The Hague is the seat of the government of the Netherlands and capital of South Holland province. Jewish settlement in The Hague dates to the last decades of the 17th century. By that time two Portuguese Jewish congregations, Beth Jacob and Honen Dal, had been founded in The Hague. The two congregations joined together in 1743 under the latter and used the synagogue on the Princessegracht dating from 1726. The Ashkenazi community opened its own synagogue on the Voldersgracht in 1723. In 1694, Ashkenazi Jews purchased land for a cemetery on the present-day Scheveningseweg, where Portuguese Jews also buried their dead. By 1710, the cemetery was divided into two separate burial grounds. By the 18th century, growing wealth and international connections gave local Portuguese Jews a large measure of influence in all segments of Dutch society. The Portuguese community of The Hague also produced several important rabbis. By the late 18th century, however, general economic conditions worsened and reduced many members of the Portuguese community to penury.
Over the course of the 18th century, the Ashkenazi population of The Hague grew to surpass that of the Portuguese. Most Ashkenazi Jews still resided in the poor Jewish neighborhood near the center of the city.
The Emancipation Decree of 1796 totally transformed the legal and social status of Jews and the structure of the communities. As a result many Dutch Jews from the provinces migrated to The Hague, attracted by the importance of The Hague as the country's center of government.
The Jewish population of The Hague continued to increase throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Despite social changes, most of the Jews in The Hague continued to live in poverty in the large Jewish neighborhood. The relatively small population of well-off Jews, however, produced a steady stream of bankers, parliamentarians, painters, poets, and writers, as well as the first Jew to become a minister in the national government. The community also continued to produce prominent rabbis.
In 1844, a new Ashkenazi synagogue was consecrated at the Wagenstraat. Another Ashkenazi synagogue, located at the Voldersgracht, was completed in 1887. Smaller synagogues were scattered throughout the city. Despite the emancipation Jews continued to prefer Jewish schools for their children. Yiddish remained the language of instruction in Ashkenazi schools until the mid-19th century. Following the educational reform of 1857, The Hague's Jewish schools continued to operate as purely religious institutions. In 1920, all independent Jewish schools were closed and replaced by secular schools with optional religious instruction.
In 1836, a council was established to administer aid to the poor. The community maintained an old age home, orphanage, and hospital. Community members also formed all kinds of voluntary charitable organizations.
From the end of the 19th century until the eve of the World War II, the Jewish population of The Hague grew threefold. Jews settled throughout the growing city, leading to the establishment of additional prayer houses and voluntary organizations. A vibrant Jewish community also arose in The Hague's fishing village, Scheveningen, in part due to its popularity as a seaside vacation resort amongst the Jews of Antwerp. Polish Jews who settled in Scheveningen during and after World War I formed their own community and consecrated a synagogue on the Harstenhoekweg in 1926. In the same year, the Jewish community of the wealthy suburb of Wassenaar merged with that of The Hague.
The secularization of The Hague community, begun in the 19th century, continued in the 20th. New Jewish social, cultural, and sports organizations arose. In addition organizations aimed at Jewish youth were founded to counter a rising trend towards assimilation. Between the two world wars, Zionist and anti-Zionist organizations came to play a central role in Jewish life in The Hague. The wave of East European Jews who settled in Scheveningen following their expulsion from Germany after the Nazi takeover in 1933 became enthusiastic participants in local cultural, religious, and Zionist activities.
The 1930s saw the rise of Liberal (Reform) Judaism in The Hague, aided in part by the arrival of Liberal Jewish refugees from Germany. Despite strong opposition from the local Orthodox Jewish establishment, a Liberal Jewish community was founded in The Hague on the very eve of World War II.
The wartime occupation of the Netherlands by the Germans affected the Jews of The Hague just as it did Jews elsewhere. In May 1940, the Germans established their central occupational administration for the Netherlands in The Hague. A significant number of Jews committed suicide.
In September 1940, all Jews not holding Dutch nationality were forced to leave the coastal regions of the Netherlands. Almost 2,000 Jews were expelled from The Hague and Scheveningen as a result. The Jews who remained in The Hague were subject to registration of person and property, dismissal from the civil service, and a ban on the practice of professions.
Late in 1940, the Jewish Coordination Commission was founded to represent Jewish interests. It was superseded a year later by the German-controlled Jewish Council (Joodse Raad). After the expulsion of Jewish children from public education in September 1941, a number of Jewish elementary schools, high schools, and vocational schools were established. These functioned until the very last deportations of Jews from The Hague in September 1943.
Between May 1940 and August 1942, anti-Jewish measures were implemented one after another. The situation worsened when a member of the Dutch Nazi Party (NSB) was appointed mayor of The Hague.
During the early months of the deportations, which began in August 1942, Jews were confined at the Scheveningen prison prior to being transported out of the city. The former Jewish orphanage on the Paviljoensgracht later fulfilled this function. Despite protests from the Council of Churches and, sometimes, aid from several quarters of the population, deportations continued until the last day of September 1943, the eve of Rosh Hashanah. Approximately 80 percent of the 10,000 Jews of The Hague were deported. Most were murdered. Of the remaining 2,000, most survived the war in hiding.
During the war, almost all of The Hague's many synagogues were plundered, heavily damaged, or destroyed. Only the Portuguese synagogue survived the war undamaged.
Following the war, religious services were resumed at several locations. Eventually, the synagogues on the Wagenstraat and De Carpentierstraat were closed and their buildings sold. The former synagogue on the Wagenstraat today serves as a mosque. The present-day synagogue of The Hague’s Orthodox Jewish Community is located on the Cornelis Houtmanstraat.
The Portuguese Jewish Community of The Hague was officially dissolved in the aftermath of the war and its synagogue on the Princessegracht sold to the Liberal Jewish Community, which has used the building since 1976. An extensive restoration of the building was completed in 1997.
The Jewish cemetery on the Scheveningseweg was restored during the late 1980s.
Today, almost all of the Netherlands’ Jewish organizations have branches or offices in The Hague. The Hague is the seat of the Embassy of the State of Israel and of the Dutch-Jewish CIDI organization (Center for Information and Documentation Israel).
Throughout The Hague, plaques, monuments, and names of streets and institutions commemorate aspects of the Jewish past. In 1994, the L.E. Visserhuis Jewish old age home was opened on the Doorniksestraat in Scheveningen. The home commemorates Visser, a famed Dutch Jewish jurist who, during the war, was expelled from his position as minister of justice.
In 2003, the remains of the archive of The Hague’s Jewish community was returned to The Hague from Russia. The documents are now kept at The Hague's Municipal Archive.
J. Michman, H. Beem, and D. Michman, Pinkas: geschiedenis van de joodse gemeenschap in Nederland (1999).
[Jelka Kröger (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.