The Netherlands / Landmark

The Jewish community of Arnhem




The flourishing and extensive Jewish community in Arnhem, one of the oldest in the Netherlands, is hit hard in the Second World War. 1,300 of the around 2,100 Jewish citizens of Arnhem do not survive the war.

The Jewish community in Arnhem is one of the oldest in the north of the Netherlands. Ever since the Middle Ages, Jewish people have settled in this city, and the community has grown considerably. The place where now the synagogue can be found, was once the place where in 1780 the house stood where Jonas Daniel Meijer was born. He was to grow into a prominent lawyer who worked on our constitution, among other things, and who has meant a lot for the emancipation of the Jewish community in the Netherlands. In the nineteenth century, the Jewish community in Arnhem develops into a flourishing and important community with an extensive social life.

Shortly before the Second World War, the number of Jewish inhabitants increases sharply to around 2,100 people as result of the inflow of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. When after the invasion of 1940 the German occupiers start implementing anti-Jewish measures, there no escaping them for the Jewish community in Arnhem either. Parks and public gardens become off limits for them, they are no longer allowed to go to specific shops, Jewish football players are no longer permitted to play for Vitesse, the local football club, and much more. Gradually, Jewish inhabitants of Arnhem are ever more isolated from the other inhabitants by the German measures. Then these measures are followed by violence. In 1941, Jewish shops are looted, and unknown people try to set fire to the synagogue.

In the spring of 1942, 163 families, mainly Jewish refugees, are ordered by the Germans to move to Amsterdam, to the Jewish quarter there. That autumn, there are raids in which several hundreds of Jewish inhabitants of Arnhem are rounded up by the Arnhem police and deported via Westerbork to extermination camps. In March 1943, this is followed by the German order that all Jews in the province of Gelderland have to be removed. More than 1,300 people are deported. The synagogue is then used by the Germans as a storeroom for radios that are confiscated from the Arnhem population.

In September 1944, there are almost no Jews left in Arnhem to witness the fighting at the bridge. Here and there, some Jews are still hiding in the city, but they do not venture outside. Though many buildings in the Pastoorstraat are burnt down, the synagogue is spared.

When after the Battle of Arnhem the city is evacuated by order of the Germans, the Jews in hiding also have to find a safe place somewhere else. Unfortunately, several Jews are arrested as a result of this evacuation. After the war, it turns out that 1,300 of the 2,000 Jewish inhabitants of Arnhem have died in the camps or elsewhere.