I have collected some articles about Dutch Jewish culture and history that will provide productive context for our exploration of this culture, and by extension the many cultures and ethnicities that make up the Netherlands today. According to many studies of global demographics, Amsterdam is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Since our time together is limited, please read this material on your own. Altogether, this comprises about twenty pages – below – and links that will take you to, ultimately, millions of pages. But I think a cursory read-through will be enough for our purposes.
Start here, on current anti-Semitism problem in The Netherlands today – from http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/12605#.UlAbhRjn9aQ (posted December 2012):
In the Netherlands, the country of Baruch Spinoza, police officers began wearing yarmulkes to catch Dutch Jew haters in the act of physical or verbal assault. Jewish students are told to "put a cap over your kippah".
In Amsterdam, the shelter of Spanish Jews who fled from Inquisition, the twenty-five Lester M. Wolff van Ravenswade described the difficulties faced by Jews living in an open letter to the newspaper NRC Handelsblad: "I cannot go to public events dressed as a Jew, let alone go out on Saturday night. Which party do I have to vote for in order to live safely with the kippah on my head?".
Everywhere in Europe, steel barriers are in place outside certain buildings with Jewish or Israeli connections to prevent parking.
In many British areas where Jews live the "Shomrin", or guardians, patrol the streets like Israelis do in isolated "settlements" in Israel.
Last autumn the ancient Dutch synagogue of Weesp became the first synagogue in Europe since the Second World War to cancel Shabbat services due to the threats to the safety of the faithful.
And watch this video for another sample of current anti-Semitism problem in The Netherlands today: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7r7PhtWKSvA&feature=player_embedded#t=0
This video was broadcast on the Dutch Nederland 2 station that took place on the 17th of February, 2013. The interviewer is a volunteer youth worker Mehmet Sahin who tries to reeducate Turkish youngsters in Arnhem, a major city in the eastern part of the Netherlands.
For over a week there was hardly any reaction in the Netherlands. Nine days later, one well-known columnist, Elma Drayer, published an article in the Dutch daily Trouw in which she wrote how scandalous it was that there had been no reaction.
She wrote that if Dutch youngsters had said on television that it would have been a good thing had all Muslims been slaughtered, including little babies, there would have been massive reactions about how horrible this was.
Dutch pro-Muslim organizations would probably have organized a demonstration in which prominent leftists would also have marched.
She concluded that Jew hatred in the Netherlands is back where it had been before the Holocaust.
The video was given English subtitles by Ken Sikorski, owner of Tundra Tabloids in Finland, and sent to Arutz Sheva in order to make sure the event does not go unremarked.
Arutz Sheva interviewed anti-Semitism expert Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld with respect to the video and the lack of a Dutch response.
Q: Was there a reaction from the Jewish side?
A: The Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), which also monitors anti-Semitic incidents in the Netherlands, asked the Minister of Education to take the initiative for a nationwide investigation about anti-Semitic prejudices among high school students.
Q: Are such statements criminal offenses in the Netherlands?
A: They may be. CIDI, however, decided not to put in a complaint with the police in order not to hinder the work of the volunteer!
Q: How do you view this?
A: I think it is probably a wrong decision. What was shown here on television is the tip of the iceberg. Due to its mistaken immigration policies of the past decades, the Netherlands – like many other European countries – has allowed, in an indiscriminate manner, one million Muslim immigrants into the country.
They come often from countries where anti-Semitism is far more widespread than in the Netherlands. Even though the authorities do not wish to undertake investigations on this subject, it is clear that in the case of anti-Semitism among Muslims in the Netherlands there are three evident conclusions:
First: anti-Semitism among Muslim immigrants and their progeny is much wider spread than in the autochthonous Dutch population.
Second: violent anti-Semitic incidents perpetrated by Muslims are often more extreme than those incidents perpetrated by the native Dutch.
Three: Muslim leaders and organizations often remain silent about such incidents. This gives the impression of that whoever remains silent agrees or at least does not mind. There are only a few exceptions in the Muslim community.
