Copyright 2023 - Henk van den Beukel

In the 18th century in Assen, as elsewhere in Drenthe, only three Jewish families were allowed to reside: a butcher, a merchant and a skinner. The first Jewish merchants settled in Assen in 1750. Although the arrival of a second merchant in 1774 led to protest, he was tolerated. Until 1800 they remained the only Jewish residents. In the 19th century Assen developed into an commercial, social and cultural center. This also caused a considerable increase in population. The Jewish population also grew considerably in that century.
Assen1As early as 1778, the first Jewish residents of Assen received a permit to establish a cemetery behind the Asscherbos on the Twijfelveld. Initially, synagogue services were conducted in a home-based synagogue. In 1832 the synagogue on the Groningerstraat was erected, in part financed by donations from both catholic and protestant residents.
In 1840 the Jewish community of Assen changed from a branch of nearby Hoogeveen into an independent community with several institutions. Among others there was a Jewish school and several social and cultural associations, such as a funeral society, societies that promoted Jewish knowledge and others that took care of ritual textile and objects. There was a youth club and for a short period, around 1859, a Jewish amateur theatre company existed. The care for the poor was also taken care of by the Jewish community.
Besides the Twijfelveld cemetery, the Jewish community of Assen also used the Jewish cemeteries in the neighbouring towns of 
Assen2Norg, Veenhuizen, Rolde, Borger en Zuidlaren.
As a result of the arrival of Jewish families from other locations in Drenthe, the community continued to grow and by the end of the 19th century the synagogue became too small. In 1901 a new and larger synagogue was erected on the same location in the Groningerstraat, which was initiated on July 25, 27 and 28. The foundation stone from the old synagogue with the Hebrew inscription ('Open to me the gates of righteousness', Psalm 118:19) was embedded in the side wall. On the stone over the main entrance another Hebrew text was engraved: ('acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you in this house', I Koningen 8:33) as well as the year (5)661 (=1901). The Jewish community also profited by the positive economic development of Assen.
In the 20th century the Jews were mainly employed as merchants and cattle traders, small business owners and butchers. There were also some Jewish property owners and civil servants. During the years of Nazi occupation the Jews of Assen too were subject to the anti-Jewish measures that were enforced everywhere. After Jewish children were expelled from the institutions of public education in 1941, a Jewish school was established. This school existed until the summer of 1942. Most of the Jews of Assen were arrested in October 1942 and were subsequently deported to the east via the Westerbork transit camp. Only very few returned and just a few dozen survived the war in hiding. 

The synagogue was damaged in the war and most of its contents disappeared. From 1947 the building was rented out by the synagogue board to the Vrijgemaakt Gereformeerden christian congregation, who purchased it in 1951. When they left it in 1970, the building remained empty and then was used as a warehouse for furniture. In 1980 the building was purchased by the Christelijke Gereformeerde Church, that uses it ever since.  The stained glass windows, that were created in 1932 by architect Van Oosten, were moved in 1974 to the recreation hall of Kibbutz Beth Keshet.

In 1988 the Jewish communities of Assen, Emmen and Hoogeveen were merged into the Nederlands Israëlitische Gemeente Drenthe. In Assen, three monuments keep the memory of the murdered Jewish residents alive. 

An organized Jewish community existed in Beilen since 1850, but until 1885 it was subject to the Jewish community of Assen. The synagogue services were held in a small, old house. In 1885 the community of Beilen gained status as an independent community and a new synagogue was consecrated. The construction of the synagogue was financed with assistance of non-Jewish residents. In 1860 a cemetery at the Eursing was purchased. A funeral society took care of the funerals. Jewish children received religious education from a teacher from out of town. From the year 1903 this school had its own building. In order to use a ritual bath one had to go to Assen or Hoogeveen.
In the night between October 2nd and 3rd 1942, Jewish citizens of Drenthe were taken out of their homes by Dutch policemen and were transported to Camp Westerbork. Only very few policemen refused to participate. Mayor Hendrik Jacob Wytema of Beilen refused out of legal reasons and was immediately removed from his position (in 1945 he was appointed as acting mayor of Westerbork).

in the beginning of the 19th century a Jewish community existed in Borger, that was part of the community of Assen since 1804. The cemetery at the Marslandenweg was officially initiated in 1865, but most likely funerals took place there already before that year.
In 1887 the synagogue at the Koesteeg was consecrated. Eleven years lat
er, in 1888, the independent Jewish community of Borger was established.

