viewed in the eyes of the outside world simply as Jews, a single religious community.

During the early years of the seventeenth century Jewish settlement in Amsterdam encountered few problems. Unofficially, Jews were permitted to practice their religion in the privacy of their homes. Officially, however, Jews were denied full rights. In about 1615, social and religious tension led to the consideration of legislation restricting Jews. Although such legislation was not adopted, in 1619 it was decided that each individual city and town in the Netherlands was free to decide whether they wanted to admit Jews and, if so, under what conditions. Dutch cities and towns were also free to legally restrict Jews to reside in separate 'ghettos’ although in practice this was never enforced.


During the eighteenth century, Jews began to settle outside of Amsterdam. In addition to Jewish life in Mokum (from Hebrew 'Makom,' or 'place'), as Jews referred to Amsterdam, a vibrant Jewish life arose in the cities and towns of the provincial Netherlands or, as Jews called it, the Mediene (from the Hebrew word for 'state'). In cities such as The Hague, Rotterdam, and Middelburg Sephardic communities arose that looked to the mother community in Amsterdam for example.

The first Ashkenazic communities in the Netherlands, however, followed a different pattern. These settlers bypassed Amsterdam, moving from Germany directly into the Groningen, Gelderland, Overijssel, and other eastern provinces of the Netherlands. Askenazic communities were also formed in the semi-independent trading towns in west of the Netherlands and on the banks of the Zuiderzee. From a Jewish point of view, a new community or Kehilla (from the Hebrew word for 'congregation') only came into being when it counted among its members at least ten adult men aged thirteen or older. Indeed, a gathering of ten such adult men (in Hebrew Minyan) is the basis for Jewish religious services.

In the new communities of the Mediene, religious services were held in private homes or farm houses until a construction of synagogue was permitted or could be afforded. In addition to a synagogue, the infrastructure of each new community also included a Mikva (ritual bath), a study house for religious instruction, and a separate cemetery in which to bury the Jewish dead.

Each Jewish community in the Mediene was seen as autonomous. Synagogues, Mikvas, study houses, and cemeteries were financed through an internal structure of tax levies, donations, and fines. Elected elders (Hebrew: Parnassim) established such rules (Hebrew: Takkanot) and presented them to the local civil authorities for approval. The Parnassim were held responsible for the order and social and economic welfare and conduct of the portion of the so-called 'Jewish Nation' under their control.

Traditional Jewish occupations in the Mediene included commerce, shop keeping, and trade in, and slaughter of, cattle. Depending on its size and wealth, each Jewish community employed its own rabbi, cantor, teacher, and scribe. In accordance with Jewish dietary laws, the presence of a local ritual slaughterer and inspector was an absolute necessity. In smaller communities several or all of these functions were performed by a single individual. In every community, charitable organizations served both social and religious functios, ensuring care for the poor, the sick, the dying, and the dead, as well as support for brides without dowries, pregnant women, widows, orphans, needy students and teachers, etc.


Throughout the eighteenth century Amsterdam remained the fulcrum of Jewish life in the Netherlands. This began to change in 1796 with the granting of full civil rights to all inhabitants of the Netherlands, Jews included. As a result, Jews were permitted to settle wherever they desired. During the first half of the nineteenth century a great number of new Jewish communities were established across the Netherlands. In terms of communal administration, Jewish Netherlands was divided into twelve 'main synagogues' which were divided into 'ring synagogues' and 'subsidiary churches.' Originally this hierarchy was under strong central control, however, the institutionalization of the division between church and state in the Netherlands during the second half of the nineteenth century led to increased autonomy of local communities.

Jewish life in the Mediene reached its apogee in around 1885. Thereafter - except in those towns and cities with a marked industrial character - the number of Jewish communities in the Mediene declined. In the communities that remained, processes of emancipation and integration brought great changes to the character and organization of Jewish life. Alongside traditional religious and charitable organizations, new Jewish secular organizations arose, social, political, and Zionist.

During the first decades of the twentieth century, many of the country's smaller Jewish communities lost their independence or ceased to exist. As a result, Amsterdam reemerged more as the center of Jewish life in the Netherlands.

During the Second World War, the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany. The Germans destroyed almost all Jewish life in the Mediene. What little that remained in the aftermath of Nazi terror declined steadily during the postwar years.


