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Mozes (“Max”) Heiman Gans

(1917 – 1987)

Mozes (“Max”) Heiman Gans was a Dutch author, journalist, and jeweler. Gans grew up in the building of the "Joodse Invalide." This was the institute for poor Jewish invalids, an outstanding example of modern Jewish charity of which the controversial Rebbe Meijer de Hond (1882–1943) was the spiritual father and Gans' own father, Isaac Gans, the founder and director.

In 1943, Max Gans managed to escape to Switzerland, where he founded the Joodse Coördinatie Commissie in Genève, which acted as much as possible on behalf of the Dutch Jews under Nazi occupation. Upon his return to Amsterdam he took over the jeweler's shop of his father-in-law (who had been deported to his death), Premsela & Hamburger, specializing in silverware. Later he would write a standard work on antique silver.

At the same time he was active in Jewish affairs, becoming the head of the Central Committee for Jewish Education of the Netherlands Ashkenazi Congregation (NIK) and in 1950 assistant editor and then, from 1956 to 1966, the editor of the Dutch Jewish Weekly Nieuw Israelitisch Weekblad (NIW). As the (assistant) editor of the NIW he criticized what he saw as the short Dutch national memory of the persecution of the Dutch Jews, the apologetical attitude towards the Jewish Council by the Jewish author and lawyer Abel Herzberg (1893–1989), and the opportunistic way in which the German Widergutmachungs money was handled by the Dutch authorities.

A private collector of Judaica, Gans published in 1971 his monumental Memorbook, A Pictorial History of Dutch Jewry from the Middle Ages to 1940, with some 1,100 illustrations, which in 1987 went into its sixth printing, with an English translation published in 1977. In addition, he published three smaller albums on the Amsterdam Jewish quarter before 1940 and after – all of which were also translated into English. In 1976–77 he held the appointment of professor extraordinary in Dutch Jewish history at the University of Leiden.


S. Bloemgarten and P. Bregstein, Herinnering aan Joods Amsterdam (1978); M. Bossenbroek, De Meelstreep. Terugkeer en opvang na de Tweede Wereldoorlog (2001); J. Gans-Premsela, in: Memorboek (fifth printing, 1988), 840–45; idem, Vluchtweg. Aan de bezetter ontsnapt (1999); C. Kristel, Geschiedschrijving als opdracht. Abel Herzberg, Jacques Presser en Loe de Jong over de jodenvervolging (1998); I. Lipschits, Honderd jaar NIW. Het Nieuw Israëlietisch Weekblad 1865–1965 (1966); S.R. de Melker, in: Dutch Jewish History, 2 (1989), 411–24.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.