SHORT HISTORY OF ALKMAAR
SHORT HISTORY OF JEWS IN THE NETHERLANDS AND ALKMAAR
In Alkmaar a Jewish community was present before World War II since the 17th century: small but high-spirited, with their own synagoge in the heart of the old city. After World War II this community was almost completely exterminated, and only few jews returned to Alkmaar. In the chapter: 'Tribute to J.D.Kila' can be read about how a 6 year old boy survived the Holocaust with his sister.
The history of the Dutch Jews started in the 13th century: Jews were forced to leave France and England (1290)
and went to the southern and eastern parts of the Low Countries. The name 'The Netherlands' did not exist in that time.
The Jews started anew in cities as Maastricht, Nijmegen and Zwolle and were busy whith trading money.
Probably persecution of Jews in the neighbouring German countries caused an unfavourable situation for them. For example, they had to start to wear special Jewish signs.
Most of the Jews left the Low Countries. Already in the 14th century Jews had to leave Spain and in the 15th century also Portugal because of the inquisition.
Jews fled to Western Europe, mainly to Antwerp.
When the Netherlands, then called: 'The Republic of the United Seven Provinces' came in war with Spain in the 16th century (the 80-year war) and at the end of that century, the Jews fled to the northern parts of the Republic. Because of their skills in trading, the first Jews settled down in Amsterdam and were known as the Sefardic Jews. They came to our region because of the 'Unification of Utrecht' (1579), which regulated that nobody should be prosecuted because of his religion; Jews obtained the right to marry, freedom of establishment and were able to have own properties and live and walk without any sign or prescripted clothing - which was a huge progression and advantage in comparison to all other surrounding countries.
This was not only for Jews but for all minorities of that time.
ALKMAAR: In the surroundings of Alkmaar Jews from Amsterdam searched for a piece of land to create their own Jewish burial ground because such a thing was then forbidden in Amsterdam. They bought a piece of land with a small house in the village of Groet, about 6 miles away from Alkmaar.
In the beginning of the 17 century Alkmaar (1604) was the first city - after Amsterdam - to make it possible for Jews to come to Alkmaar: they could have an interesting economical contribution for the city. So the first Sefardic families settled in Alkmaar, for example the families Du Pas and Duarte. However, they remained strongly focused on Amsterdam and after some years they left Alkmaar and returned to Amsterdam, the centre of Dutch trade, art and culture.
In the same time the Ashkenazic Jews appeared, mainly from Germany, Poland and other Eastern European countries. The reason was that in the year 1684 the Polish revolts started and for many years tens of thousands of Jews were killed and murdered by cossacks and violent farmers. The Jews fled to Germany, Bohemia and also to the Netherlands. In the second half of the 17th century more and more Ashkenazic Jews settled in Alkmaar. Their background was completely different from the Sefardic Jews: they were mostly poor, were small scale traders and merchants and lived in poverty under difficult circumstances. In 1744 a house in the centre of Alkmaar (in the Paternosterstraat) was established as synagoge. The City Council permitted the Jews in having their own religious building.
10 years later a small building was bought to be equipped as synagogue. In the year 1747 a Jewish cemetery at the Westerweg was put into use which functions as so until today.
SYNAGOGE: In the 19th century the Jewish communitiy grew to about 200 members. In 1808 an other building was bought in the Hofstraat and converted into a synagoge. So it became - more or less - the synagoge as we know it today. In the beginning of the 20th century some small renovations took place.
In 1913 Abraham de Wolff became Rabby of the congration. He should be the last Rabby of Alkmaar. The Alkmaar Jews were small scale traders, had their own shops and were well respected citizens of the town of Alkmaar. Anti-Semitic feelings were out of the question or were rarely expressed in those times.
THE THIRD REICH: 1933 became a turning point in Western European history and therefore also to the World: in januari 1933 Adolf Hitler became Reichskansler in Germany and two months later on the 22nd of march he started concentration camp Dachau. The 23rd of march a law was passed with which Hilter could develop himself legaly as a dictator.
In that same year 1933 the Alkmaar synagoge existed 125 years. The leaders of the congregation understood that severe times could come, so a simple feast was given. Particularly the position of the German Jews which got worse, fostered these feelings. More and more Jews fled from Germany to i.a. The Netherlands, and some of them came to Alkmaar like the Arons family from Emden and the Katz family from Dusseldorf.
On the 3rd of september 1935 in Germany the Nuremberg (race-)Laws were introduced and on the 15th they were implemented by the German Parliament. These laws became the Legal basis for the racist anti-Jewish policy in Germany. (For more information see for example the website of Yad Vashem).
THE WAR: The 10th of may 1940 Germany invaded The Netherlands and some people of the Dutch Jewish community took their own lives. A well known Alkmaar Jew, Abraham Drukker, had floating the idea of killing himself too. Others tried to escape the country, but for most of them it was actually to late. Fear for what happened in Germany could also happen in Holland was great, although it was denied or protested in the beginning, even sometimes not believed. However, soon the severe realltiy became evident by several German regulations such as abstain from governmental financial support to Jews and forbidding the Jewish ritual slaughter.
It is still in the middle of 1940. After a short time radios were confiscated from the Alkmaar Jews and they were forbidden to move elswhere. Because of a revolt against the Germans in Amsterdam in february 1941 there was a raid (razzia) by the SS in which 425 young Dutch Jewish men were arrested and sent to a small concentration camp in Schoorl (near to Alkmaar, the first concentration camp of Holland).
Camp Schoorl in the dunes of Schoorl, in the early years of World War II. In the middle the text on the memorial stone of the former camp that was closed and demolished in 1949
Short after that most of the 425 men were set on transport to Mauthausen and some to Buchenwald. They all were killed in those camps.
Camp Mauthausen during World War II
This incident and the next incident, the so called ‘february strike’ caused the flee of several Jews to Alkmaar and other cities. And it became worse and worse: januari 1941 the German already enforced a duty of notification and registration. Soon after that a forced interference for Jewish trade companies was set up by the ‘Omnia Treuhändegesellschaft’. This institute was specialized in rapid liquidation of Jewish companies in the Netherlands.
Soon after that Jews were forbidden to stay in hotels, Jewish children were no longer admitted to go to school, adults were forbidden to work in none jewish households. Januari 1942 all goods, furnishings and clothings of jewish families were obliged to be registered.
THE END: 4 march 1942 the nazi-German authorities ordered the Jewish Council in Amsterdam to inform all the inhabitants of Alkmaar they had to leave the town the next day, 5 of march. They had to leave everything behind. Only some small bagage could be taken with them. Destination: Amsterdam.
Not everybody was bound to leave: Jews who run and owned a private shop could stay and those who were ill or married with none-jews were also exempted from leaving. After a short while everybody was ordered to wear the yellow star.
5 march was the day of the departure to Amsterdam: on that day all the inhabitants were waiting inside their houses for the (Dutch) police who came to collect the housekeys. They had to leave their houses immidiately and had to walk to the Alkmaar trainstation and buy their own traintickets. Many other Alkmaar inhabitants came to say goodbye.
In deathly silence all Alkmaar Jews stepped into the waiting train that left short after that. The other day the Police Report could mention everything passed off quietly and in good order, without any resistance.
This was the beginning of a journey that should end for many of them in a certain death. It was also the end of 350 years of Jewish history in Alkmaar.
The majority of those who had to leave the city of Alkmaar should not survive the war. Only a few were able to return. The end of the Jewish society in Alkmaar was a fact.