Q: Why have the Dutch authorities not taken initiatives on this matter long ago?
A: I had a conversation this week with a very senior former Dutch politician and ex-minister. He says that it is out of fear of the Muslim population and the potential violence of part of it.
I think that is one reason, but not the sole one. Some political parties, such as Labor, receive a lot of Muslim votes and do not want to upset a major voting block.
Another reason is that the Netherlands once practiced severe racism in its former colonies. Many Dutch people now have feelings of guilt and claim that only white people can be racists. Therefore they look away as much as possible from minority racism and anti-Semitism.
In fact, that means looking away from the major Muslim anti-Semitism.
Q: You said that the TV broadcast was the tip of the iceberg. What do you mean by saying this?
A: The youth interviewed in the TV program were street youth, all boys. The media tries to create the impression that this is the only segment of the Muslim community where there are such problems. This is untrue. The problems of Holocaust denial and rabid anti-Semitism can also be found among many other Dutch Muslims, including university students. There is no difference between boys and girls on the subject.
There is also a desire to keep this knowledge about widespread Muslim anti-Semitism away from the public as much as possible.
Yiddish in the Netherlands http://fredbor.home.xs4all.nl/0.5/UK/home_uk.html
Yiddish was spoken in the Netherlands from the seventeenth century, when Jewish immigrants arrived from Germany and Poland. In the nineteenth century 'Western Yiddish', as it is called nowadays, lost ground when Dutch became the official language in (Jewish) schools and synagogues. From the turn of the twentieth century until the Second World War, immigrants from Eastern Europe introduced the 'Eastern Yiddish' to Holland.
The Dutch are constantly reminded of the early Jewish immigrants by the great number of Yiddish words which found their way into the Dutch language. Words like tof (tov, good), majem (majem, water), joet (yod, a bill of ten), and many more. Eastern Yiddish had very little impact.
'Sjeëriet, Resten van een taal' by Hartog Beem (1966) contains a list of Yiddish and Hebrew words which made their way into the Dutch language.
'Hebreeuwse en Jiddisje woorden in het Nederlands' (2002) contains spelling, pronouncing and meaning of the Hebrew and Jewish words in the Dutch language, which are still being used anno 2002.
See also this site.
Current interest in Yiddish is growing steadily in the Netherlands, and is taking many different forms. Please consult the calendar for coming events.
The Yiddish Foundation (Stichting Jiddisj) was founded in 1999 and is dedicated to promoting interest and knowledge of Yiddish language and literature.
The Mira Rafalowicz library has books and magazines in Yiddish, as well as Yiddish literature in translation (into Dutch, English, Hebrew, and French), and reference books.
The quarterly Grine Medine opens a window to the Yiddish literature, in Yiddish, transliterated Yiddish (Dutch transliteration), and in Dutch.
Every year there are new symposia where speakers from the Netherlands and abroad focus on a particular theme. An artistic program is always an integral part of these symposia. The last symposium, featuring the work and life of Abraham Sutzkever, took place November 9, 2003 in Amsterdam.
Musical and literary events are organised at least twice a year, giving the audience a glimpse into the richness of Yiddish culture, in Yiddish and translation.
The Yiddish Foundation initiates and stimulates Yiddish courses.
The University of Amsterdam, the Volksuniversiteit of Amsterdam and the Jewish Study Centre in Leiden all offer Yiddish courses. For more information click here.
Reading groups (Yiddishe kraysn) are active in Amsterdam and Groningen.
Beit Shalom in Amsterdam offers home for a group of people who practice their active Yiddish talking skills weekly.
The annual Jewish Festival in Amsterdam offers regular programs of Yiddish music, with local artists and guests from abroad. The Yiddish Song Workshop is one of the most popular workshops every year. Amsterdam has at least 3 Yiddish choirs, and the number of bands singing Yiddish songs and playing Klezmer music is still growing.