In 2005, the jewish communities belonging to the Nederlands Israëlietisch Kerkgenootschap, the Netherlands' main Jewish organization, counted over 5,000 members. Its thirty-two communities are grouped into four districts: Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, and a provincial rabbinate.

The Kerkgenootschap Verbond van Liberaal-Religieuze Joden in Nederland (the Netherlands' central organization of Reformed Jews) today comprises nine local communities with a total membership of about 1100 families. The largest of its communities is that of Amsterdam, with a total of 1,650 members.

The Portugees Israëlietisch Kerkgenootschap, the descendants of Amsterdam's original Portuguese Jewish community, now totals 270 families.

Hebrews of the Portuguese Nation: Conversos and Community
in Early Modern Amsterdam
(Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1997),  pp. 1,2, 4 and 18
Oxford Academic, The American Historical Review
Miriam Bodiam.

The Portuguese conversos who made their way to Amsterdam in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries would not have been conspicuous upon arrival, despite their ignorance of Dutch and their Iberian dress. Foreign immigration to the United Provinces was at a peak in these years. In at least one quarter of the city, around the Bloemstraat, it was easier to make oneself understood in French or Flemish than in Dutch. Later in the seventeenth century the German poet Philipp von Zesen described the Amsterdam Exchange as a place where "almost the whole world trades" - one could find there "Poles, Hungarians, Walloons, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Muscovites, Persians, Turks, and even, occasionally, Hindus." Some of the foreigners were temporary residents, but by the late sixteenth century thousands of foreigners had already settled permanently in Amsterdam. Some had fled war, some religious persecution; others were drawn by economic opportunities in the bustling metropolis on the Amstel.

It was into this milieu that a few Portuguese converso merchants and their families introduced themselves in the last years of the sixteenth century. By 1603 one could speak of a tiny ex-converso community which had established Jewish worship with the aid of a rabbi from Emden. Not long thereafter, in 1609, the community entered a period of extremely rapid growth. In that year the Twelve Years Truce ended a Spanish embargo on Dutch commerce and shipping which had also blocked Dutch trade with Portugal, then under Spanish rule. The truce opened up rich possibilities in Amsterdam for "Portuguese" immigrants, who brought with them experience in Portuguese colonial trade.

What had begun as a small nucleus of merchant families had developed by 1639 into a relatively conspicuous community of well over a thousand persons. Portuguese Jews could be seen entering and leaving the public synagogue they had built, burying their dead at the cemetery they had established just outside the city and negotiating on the Stock Exchange floor.

During its heyday in the 1670s, the community had a population of about 2,500; its wealth was given concrete expression in the form of an elegant and monumental new synagogue (still a landmark in Amsterdam); and with its Hebrew printing press, diaspora-wide welfare activity, and distinguished rabbis, its reputation in the Jewish world was firmly established. It would have taken a canny observer indeed to perceive that the community was in fact facing a precipitous decline. (pp. 1-2)

[The Sephardim] - generally, in the first half of the seventeenth century, they tended to specialize in Portuguese colonial wares such as sugar, tobacco, spices, and diamonds, trading almost exclusively with Lisbon, Porto, Madeira, and the Azores. Being engaged in this branch of commerce, it was highly advantageous for them to be located in Amsterdam, which was the main northern entrepôt for colonial commodities. But as a result they were also highly vulnerable to the vicissitudes of Dutch-Iberian relations. This situation changed, however, in the second half of the century (after the signing of the Treaty of Münster in 1648), when Spanish and Spanish-American ports were opened to Dutch "Portuguese" merchants. The focus of their activity shifted in this period to two new routes: trade between the Caribbean and Spanish America, and the wool trade between Spain and Amsterdam.