BorgerSoon it was clear that this community could not live up to its financial obligations. As a result, in 1925 the community was dismantled and again became part of the community of Assen. The ramshackle synagogue was sold in 1915 and was demolished in 1960. In the village of Drouwen, in the proximity of Borger, a home-based synagogue was in use between 1804 and 1846. 

In 1697 the first Jew received a permit to settle in Coevorden and to rent the local pawnshop. He was allowed to fulfill his religious duties at home and was also allocated a piece of land to serve as a Jewish cemetery. During the 18th century the pawnshop was mostly rented by Jewish pawners.
In 1760 a few dozen Jewish families lived in Coevorden. Until the civil equality in 1796, the rights of Jewish citizens of the town were often restricted. In spite of this, the Jewish community grew rapidly from the middle of the 18th century.
In 1768 an organized Jewish community was established in Coevorden. The religious services were held in a house on the Kerkstraat. On the property of this house people were buried. In 1840 a new synagogue was erected in the same spot, that was renovated in 1879.

Coevorden1The Jewish community of Coevorden operated a religious school that was also attended by some children from neighbouring Dalen.
Besides several religious societies, such as a society for Torah studies, for welfare and for the care of ritual objects, also a recreational society existed, as well as a theatre, a social society and a Zionist youth movement.
Coevorden had two Jewish cemeteries. The oldest of the two, located on the property of the synagogue, fell into disuse by the end of the 19th century. The other one, located next to the General Cemetery at the Ballastweg, was initiated in 1894. Also in Dalen a Jewish cemetery was in use in the 18th and 19th century. In 1997 an initiative was taken to restorate this cemetery. In the same year a memorial plaque was placed. The restoration was completed in 2001 when a fence was erected.
During the German occupation the Jews of Coevorden were exposed to the same restrictive measures that were enacted elsewhere in the country. In October 1942 most of them were deported to the East, via Camp Westerbork. Only very few Jews survived the war.
It is not clear what happened to the contents of the synagogue. What is known is that part of the Torah covers were hidden in Amsterdam. After the war the synagogue was sold and was initially used by the Christian Reformed community. Since 1976, after being restorated, the building is used as a regional music school. A memorial plaque on the wall honours the memory of the murdered Jews of Coevorden.

In 1958 the Jewish community was officially dismantled and merged with that of Emmen. The old cemetery on the property of the synagogue was removed and the human remains were tranferred to the cemetery on the Ballastweg. Today the municipality of Coevorden takes care of the maintenance of the cemetery.   

Around 1750 several Jews already lived in Dwingeloo. At the beginning of the 19th century, in the French era, an organized and officially recognized Jewish community existed in Dwingeloo. Amongst a dozen families that were members of this community, half were poor. The Jewish citizens of Beilen and Ruinen, 7 families altogether, where also part of the Dwingeloo community.
In 1821 the Jewish community of Dwingeloo became an affiliate community in the Ring of Hoogeveen. Until 1835 a room in an inn was used for religious services. Later the synagogue was located in a building that also hosted a blacksmith's forge. This synagogue was restorated in 1846 and was in use until 1923. That year a fire destroyed the building. No new synagogue was erected in its place.
From 1830 the Jewish community had its own cemetery in Dwingelerzand, sometime called the Dwingeler Duinen.
The Jewish citizens of Dwingeloo mostly lived in close proximity and did not play an important role in public life. The community was at its largest around 1870.
From the beginning of the 20th century until the Second World War the number of members strongly decreased. The only Jewish society left was the burial society.
During the German occupation almost all members of the Jewish community of Dwingeloo were deported and killed in the concentration camps.
In 1950 the Jewish community of Dwingeloo was officially dismantled en merged with that of Hoogeveen.