Migration issues impacting Dutch Jews Today, from Migration News Sheet: http://www.migrationnewssheet.eu/dutch-politician-says-jews-under-threat-from-growing-number-of-dutch-moroccans:
In a book on Dutch Judaism, published on 6 December 2010, a former leading member of the Liberal Party (VVD), Frits BOLKENSTEIN, suggested that Jews who exhibit their religious affiliation, for example by wearing a kippa or payot, should leave the Netherlands for their own safety.
According to Mr BOLKENSTEIN, the threat to Jews comes from the growing number of Dutch people of Moroccan origin. “I see no future for recognisable Jews, in particular because of anti-Semitism, specifically in Dutch Moroccans, who continue to grow in number”, he said.
Mr BOLKENSTEIN pointed out that the problem was aggravated by the many Arab television channels in the Netherlands which contribute to the spread of anti-Semitism.
He said that he was sceptical about whether measures to combat anti-Jewish sentiments in Netherlands would be effective.
“The Palestinian-Israeli conflict continues to fester”, he added. “I foresee no quick solution, and anti-Semitism will continue to exist. Moroccan and Turkish young people won’t care about the measures”.
His warning was issued when one of his former party colleagues and now leader of his own Freedom Party (PVV), Geert WILDERS, was on a visit to Israel.
The highly controversial anti-Islam politician reacted by saying the “(Dutch) Jews shouldn’t emigrate, anti-Semitic Moroccans should”.
Mr BOLKENSTEIN was himself a rather controversial figure in 2005 when, as a member of the EU Commission, he proposed a far-reaching directive on the freedom to provide services which was condemned by, inter alia, trade unions as an incitement for “social dumping”.
Good overview of Jewish Migration across Europe on European History Online: http://www.ieg-ego.eu/en/threads/europe-on-the-road/jewish-migration
Excellent overview site on Jews in The Netherlands through history, with focus on immigration and nationalism:
Robert Swierenga, The Forerunners: Dutch Jewry in the North American Diaspora
Excellent site on Jewish migration to US:http://library.thinkquest.org/20619/Jewish.html From Wikipedia – on Dutch Jews during and after WWII: 19th century and early 20th century
On 30 November 1813, William VI arrived at Scheveningen, and on 11 December he was solemnly crowned as King William I.
Chief Rabbi Lehmans of The Hague organized a special thanksgiving service and implored God's protection for the allied armies on 5 January 1814. Many Jews fought at Waterloo, where thirty-five Jewish officers died. William VI concerned himself with the organisation of the Jewish congregations. On 26 February 1814, a law was promulgated abolishing the French régime. The Jews continued to prosper in the independent Holland throughout the 19th century. By 1900, Amsterdam had 51,000 Jews with 12,500 paupers, The Hague 5,754 Jews with 846, Rotterdam 10,000 with 1,750, Groningen 2,400 with 613, Arnhem 1,224 with 349 ("Joodsche Courant," 1903, No. 44). The total population of the Netherlands in 1900 was 5,104,137, about 2% of whom were Jews.
The Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, remained a major Jewish population centre until World War II, so much so that Amsterdam was called Jerusalem of the West by its Jews. The latter part of the 19th century, as well as the first decades of the 20th century, saw an ever-expanding Jewish community in Amsterdam after Jews from the mediene (the "country" Jews, Jews who were living outside the big cities – like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague -, in numerous small congregations throughout the Dutch countryside) left their communities en masse, searching for a "better life" in the larger cities.
Dutch Jews were a relatively small part of the population and showed a strong tendency towards internal migration, which led to them being integrated into the socialist and liberal "pillars" before the Holocaust, rather than becoming part of a Jewish pillar.
The number of Jews in the Netherlands grew substantially from the early 19th century up to World War II. Between 1830 and 1930, the Jewish presence in the Netherlands increased by almost 250% (numbers given by the Jewish communities to the Dutch Census).
