Jewish Quarter Amsterdam
In the old Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam, important venues of Jewish heritage have drawn an increasing number of visitors in recent years. The Portuguese Synagogue, the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Memorial are appropriately set up to yearly host some hundreds of thousands locals and travelers. The growing interest in Jewish history is an important tendency, according to tourguide historian Naomi Koopmans, who includes these mentioned places in her daily Jewish Amsterdam Tour.
“The Anne Frank House presents WWII and the Holocaust to more than one million yearly visitors. Imparting this atrocious chapter of Jewish history is undeniably important, especially in light of widespread antisemitism and xenophobia. However, the history of Amsterdam Jews spans far beyond that period of time. Over four centuries of Jewish presence and activity are an inextricable part of the city’s past and present. The old Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam is the right place to shed light on this unique aspect of local heritage”,
says Naomi Koopmans.
Anne Frank in May 1942.
The Anne Frank House, her former hiding place,
presents WWII and the Holocaust
to more than one million yearly visitors.
Over the centuries, mesmerizing characters inhabited Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter. Among the Jews who had escaped the Portuguese Inquisition and settled in 17th Amsterdam, were wealthy merchants, bankers and shareholders of the Dutch East India Company.
The oldest preserved receipt of an installment payment
of an East India Company share,
dated September 9, 1606.
From the Dutch East India Company archives.
Reconstruction of an East India Company ship.
Wealthy Jews were shareholders of this shipping company.
Francisco Lopes Suasso (1657-1710) was a member of the Amsterdam Sephardic Jewish community and inhabited the city’s Jewish neighborhood. His father was Antonio Lopes Suasso, one of the wealthiest and most famous Portuguese Jewish merchants and bankers of his day. After his father’s death in 1685, Francisco inherited half of his considerable fortune, much of which in the form of shares in the Dutch East India Company. Francisco Lopes Suasso became financier of both the Dutch Republic and its enemy, the Spanish crown. Lopes Suasso was eventually elevated to the nobility class.
Francisco Lopes Suasso (1657-1710),
inhabitant of Amsterdam’s Jewish quarter,
member of the Amsterdam Sephardic Jewish community,
shareholder of the Dutch East India Company,
financier of the Dutch Republic and the Spanish crown,
elevated to nobility.
Poor Jewish petty traders
In stark contrast to the status of these wealthy and famous Jewish merchants and bankers, was the state of the poor, mostly Ashkenazy Jewish petty traders, who sold their ware in the busy markets across the Jewish Quarter.
Street vendor selling pickles in the Amsterdam Jewish Quarter in 1899.
The only reminiscence of the once plentiful markets in the city’s Jewish neighborhood is the Waterlooplein flea market. Today, most of its traders are not Jewish.
Waterlooplein Flea Market in 2023,
once a Jewish market in the city’s old Jewish district.
During the time of nazi occupation, 1940-1945, Amsterdam’s Jewish quarter was isolated. Signs inscribed with ‘Jewish Quarter’ in German and Dutch abounded the area.
Nazi sign inscribed with ‘Jewish Quarter’ in German and Dutch,
near the present Rembrandt House Museum.
The Rembrandt House Museum in 2023.
Periodically, the nazi’s cut off the city’s Jewish Quarter to isolate it from the rest of the city by opening its drawbridges.
Drawbridge opened by nazi’s during WWII
to isolate the Amsterdam Jewish Quarter from the rest of the city.
Drawbridge in the old Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam in 2023.
The nazi’s rounded up the Jewish residents of the Amsterdam Jewish Quarter and shipped them off to the extermination camps.
Nazi roundup of 425 Jewish men on February 22nd 1941
at Jonas Daniel Meijer Square,
next to the Portuguese Synagogue of Amsterdam.
Jonas Daniel Meijer Square in 2023
with Amsterdam Portuguese Synagogue in the backdrop.
The ‘Dokwerker’ statue honors the 25th February 1941 strike
which was a reaction to the roundup.
Property of the murdered Jewish inhabitants of Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter was stolen by the nazi’s.
Jewish Goslers’ hardware store in Amsterdam in 1915.
Former hardware store of the murdered Jewish Goslers in 2023.
The building is now a cafe.
Ransacked and ruined
The Goslers, along with the wealthy merchants, the poor petty traders and 80% of the Amsterdam Jewish community, were murdered by the nazi’s. The Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam was ransacked and ruined. The four major Ashkenazi synagogues that once proudly overlooked the Jewish area from its center, were severely damaged.
After restoration the former Ashkenazi synagogues became the Amsterdam Jewish Museum.
Complex of four major Ashkenazi Synagogues in Amsterdam in 1914.
Jewish Museum Amsterdam in 2023.
Location of four former major Ashkenazy Synagogues.
After the Holocaust, the community of survivors demonstrated its resilience and picked up the thread of their Jewish lives as best they could. The Portuguese Synagogue remained intact during the war and is still used for Jewish services today. It’s the only active synagogue in the old Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam. However, the center of Jewish life was transferred after the war to the modern southern section of the city.
The Portuguese Synagogue of Amsterdam in the early 18th century.
The Portuguese Synagogue of Amsterdam in 2023.
Modern Jewish life
Just like in 1725 a Portuguese Jewish family celebrated the Seider, Jewish Passover, in a canal house in Amsterdam’s old Jewish Quarter, in 2023 in the modern Jewish district, tourguide historian Naomi Koopmans, along with 140 fellow community members jointly read the Hagada, 1st century CE Jewish Passover text and drank the traditional four glasses of wine.
A Portuguese Jewish family celebrates the Seider, Jewish Passover,
in their canal house in the old Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam in 1725.
Tourguide historian Naomi Koopmans
celebrates the Seider, Jewish Passover
in the modern Amsterdam Jewish section in 2023.
Jewish past and present
On her Jewish Amsterdam Tour in Amsterdam’s old Jewish Quarter, tourguide historian Naomi Koopmans’ captivating stories bridge the city’s Jewish past and present.