“Around 1840 the first jewish traders settled in the peat colony of Emmen. Initially they were considered to belong to the Jewish community of Coevorden, but their numbers increased that fast that Emmen was recognised by 1876 as an independent community by the Nederlands Israëlitisch Kerkgenootschap.
Emmen1In 1878 a synagogue was erected, which would have to be enlarged still several times in the decades to come. The Jewish community had an own cemetary at its disposal from 1885 till 1915, located at the Oranjekanaal in the direction of the hamlet Westeres. In 1915 a new cemetary at the Juliana street was put into service behind the synagogue. There was a Jewish religious school in Emmen, a study society for men, and a society for women for the maintenance of the interiour of the synagogue. During the twenties of the 20th century there was also a small Jewish theatre group active in Emmen.
Initially, the majority of the Jewish inhabitants of Emmen were employed in trade between the farmers and the city. Later on they had shops, mainly in the major shopping street of Emmen. Though the economical situation was not reallly advantageous, around the turn of the century about one fifth of the jews in Emmen depended on social support.
During the occupation the same anti-Jewish measures entered into force in Emmen as elsewhere. The majority of the Jews was deported to Poland in 1942 and subsequently killed. Some tens of hiders survived the years of the war. The synagogue served as storage of Jewish possessions and remained almost without any damage.
After the war a small Jewish community was established again in Emmen. Emmen2In 1974 the synagogue at the Juliana street was sold to the municipality for a symbolic amount. One year later the building was renovated. In 1994 the synagogue was again renovated. Two memorial plaques in the synagogue wear the names of the perished Jewish citizens.
Currently, the building functions by and now as synagogue for the Nederlands Israëlitische Gemeente Drenthe. In May 2000 a monument was inaugurated in commemoration of the Jewish war victims in the Juliana street near the synagogue. At Yom Kippur of that same year a bomb attack was executed aimed at the synagogue. One year later the building, completely restored, was again inaugurated.
Also the village of Nieuw-Amsterdam (Veenoord) had an own synagogue as from 1899. Even though repeatedly a request was made at the N.I.K. (Organization of Jewish Communities in the Netherlands) to recognise Nieuw-Amsterdam as an independent communitye, this was not admitted. The village did, however, have an own Jewish cemetary at the Boerdijk, which currently is maintained by the municipality of Sleen”.

“By the end of the 17th century for the first time mention is made of Jewish inhabitants in Hoogeveen. As from the beginning of the 18th century Jews are settling permanently. During all that century, however, the administration of Hoogeveen still takes all kinds of measures to make the arrival and permanent settling of Jews as difficult as possible.
In 1755 an organised Jewish community starts to exist, which has synagogue services from that same year in a private residence at the present Hoofdstraat. More than forty years later, in 1799, in the present Schutstraat a synagogue is consecrated. This building was demolished in 1865-1866 and replaced by a new synagogue.

Hoogeveen1At the old cemetary, located near the Grote Kerk, still some tomb stones date back to the nineteenth century. Between 1700 and 1829 a Jewish cemetary has been in use at the Krakeelse Opgaande. In 1829 at the Zuiderweg a new cemetary was established.  Also in the nearby village of there was a Jewish cemetary, located at the Monnikenweg.

In the 19th century the Jewish community of Hoogeveen expanded rather strong. By half of the century it became, after Meppel, the second largest one of the province. The community was, however, plagued by serious conflicts, which caused  a schism of two Jewish communities during a long period of time. In 1871 a reunion took place. The children got religious education at the local Jewish school. By 1872 a new school building was put into service.