Number of Jews in the Netherlands 1830 – 1966
Number of Jews
Commission on Jewish Demography***
Commission on Jewish Demography***
(*) Derived from those persons who stated "Judaism" as their religion in the Dutch Census
(**) Persons with at least one Jewish grandparent. In another Nazi census the total number of people with at least one Jewish grandparent in the Netherlands was put at 160,886: 135,984 people with 4 or 3 Jewish grandparents (counted as "full Jews"); 18,912 Jews with 2 Jewish grandparents ("half Jews"), of whom 3,538 were part of a Jewish congregation; 5,990 with 1 Jewish grandparent ("quarter Jews")
Monument at Westerbork: Each stone represents one person who had stayed at Westerbork and died in a Nazi camp
In 1939, there were some 140,000 Dutch Jews living in the Netherlands, among them some 25,000 German-Jewish refugees who had fled Germany in the 1930s (other sources claim that some 34,000 Jewish refugees entered the Netherlands between 1933 and 1940, mostly from Germany and Austria). The Nazi occupation force put the number of (racially) Dutch Jews in 1941 at some 154,000. In the Nazi census, some 121,000 persons declared they were members of the (Ashkenazi) Dutch-Israelite community; 4,300 persons declared they were members of the (Sephardic) Portuguese-Israelite community. Some 19,000 persons reported having two Jewish grandparents (although it is generally believed a proportion of this number had in fact three Jewish grandparents, but declined to state that number for fear that they would be seen as Jews instead of half-Jews by the Nazi authorities). Some 6,000 persons reported having one Jewish grandparent. Some 2,500 persons who were counted in the census as Jewish were members of a Christian church, mostly Dutch Reformed, Calvinist Reformed or Roman Catholic.
In 1941, most Dutch Jews were living in Amsterdam. The census in 1941 gives an indication of the geographical spread of Dutch Jews at the beginning of World War II (province; number of Jews – this number is not based on the racial standards of the Nazis, but by what the persons declared themselves to be in the population census):
Groningen – 4,682
Friesland – 851
Drenthe – 2,498
Overijssel – 4,345
Gelderland – 6,663
Utrecht – 4,147
North Holland – 87,026 (including 79,410 in Amsterdam)
South Holland – 25,617
Zeeland – 174
North Brabant – 2,320
Limburg – 1,394
Total – 139,717
In 1945, only about 35,000 of them were still alive. The exact number of "full Jews" who survived the Holocaust is estimated to be 34,379 (of whom 8,500 were part of a mixed marriage and thus spared deportation and possible death in the Nazi concentration camps); the number of "half Jews" who were present in the Netherlands at the end of the Second World War in 1945 is estimated to be 14,545, the number of "quarter Jews" 5,990. Some 75% of the Dutch-Jewish population perished, an unusually high percentage compared with other occupied countries in western Europe.
Factors that influenced the great number of people who perished were the fact that the Netherlands was not under a military regime, because the queen and the government had fled to England, leaving the whole governmental apparatus intact. An important factor is also that Holland at that time was already the most densely inhabited country of Western Europe, making it difficult for the relatively large number of Jews to go into hiding, if they would have chosen to. Most Jews in Amsterdam were poor, which limited their options for flight or hiding. Another factor is that the country did not have much open space or woods to flee to. Also, the civil administration was advanced and offered the Nazi-German a full insight in not only the numbers of Jews, but also where they exactly lived.
A theory is that the vast majority of the nation accommodated itself to circumstances: "In their preparations for the extermination of the Jews living in The Netherlands, the Germans could count on the assistance of the greater part of the Dutch administrative infrastructure. The occupiers had to employ only a relatively limited number of their own. Dutch policemen rounded up the families to be sent to their deaths in Eastern Europe. Trains of the Dutch railways staffed by Dutch employees transported the Jews to camps in The Netherlands which were transit points to Auschwitz, Sobibor, and other death camps." With respect to Dutch collaboration, Eichmann quoted as saying 'The transports run so smoothly that it is a pleasure to see.'