Once communal institutions had been firmly established, the city became a magnet for other Jews. Yiddish-speaking Ashkenzi Jews trickled in - then flooded in - from Germany and Poland, most of them poor and unlearned. They were not welcomed by the Portuguese Jews and lived, for all practical purposes, a separate collective existence. The "Portuguese" community grew almost entirely from converso immigration. (p. 4)

Settlement in Amsterdam was an act of liberation and an opportunity to repossess the past. From this point of view, the efforts of the Amsterdam "Portuguese" to reconstitute their Jewishness bear comparison to the efforts in modern times of once-colonialized or otherwise culturally dominated peoples to restore an "authentic" lost heritage. (p. 18)


Amsterdam became a haven for Jewish refugees from the Inquisition.
Jewish Learning  Jane S.Gerber

In 1492, Spain expelled its Jewish population. The sizable Jewish community was given three months to liquidate its property and leave. Two places offered immediate relief: Portugal and the Ottoman Empire. However, as the political situation across Europe shifted, new opportunities for Jewish settlement materialized, particularly Holland, which emerged from the 80 year Wars of Spanish Succession as an independent nation in 1648.  


Dutch principles of religious toleration were born out of the exigencies of warfare and the need to establish peace among her religiously heterogeneous population. New Christian skills and contacts were welcomed during the protracted warfare with Spain. Article XIII of the Treaty of Utrecht, which ratified the union of the northern provinces, declared that no one was to be prosecuted for his religious beliefs. Although this clause was intended to benefit the Protestants and keep peace among Christians, it provided the legal basis upon which Jews immediately began to take up residence and seek recognition in Holland. There the Sephardim would find the ideal conditions to create a New Jerusalem.

The Dutch capital was the emporium of 17th-century Europe, her harbor teeming with ships brimful of goods from the Americas and the Far East. Her people eagerly invented themselves as a new nation; beguiled by commerce and its possibilities, they were nonetheless characterized by sobriety of behavior and distaste for both superstition and any pretension of nobility. The city’s great wealth was based on three factors: her fleet, her thriving trade, and a policy of tolerance that attracted some of the most enterprising and ambitious souls on the Continent….


In this newfound mercantilism, marranos [crypto-Jews; Jews who converted to Christianity but continued to practice Judaism in secret] became especially prominent. In 1604 a certain Manuel Rodrigues de Vega petitioned the city’s burgomasters to be allowed to establish silk mills there along with two other Portuguese Jews. In short order, the Sephardim would develop not only the domestic silk industry but also the silk trade, much of the tobacco trade, and commerce in sugar, corals and diamonds. Eventually, Sephardic poets, dramatists, calligraphers and copper-etchers would also be found alongside the customary merchants, bankers, and physicians.

Now that it seemed the Jew could finally cease their wanderings, they began to poor into Holland from Spain, Italy, Portugal, Germany and Antwerp. At first, religious services were held inconspicuously in private homes as well as the residence of Samuel Pallache, a Sephardic Jew who was Morocco’s ambassador to the Netherlands from 1612 to 1616.

To a certain extent, the position of the Jews was regularized in 1597 when burghers’ rights were granted to members of the “Portuguese nation” in Amsterdam. It was not until 1606 that one finds the first official reference to Joodche Gemeente (the Jewish congregation), but by 1609 the Sephardic community numbered 200 souls and supported two synagogues. A decade after, a third house of worship would be founded….


“The Jewish Bride” by Rembrandt, circa 1665. (Rijksmuseum via Google Art Project)

Ironically, it became better to be known in Amsterdam as a Jew than as a “Portuguese merchant,” thanks to anti-Iberian sentiment after the breakaway from Spain. Many Dutch intellectuals became fascinated with the somewhat exotic inhabitants of the Jewish quarter and sought them out for conversation.

At the outset of his career, Rembrandt, young and unknown, sketched many of his Portuguese neighbors, including Menasseh ben Israel [eminent rabbi and scholar; who petitioned Oliver Cromwell for the readmission of the Jews to England in 1655-6]. Conversely, the Sephardic Jews reaped the benefits of the lively intellectual life created by Amsterdam’s savants, who eagerly cultivated theology, philosophy, jurisprudence, mathematics and oriental languages.


In 1617,the heads of the Jewish school voted to establish a printing press. Within the decade, several private Hebrew presses were also set up including that operated by the renowned intellectual Menasseh ben Israel. During its first twenty years, his multilingual press produced more than sixty titles, including Bibles, prayerbooks, and his own original works. Well known among the philosophers, scientists, and theologians of Amsterdam, he gave sermons that attracted flocks of Christians as well as Jews, and would even represent his enterprise at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1634. By this time, since Hebrew printing had decayed in Venice, Amsterdam was effectively the Judaic printing capital of Europe…


Meanwhile, in contrast with the Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire, the Portuguese Jews of Amsterdam remained deeply immersed in Spanish and Lusitanian high culture as it evolved in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. While the Ottoman Sephardim distinguished themselves by continuing to use medieval Spanish in everyday speech, writing this Ladino in Hebrew characters and incorporating Hebrew words and expressions, the Amsterdam Sephardim used the living Spanish or Portuguese of his day, constantly changing linguistically and written with Roman characters.