Hoogeveen2In addition to the Synagogue Board and the armbestuur several societies were active in Hoogeveen occupying themselves with charity, helping sick people, and funerals. Around the turning of the century there was also a Jewish theatre society.
During the interbellum several Jews were member of the city council of Hoogeveen. During the thirties a dozen of Jewish refugees from Germany settled in the town.

During the occupation almost all Jews were arrested in October 1942 at one razzia and deported via Westerbork to the extermination camps. Some tens (thirty eight) of Jewish citizens of Hoogeveen were able to survive by hiding.
The synagogue, that was plundered and damaged in February 1944 by the Germans, is sold in 1948 and served for many years as 'Gereformeerd-Vrijgemaakte' church. In 1995 the building was sold to the baptist community.
Nowadays an active Jewish community exists in Hoogeveen, which merged since 1988 together with Assen, and Emmen into the 'NIG Drenthe'.

“Before 1700 only incidentally mention is made of Jewish inhabiltants of Meppel. As from the thirties of the 18th century Jews are more often settling in the town. This gives reason to the local authorities to subject newcomers to strict rules. Until the end of the 18th century it was endeavoured to restrict the inflow of Jews, however, with little impact.

Meppel1Up to 1767 the Jews of Meppel buried their deaths in Zwartsluis. In that year, together with the establishment of the Jewish community of  Meppel, a cemetary was bought at the Boddenkampje. This small piece of land (located at the current Burgemeester Knoppers bridge) was shortly afterwards exchanged with a terrain at the Zomerdijk in Nijeveen. The statutes of the Jewish community date back to 1772. The services were in that period still conducted at private residences. There was a gazan, who functioned at the same time as rabbi and ritual slaughterer.
As from the end of the 18th century the Jewish community of Meppel grew that fast, that at the Touwstraat a public synagogue could be erected. When this building started to become too small by the mid 19th century, it was renovated and enlarged in 1865. Also the second cemetary of the Jewish community, established in 1819 at the Steenwijker straatweg in Meppel was soon too small and was expanded 1850 for that reason.
At the reorganisation of the Jewish communities under king Lodewijk Napoleon in 1808 Meppel was destined as Main Synagogue of the jurisdiction. After the establishment of the NIK (Organization of Jewish Communities in the Netherlands) by king Willem I Meppel was initially classified under the jurisdiction of the ChiefRabbinate of Overijssel and Zwolle, but in 1853 the city became the residency of the CiefRabbinate of Drenthe. The Jewish community of Meppel was confronted with many conflicts, both internally and with the ChiefRabbinate of Zwolle as well. Due to this a schism occurred in 1875.

Meppel2In addition to the ...?... kerkenraad and the ...?... kerkbestuur in Meppel there was a treasurer for the Holy Land. An ...?... Armbestuur took care of the many poor. The Jewish community also had a large number of societies taking care of burials, support to elderly people and orphans, and the maintenance of the synagogue and its interiour. Moreover, there was a women society and a Society to promote Eloquence (Vereniging ter Beoefening van Welsprekendheid). In the seventies of the 19th century a theatre society and a women's choir were established, which only existed for a rather short period. Also the Maatschappij tot Nut der Israëlieten, the Alliance Israélite Universelle and the Nederlandse Zionisten Bond had a department in the city.
The Jewish school, established in 1817 in Meppel, only had its real start some decades later. The school building was located opposite the synagogue. During the years 1853 and 1854 in Meppel the traditional-Jewish weekly paper 'De Israëliet' was published, which was opposed to the reform-oriented 'Israëlietisch Weekblad' of Amsterdam. In the second half of the 19th century Jews were quite active in economical, social and political organisations, amongst which the city council.