This statue in Amsterdam commemorates Anne Frank, the Jewish diarist who went into hiding during the Second World War (and who is presumably represented by a stone at Westerbork)
During the first year of the occupation of the Netherlands, Jews, who were already, just as Protestants or Catholics, registered on basis of their faith with the authorities had to get a large 'J' stamped in their IDs while the whole population had to declare wether or not they had 'Jewish' roots. Jews were banned from certain occupations and further isolated from public life. Starting in January 1942, some Dutch Jews were forced to move to Amsterdam; others were directly deported to Westerbork, a concentration camp near the small village of Hooghalen which had been founded in 1939 by the Dutch government to give shelter to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution, but would fulfill the function of a transit camp to the Nazi death camps in Middle and Eastern Europe during World War II.
All non-Dutch Jews were also sent to Westerbork. In addition, over 15,000 Jews were sent to labour camps. Deportations of Jews from the Netherlands to Poland and Germany began on 15 June 1942 and ended on 13 September 1944. Ultimately some 101,000 Jews were deported in 98 transports from Westerbork to Auschwitz (57,800; 65 transports), Sobibor (34,313; 19 transports), Bergen-Belsen (3,724; 8 transports) and Theresienstadt (4,466; 6 transports), where most of them were murdered. Another 6,000 Jews were deported from other locations (like Vught) in the Netherlands to concentration camps in Germany, Poland and Austria (like Mauthausen). Only 5,200 survived. The Dutch underground hid an estimated number of Jews of some 25,000–30,000; eventually, an estimated 16,500 Jews managed to survive the war by hiding. Some 7,000 to 8,000 survived by fleeing to countries like Spain, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland, or by being married to non-Jews (which saved them from deportation and possible death). At the same time, there was substantial collaboration from the Dutch population including the Amsterdam city administration, the Dutch municipal police, and Dutch railway workers who all helped to round up and deport Jews.
One of the best known Holocaust victims in the Netherlands is Anne Frank. Along with her sister, Margot Frank, she died from typhus in March 1945 in the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen, due to unsanitary living conditions and confinement by the Nazis. Anne Frank's mother, Edith Frank-Holländer, was starved to death by the Nazis in Auschwitz. Anne Frank's father, Otto Frank, survived the war. Dutch victims of the Holocaust include Etty Hillesum,Abraham Icek Tuschinski and Edith Stein a.k.a. Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.
In contrast to many other countries where all aspects of Jewish communities and culture were eradicated during the Shoah, a remarkably large proportion of rabbinic records survived in Amsterdam, making the history of Dutch Jewry unusually well documented.
The Dutch received the relatively largest number of awards from Yad Vashem for saving Jews: in total (2013) the number is over 5,200 and counting - Poles were awarded over 6,100 awards, but the Dutch received 1 for every 1,800 Dutch, against 1 in every 4,300 in the case of the Poles. Remarkable is also that only the Dutch received three Yad Vashem awards for groups or organisations:
for the collective of the about 40-50,000 stikers of the February Strike of 25–26 February 1941 against deportation of Jews from Holland
for the village of Nieuwlande in the province of Drenthe, where the whole population took part in hiding Jews
for the so-called 'NV' ("Naamloze vennootschap", anonymous partnership or limited company); this organisation from Utrecht specialised in saving and hiding Jewish children, some 600, all of whom survived the war.
Also the exploits of Truus Wijsmuller-Meijer in saving especially children outside Holland from the shoah, are noted. She organised the first train tranport of 600 Jewish children from Viena, and the ultimate children's transport Kindertranport, on May 14, 1940, from Holland with 74 children.
The Jewish-Dutch population after the Second World War is marked by certain significant changes: emigration; a low birth rate; and a high intermarriage rate. After the Second World War and the devastations which were caused by the Holocaust, thousands of surviving Jews made aliyah to Mandate Palestine, later Israel. Aliyah from the Netherlands initially surpassed that of any other Western nation. Israel is still home to some 6,000 Dutch Jews. Others emigrated to the United States. There was a high assimilation and intermarriage rate among those who stayed. As a result, the Jewish birth rate and organized community membership dropped. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, relations with non-Jews were friendly, and the Jewish community received reparations payments.