In fact, the culture of the Portuguese Jewish émigrés bore so few traces of the traditional Hebrew spirit that most of its members knew no Hebrew at all when they arrived in Amsterdam. They had to be laboriously schooled as adults by the community’s tutors and rabbis. As surviving lists of private book collections show, they continued their interest in Iberian literature, which was a main source of their shared community pride. They created something of a miniature Lisbon or Madrid on the banks of the Amstel, on Jodenbreestraat, populated by poets and dramatists writing in Spanish and Portuguese as well as men resembling Jewish hidalgos (Spanish noblemen of a lower rank), who preserved the manners of the nobility and retained their solidarity with other Iberian Jews.

For all of their sophistication and pride in their secular heritage, however, most continued to harbor well-founded fears of the Inquisition. Even in Amsterdam, Sephardic Jews used aliases in business, if only to protect relatives and business associates who had remained behind in Iberia.


Yad Vashem

 When Hitler rose to power in Germany in 1933, many German refugees moved to the Netherlands. Those that entered the country illegally were interned in camps. In 1939 a central camp was put up in Westerbork for this purpose. After the outbreak of World War II in 1939, approximately 34,000 refugees entered the Netherlands, and more than 15,000 were still there in May 1940.

Germany invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940; four days later, the Dutch army surrendered. Queen Wilhelmina fled to Great Britain, where she set up a government-in-exile. The heads of the government ministries stayed behind, forming a substitute cabinet. Hitler soon ordered the establishment of a German civil administration, led by Reich Commissioner Arthur SeyssInquart. At that time, the Netherlands had a Jewish population of 140,000; 75,000 Jews lived in Amsterdam.

 When the Germans invaded, many Jews tried to escape the country. A series of anti-Jewish measures began in the fall of 1940. In September, almost all Jewish newspapers were shut down, and in November, all Jewish civil servants were fired, including Lodewijk Ernst Visser, the president of the Supreme Court. Soon the Germans began "aryanization" by ordering all Jewish business owners to register their enterprises. In January 1941 the Jews themselves were ordered to register with the government.

In response to these anti-Jewish measures, the Jewish community decided to institute a committee which would serve as their leadership; the Jewish Coordinating Committee, chaired by Visser, was established in December 1940. Two months later, the Germans set up a Judenrat called the Joodse Raad; it was chaired by Abraham Asscher and David Cohen. Several days later, the Germans arrested 389 young people and sent them to Buchenwald (and from there to Mauthausen) in response to a fight in a cafe between Jews and German police. In a singular act of solidarity with the deported Jews, strikes broke out throughout the Netherlands, beginning on February 25, 1941. Responding to pressure put on the Jews by the Nazis, the strikes ended  after three days. It was clear to the Nazis, however, that most of the Dutch would not be converted to Nazism.

Nevertheless, while some Dutch were inclined to sympathize, others collaborated. Ever since the Nazi Party had risen to power in Germany in the early 1930s, the Netherlands had had its own antisemitic, right-wing movements, whose members strongly resented incoming Jewish refugees. On the other hand, many Dutch citizens, including many intellectuals, strenuously criticized the anti-Jewish measures being enacted.

 The Jews' situation deteriorated throughout 1941. Reinhard Heydrich set up a Central Office for Jewish Emigration in the Netherlands. During the summer, Jews were banned from public places, subjected to a night curfew and travel restrictions, and thrown out of schools and universities. Operational Staff Rosenberg (Einsatzstab Rosenberg) began plundering Jewish art and property. In late 1941 the Germans opened forced labor camps, and charged the Joodse Raad with finding workers to fill ever-increasing labor quotas.

 In January 1942 the Germans began removing the Jews from the provinces and concentrating them in Amsterdam, and in March, the German

administration started confiscating Jewish property. A month later the Jews

were ordered to wear the Jewish badge (see also BADGE, JEWISH). Many nonJews protested this decree, and some even wore Jewish badges in solidarity with their country's Jews.