Despite a strong decline in member numbers during the twenties and thirties of the 20th century, at the eve of the German invasion Meppel was a medium size Jewish community. The majority of the Jews lived in the major shopping streets and were employed in trade and industry. From among their midst some aldermen, members of the city council and deputy-mayors were elected. In the thirties Meppel acquired the nickname 'Small Rotterdam', due to its large economical activity. Besides a zionist youth movement in the pre-war years also a women society for literature and a society for youth and study were established.
Meppel3As from August 1942 Jewish young men from Meppel were transferred to working camps and also the first deportations to Camp Westerbork occurred. The majority of the Jewish citizens of Meppel was arrested early October 1942, on Yom Kippur, with cooperation of the Dutch police and deported. Their houses were depleted and the furniture was stored in the synagogue. Only one tenth of the Jews of Meppel survived by hiding for the pogroms during the Second World War. Also dozens of Jews from other places hided in the vicinity of the city.
During the occupation the interiour of the synagogue was severely damaged. The Holy Arch was completely destroyed, the Torah-scrolls were partly moved to Amsterdam, the others were lost. The ritual objects were preserved and were donated to the synagogue of Eindhoven after the war. In 1944 the children of mixed marriages were employed in nearby Havelte.

After the war only some Jews returned to Meppel. The Jewish community was officially discontinued in 1964 and merged with the one of Zwolle. The synagogue, which was sold shortly after the war, has been demolished in the framework of a city renewal, like also the Jewish school in the Touwstraat.

The Jewish community of Sleen was established around 1825. Before that time the Jews from that place belonged to the community of Coevorden. In Sleen, however, existed already a cemetary at the end of the eighteenth century, located at the Boterakkerweg. The synagogue at the Straatweg was in use already from 1859.

In 1919 the Jewish community of Sleen was discontinued and merged with that of Emmen. The ramshackled synagogue was sold. The local administration presently takes care of the cemetary.
In the nearby Sleen located village of Zweeloo lived some Jewish families from the beginning of the 19the century until the Second World War.

“Shortly before 1780 some Jews settled in Smilde, which was accompanied by resistance of the local population. These problems continued till within the 19th century. The provincial authories still had to intervene in 1806 in favour of the Jews in Smilde.

The Jewish community expanded considerably in the first half of the 19th century and organised itself already before 1821 to a religious community. Officially it belonged until 1825, the year in which it was recognised as ...branch? 'Bijkerk' within the Nederlands-Israëlitisch Kerkgenootschap (Organization of Jewish Communities in the Netherlands), of the jewish community of Dwingeloo.

Smilde1In 1846 a synagogue was built in Kloosterveen, one of the villages of which Smilde is composed. Two years later a cemetary was bought at the Drentse Hoofdvaart. In addition to a . . .?. . . kerkbestuur and a . . .?. . . kerkenraad there was also a treasurer for the Holy Land in Smilde. The children got Jewish religious education in a small school.
In the fifties of the 19th century the Jewish community of Smilde was divided during a short period of time by an internal conflict, which soon was solved. The Jewish citizens of Smilde were generally employed in trade and as butchers. Next to that they were also involved in the social life in Drenthe and Groningen.
As from the sixties of the 19th century the size of the Jewish community of Smilde gradually declined; at the eve of the Second World War it had de facto stopped to exist.

During the occupation almost all Jewish citizens of Smilde were deported an murdered. In 1943 the Jewish school was modified into a living residence. It is unknown what happened with the furniture and the ritual objects of the synagogue. The building itself has been demolished after the war. In 1950 the Jewish community has been merged to the one of Assen. The cemetary is currently maintained by the local administration.

“Zuidlaren became an independent Jewish community in 1883 and more than one year later a synagogue was consecrated at the Zuiderstraat. A Jewish cemetary existed at the foot of the dolmens behind the Wolferdinge. The Jews of Zuidlaren were employed in trade, as butchers, and in education.  In 1925 the meanwhile considerably declined Jewish community was discontinued. Zuidlaren, Anloo and Vries were added to Assen; Eelde was added to Groningen.

During the occupation by far the most Jewish citizens of Zuidlaren were deported and murdered. Just some individuals were able to hide and thus to survive. The synagogue building got another destination after the war.

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