In 1947, two years after the end of the Second World War in the Netherlands, the total number of Jews as counted in the population census was just 14,346 (down from a count of 154,887 by the German occupation force in 1941). Later, this number was adjusted by Jewish organisations to some 24,000 Jews living in the Netherlands in 1954 – nevertheless an enormous decrease compared to the number of Jews counted in 1941 – a number which was also disputed as the German occupation force counted Jews on basis of race, which meant that for example hundreds of Christians of Jewish heritage were also included in the Nazi census (according to Raul Hilberg in his book 'Perpetrators Victims Bystanders: the Jewish Catastrophe, 1933–1945', "the Netherlands ... [had] 1,572 Protestants [of Jewish heritage in 1943] ... There were also some 700 Catholic Jews living in the Netherlands [during the Nazi occupation] ...")
In 1954, the geographical spread of Dutch Jews in the Netherlands was as follows (province; number of Jews):
Groningen – 242
Friesland – 155
Drenthe – 180
Overijssel – 945
Gelderland – 997
Utrecht – 848
North Holland – 15,446 (including 14,068 in Amsterdam)
South Holland – 3,934
Zeeland – 59
North Brabant – 620
Limburg – 297
Total – 23,723
1960s and 1970s
The 1960s and 1970s saw a lowering birth rate among Dutch Jews, while intermarriage increased; the intermarriage rate of Jewish males was 41% and of Jewish women 28% in the period of 1945–1949. Figures from the 1990s saw an increase in intermarriage to some 52% of all Jewish marriages. Among so-called "father Jews", the intermarriage rate is as high as 80%. Some within the Jewish community try to counter this trend, creating possibilities for single Jews to come in contact with other single Jews, like the dating site Jingles and Jentl en Jewell. According to a research by the Joods Maatschappelijk Werk (Jewish Social Service), a large number of Dutch Jews received an academic education, and there are proportionally more Jewish Dutch women in the labor force than non-Jewish Dutch women.
1980s and onwards
The Jewish population in the Netherlands became more internationalized, with an influx of mostly Israeli and Russian Jews during the last decades. Approximately one in three Dutch Jews has a non-Dutch background. The number of Israeli Jews living in the Netherlands (concentrated in Amsterdam) runs in the thousands (estimates run from 5,000 to 7,000 Israeli expatriates in the Netherlands, although some claims go as high as 12,000), although only a relatively small number of these Israeli Jews is connected to one of the religious Jewish institutions in the Netherlands. Some 10,000 Dutch Jews have emigrated to Israel in the last couple of decades.
At present, there are approximately 41,000 to 45,000 people in the Netherlands who are either Jewish as defined by halakha (Rabbinic law), defined as having a Jewish mother (70% – approximately 30,000 persons) or who have a Jewish father (30% – some 10,000 – 15,000 persons; their number was estimated at 12,470 in April 2006). Most Dutch Jews live in the major cities in the west of the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht); some 44% of all Dutch Jews live in Amsterdam, which is considered the centre of Jewish life in the Netherlands. In 2000, 20% of the Jewish-Dutch population was 65 years or older; birth rates among Jews were low. An exception is the growing Orthodox Jewish population, especially in Amsterdam.
There are currently some 150 synagogues present in the Netherlands, of which some 50 are still used for religious services. Large Jewish communities in the Netherlands are found in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague; smaller ones are found throughout the country, in Alkmaar, Almere, Amersfoort, Amstelveen, Bussum, Delft, Haarlem, Hilversum, Leiden, Schiedam, Utrecht and Zaandam in the western part of the country, in Breda, Eindhoven, Maastricht, Middelburg, Oosterhout and Tilburg in the southern part of the country, and in Aalten, Apeldoorn, Arnhem, Assen, Deventer, Doetinchem, Enschede, Groningen, Heerenveen, Hengelo, Leeuwarden, Nijmegen, Winterswijk, Zutphen and Zwolle in the eastern and northern parts of the country.