 DEPORTATIONS began in the summer of 1942. Jews were taken to Westerbork, and from there to AUSCHWITZ. By October, deportation was accelerated: Jewish men in Dutch labor camps were sent to Westerbork, where they were joined by their families, and all were sent to Auschwitz.

 During that summer the Germans also began confiscating Jewish money. Jews had to put all their money in blocked bank accounts; those accounts were soon cancelled and all the moneys deposited into one general account which was used to fund the Joodse Raad.

 By April 1943 Jews were only allowed to live in Amsterdam, in the VUGHT and Westerbork camps. Deportations were again accelerated in May 1943. By the summer of that year, only a small number of Jews were left in the Netherlands; on the eve of the Jewish New Year, in September, most of the remaining Jews---including the Joodse Raad---were deported to Westerbork. Most of the Jews deported from the Netherlands did not survive.

 Some 25,000 Dutch Jews managed to go into hiding after being ordered to report for forced labor or deportation; about one-third were eventually discovered by the Germans. One famous case is that of the family of Anne FRANK, who lived in a secret annex for two years before being found by the Germans. The Franks, like other Jews, were helped into hiding by non-Jewish contacts. These non-Jews would help Jews move from hideout to hideout, and provide food, ration cards, and forged identity documents. Many nonJews selflessly helped hidden Jews without asking for any money. Some, however, took advantage of the situation. Nonetheless, all those who helped

Jews were in danger of being deported to CONCENTRATION CAMPS. Later on, organizations were set up to help Jews in hiding, and in early 1944 the national underground organization set up a section to assist Jews in hiding. Many children were also hidden with non-Jewish families; in all, 4,500 children were taken in, and very few were found by the Germans.

 Some Jews tried to escape the country altogether, but this proved a very difficult task. Most Jews who tried to reach Britain failed, and movement through FRANCE and BELGIUM was very dangerous. Some Jews did manage to reach SWITZERLAND, and some even reached SPAIN. Several hundred Dutch Jews escaped by being exchanged for Germans, while others were let out of BERGEN-BELSEN because they held Latin American passports.

 No specifically Jewish resistance movement was established in the Netherlands, but many Jews joined in general resistance activities. The Netherlands was liberated on May 6, 1945. After the war, the Dutch Jewish community tried Asscher and Cohen of the Joodse Raad for collaboration; they were removed from communal posts. The two were later exonerated, but they never returned to Jewish public life


Encyclopedia Brittanica, Michael Berenbaum
Anne Frank, (born June 12, 1929, Frankfurt am Main, Germany—
died February/March 1945, Bergen-Belsen concentration camp,
near Hannover,
Jewish girl whose diary of her family’s two years in hiding
during the German occupation of the Netherlands
became a classic of war literature.

Anne Frank

Early in the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler, Anne’s father, Otto Frank (1889–1980), a German businessman, took his wife and two daughters to live in Amsterdam. In 1941, after German forces occupied the Netherlands, Anne was compelled to transfer from a public school to a Jewish one. On June 12, 1942, she received a red-and-white plaid diary for her 13th birthday. That day she began writing in the book: “I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.”

When Anne’s sister, Margot, was faced with deportation (supposedly to a forced-labour camp), the Franks went into hiding on July 6, 1942, in the backroom office and warehouse of Otto Frank’s food-products business. With the aid of a few non-Jewish friends, among them Miep Gies, who smuggled in food and other supplies, the Frank family and four other Jews—Hermann and Auguste van Pels and their son, Peter, and Fritz Pfeffer—lived confined to the “secret annex.” During this time, Anne wrote faithfully in her diary, recounting day-to-day life in hiding, from ordinary annoyances to the fear of capture. She discussed typical adolescent issues as well as her hopes for the future, which included becoming a journalist or a writer. Anne’s last diary entry was written on August 1, 1944. Three days later the annex was discovered by the Gestapo, which was acting on a tip from Dutch informers.

