Famous Amsterdam Jewish Community Falls into Nazi Hands

Announcement of the German occupation of Amsterdam today brings under Nazi control a Jewish community of more than 70,000 (according to 1938 figures), swollen by influx of several thousand German refugees–a community whose history dates back to the 14th century and is brightened with such names as Baruch Spinoza and Cardozo.

For centuries Amsterdam Jewry represented one of the most influential Jewish communities in Europe. The Jewish quarter bringing together both the Sephardic and Ashkenazic elements, contains historic synagogues and other Jewish landmarks.

The first Sephardic community was founded at the beginning of the 17th century by Portuguese Maranos, with Josef Pardo appointed first Haham of the community in 1608. The Sephardim brought great wealth to Amsterdam and played an important role in developing the trade of the young Dutch Republic. The middle of the 17th century, with the persecution of Jews in Poland, brought an influx of Ashkenazic Jews into Amsterdam. They, too, by dint of great industry developed great influence. By the end of the 18th century they outnumbered the Sephardim.

The Jewish community of Amsterdam had been virtually autonomous for centuries. Emancipation of the Jews came in 1796, and since that time Amsterdam Jewry had taken an active part in the city’s civic affairs.

In recent years Amsterdam had been a center of refugee relief activities. Prof. David Cohen was head of the Jewish Refugee Relief Committee and Miss van Tijn was executive director.

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