August 18, 2018

The Jewish Monument the Hague

By John Dunkelgrün.

Most everyone living here knows that Amsterdam has a long history of Jewish life that was cruelly disrupted and almost destroyed during the Second World War. It is less known that the Hague too had a substantial Jewish quarter that flourished in the very center of the city for almost 400 years.

Quite a few of the Jewish “Hagenaars” made considerable contributions to politics, law, journalism, banking and industry of the Netherlands. In 1940 the Hague had the largest Jewish community after Amsterdam, more than 16,000 people. Many of them lived between the “Spui” where the Town Hall now stands and the Paviljoensgracht where Spinoza lived.

After nasty restrictive measures intended to separate the city’s Jews from the rest of the population, starting in 1942 the nazi’s deported some 14,000 Jews to the destruction camps in the East of Germany and Poland. More than 12,000 were murdered there. After the war the Jewish community in the Hague started up again on a much reduced scale.

The Jewish center became first a Turkish area and today it is the city’s China Town. The Great Synagogue on the Wagenstraat became a mosque because it had become much to big for the Jewish population.

To commemorate the old Jewish quarter, “De Buurt” as it was known, and especially in memory of the thousands who were murdered, a monument was established earlier this year on the Rabbijn Maarsenplein, in the center of “De Buurt”. The monument consists of a physical part, designed by Anat Ratzabi and an educative website in Dutch and English compiled by Sharon Loewenstein which explains the Jewish history of the Hague from the sixteen hundreds to today.

The physical monument shows a wall with a door that is slightly ajar giving the impression of an opening, a way out. However on close inspection, the opening isn’t there, there was no way out. The monument incorporates several smaller monuments, the main one being the Amalek monument made in 1967 by Dick Stins with the caption “Remember what Amalek did to you, do not forget” (Deut:25.17.19).

To learn more, go to www.joodsmonumentdenhaag.nl

 

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