The Frank family was transported to Westerbork, a transit camp in the Netherlands, and from there to Auschwitz, in German-occupied Poland, on September 3, 1944, on the last transport to leave Westerbork for Auschwitz. Anne and Margot were transferred to Bergen-Belsen the following month. Anne’s mother died in early January, just before the evacuation of Auschwitz on January 18, 1945. It was established by the Dutch government that both Anne and Margot died in a typhus epidemic in March 1945, only weeks before the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, but scholars in 2015 revealed new research, including analysis of archival data and first-person accounts, indicating that the sisters might have perished in February 1945. Otto Frank was found hospitalized at Auschwitz when it was liberated by Soviet troops on January 27, 1945.

Friends who searched the hiding place after the family’s capture later gave Otto Frank the papers left behind by the Gestapo. Among them he found Anne’s diary, which was published as Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (originally in Dutch, 1947). Precocious in style and insight, it traces her emotional growth amid adversity. In it she wrote, “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are really good at heart.”

The Diary, which has been translated into more than 65 languages, is the most widely read diary of the Holocaust, and Anne is probably the best known of Holocaust victims. The Diary was also made into a play that premiered on Broadway in October 1955, and in 1956 it won both the Tony Award for best play and the Pulitzer Prize for best drama. A film version directed by George Stevens was produced in 1959. The play was controversial: it was challenged by screenwriter Meyer Levin, who wrote an early version of the play (later realized as a 35-minute radio play) and accused Otto Frank and his chosen screenwriters, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, of sanitizing and de-Judaizing the story. The play was often performed in high schools throughout the world and was revived (with additions) on Broadway in 1997–98.

A new English translation of the Diary, published in 1995, contains material that was edited out of the original version, which makes the revised translation nearly one-third longer than the first. The Frank family’s hiding place on the Prinsengracht, a canal in Amsterdam, became a museum that is consistently among the city’s most-visited tourist sites.


The Netherlands   Holocaust Encyclopedia

World Jewish Congress - Netherlands

Sephardic Jews in the Netherlands

Macrohistory and World Report

The Jews Come to Holland

Jewish History of the Netherlands, Jewish Encyclopedia 1906

JThe Coffee Trader by David Liss.  Set in Amsterdam in 1659 is an excellent novel about the Jewish community, relationships between the ashkenazim and sephardim  and the coffee market.

Why Spinoza Was Excommunicated   Humanities, Steven Nadler, 2013

Why Baruch Spinoza is still excommunicated,
Hero to some, heretic to others, - an appeal to rehabilitate the Dutch thinker has been rejected
Jewish Chronicle, London, Simon Rocker 2014

Holland: 17th-18th Centuries   Oxford Bibliographies


In the sixteenth century the Netherlands were a Spanish colony revolting against religious persecution.

Religious tolerance was seen as the key to political stability with all denominations living peacefully together to maintain the worldwide trade that was the new nation's lifeblood.

Many Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 fled first to Portugal and from there to Amsterdam.  The first half of the seventeenth century saw the development of  a thriving Jewish community. In 1654, some Jews sailed to the Americas and founded the first New World Jewish community .

The systematic smuggling of crypto-Jews from Portugal led to the creation of an unofficial Inquisition in Zeeland so that some landed temporarily in England where they woulld have to wait before going to Flanders.  The Sephardi synagogue in Amsterdam was authorised in 1639 and built between 1671-5.  in 1656 a Dutch Jew, Menasseh ben Israel, petitioned Oliver Cromwell to allow Jews to return to Britain. Bevis Marks in London is a smaller version of the Amsterdam synagogue and opened in 1701.

Once communal institutions had been firmly established they became a magnet for new Jews. Of these many were yiddish-speaking Ashkenzi Jews from Germany and Poland so creating two communities.

Amsterdam was the fulcrum of Jewish life in the Netherlands until 1796 when full civil rights were given to all, so Jews were now permitted to settle widely. They began to settle in the the provincial Netherlands or, as Jews called it, the Mediene (from the Hebrew for 'state').

The first Ashkenazic communities in the Netherlands, however, followed a different pattern.

Jewish life in the Mediene reached its apogee in around 1885. There was subsequent decline except in towns and cities with a marked industrial character.

During the Second World War, the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany. They destroyed almost all Jewish life in the Mediene.  Much of the Nazi destruction has since been rebuilt.


AMSTERDAM with song
InterConsult21 2014 (3.00)

Napoli Underground (29.22)






Hundred Years
Dutch Jewry   

in Amsterdam

in Amsterdam


Anne Frank