The Jewish Community of Doetinchem
Salomon Ephraim, Levij Hartog, David Levij., Samuel Tobias, Abraham Mozes, Meijer Bonevanck, Hijman Levij van Perlstein, Bolle, Englander(Choir conductor”), M. Wolf, A. Schloesser, J. Vredenburg(“Chief Rabbi”), N. Sloesser, Philip Wolff, Naatjen Slosser-Meijer, Nieweg, Schaap(Rabbi Meier Schaap) (“teacher”), Sam de Wolff, Joseph Frank(Rabbi-“Teacher”), Hartog Themans, David de Wolff, (Widow) S. Jacobs, Maurits Mogendorff, Heilbron, Sam Cohen, Jacob Sloesser, Bram Berlijn, Andreas Burnier (Ronnie Dessaur) (“Professor-poet”)
Family trees of relevance:
Groenheim(Achterhoek), Mogendorff, Heilbron.
18th and 20th Century
Various Jews lived in Doetinchem in the 17th century. In August 1636 Salomon Ephraim appeared before the city's magistrates. Salomon stated " that he would like to become a resident in this city in order to be a surgeon, as well as to slaughter an animal or sheep and to sell it amongst the community". The city's governors allowed the surgeon Salomon to remain in the city for a year on condition that "he behave in all modesty in this community, to refrain from holding meetings in order to discuss or dispute in particular religion with anybody'. The magistrates found it necessary that during the heavy plague epidemics prevailing at the time, a competent doctor should be present in the town. Every year Salomon Ephraim had to renew his residence permit.
Merchant Levij Hartog, who was born in Doetinchem, asked around 1750 permission from the bailiff of the seigniory of Didam to settle there. He was married to the daughter of the Didammer Jew David Levij. He was probably given permission to settle.
In 1783 nine Jewish families lived in that city. On May 14, 1783 they were notified by regulation of the magistrate that heads of families may not harbor any foreign Jews in their homes. At the same time that he announced this prohibition he also said it was punishable by 25 gold guilders. In 1792 Samuel Tobias was caught housing temporarily a foreign Jewish couple. Emanuel got a fine of 20 guilders and the guests had to leave the city within a week.
In the eighteenth century organized robber gangs were notorious for making the Prussian-Dutch borders insecure. Some of these bandits came to a bad end. In Doesburg in June 1723, for example, Abraham Mozes was heavily punished for theft after a lawsuit. Upon sentencing he was beheaded.
In Doetinchem the son of Elder Meijer Bonevanck received permission in 1663 to operate a loan bank. For this, Meijer had to seek a guarantor and pay a sum of Fl.800 to the city council. Amongst the stipulations to the receiver of the grant it was mentioned that no pawns originating from plunder or robbery were allowed and that on the shabbat and Jewish holidays no grants were to be issued. Four times a year auctions were being held in Doetinchem. Aggression against the bank owner could be fined by three ducates. The lombardier was safeguarded from going on watch and to be billeted.
In 1811 the total number of persons in Doetinchem was 1557, of which 62 Jews in 12 families. The Jewish community of Doetinchem included from 1811 – 1817 also the Jewish communities of Bergh and Zevenaar. In 1824 Hijman Levij van Perlstein was loan bank owner and in 1841 he still was. After a while he had had enough of it but in 1851 the mayor and city council asked him to manage the bank again.
After 1821 the communities of Terborg, Silvolde, Zelhem and Hengelo(Gld.) also belonged to the main synagogue of Doetinchem.
According to a decree by Napoleon that came into effect on November 18, 1811, everyone had to register a name for his family or if they already had one, legalize the family name. That took place in Doetinchem on October 30th, 1812.
Johanna Benjamin, widow of Philip Levij adopted the name of Van Perlstein. Emanuel Tobas became Menk, Isaak Levij, merchant in "small goods" kept his family name, as did Bert Levij – also merchant in "small goods". The 61 year old Philips, Vreij and Meijer took on these names, whereas the butcher Wolf Samuel announced that he wanted to acquire the family name of Groenheim. Marcus Benjamin who was married to Caroline Gompertz declared that he wanted to adopt the name of Gompertz as family name. Moses Marcus adopted the family name of Vredenburg, widower Lijzer Salomon preferred to be called Levij and Hertz Meijer took the name of Maijort.
Benjamin Marcus, 51 years of age, married to Bettie Abrahams adopted as first name Bendit and as family name Vredenburg. The names of his children, who still lived at home, thus became Marcus Bendit, Abraham Bendit, Moses Bendit and Philip Bendit.
Samuel Abrahams Israel, teacher of religion and Marcus Heijmans were amongst the few who wanted to retain both their first and their family names.
The first (home) synagogue was established in 1780 in a building situated behind the Grutpoort in Walstreet. At most 50 Jews could participate in the services. This Jewish community belonged to the synagogical jurisdiction of Nijmegen. In 1817 the Jewish inhabitants of 's-Heerenberg and Zevenaar also belonged to this community. In 1842 a serious disagreement arose between the members of the board of this community. The treasurer, Philip Levie, had put in a complaint with the The Hague High Commission about Superintendent Heiman Levij van Perlstein, who was appointed in 1840.
The small and not very efficient synagogue in Walstreet would still be in use until 1878.
However, several years would pass until the first stone would be laid for a new synagogue at Waterstreet. On Tuesday, 12th May 1874 the Mayor and the Parnassim revealed two new memorial tablets. These tablets were placed at both sides of the entrance doors of the beautiful neoclassical synagogue. The date was chosen because it was the silver jubilee of the crowning of King William III. On Friday, March 1st, 1878 the synagogue was solemnly inaugurated in the presence of many important personalities.
The tora scrolls were brought over from the old synagogue in Walstreet to the new one in Waterstreet. Chief Rabbi Samuel Berenstein from The Hague held the festive speech (speech of the day). In the evening a great ball was held at the Societeit at which also many German guests attended and at the end of the celebration both the German and the Dutch national anthems were sung. In 1879, because of internal conflicts the kehila was split and an alternative Dutch-Jewish community was established by the name of Hulpe Israel.
This synagogue was situated in a street that was later named the Synagogue Street.
On Thursday, 9th February 1893 the fifteenth jubilee of the synagogue in Waterstreet was celebrated. On this occasion a new Tora Scroll was consecrated. Cantor Frederik Hoogstraal led the service and Chief Rabbi Tobias Tal held the speech of the day.
The community in the 20th Century
In November 1906 the Committee agreed to build a school, a mikwe, an apartment for the teacher and a meeting hall. Costs amounted to 5064 guilders and in 1907 the new building was inaugurated. However, it only existed till 1932 because by then it was sold. By the time the synagogue existed 40 years in February 1918 no commemorative festivities took place because WWI was still vehemently being fought. A beautiful veil was nevertheless donated to the synagogue. In March 1918 the society "Verbroedering na Strijd" organized a gala ball. In honour of the synagogue's 50 years' existence in 1928 a special service was held with amongst others the choir led by M. Bolle. In the evening there was a big party at which the Jewish theater club 'Onder Ons' performed the play "The Chazzan-opening". Among the performers were Mausje van Sjmoel, Agurkie, Leib Olijf, Mozes Zoetvis and Kaatje Uiekruier. On March 8th, 1933 a new Tora Scroll was inaugurated and on this occasion the choir of the Great Synagogue in Amsterdam performed , under the baton of the famous conductor Englander. In 1933 the kehillah built a new complex in Burgemeester Tenkin Street. The laying of the first stone took place on January 4th, 1933, This was done by Parnas M. Wolf and Secretary A. Schloesser. On Sunday, April 30th 1933 the new buildings, the school, the meeting hall, the mikwe and the apartment for the teacher were inaugurated . Chief Rabbi J. Vredenburg gave the inaugural speech. Many of the persons present were especially acknowledged, amongst them the management of Misset, architect Stap as well as the contractors. As a final touch Miss N. Sloesser and Philip Wolff discussed in a witty dialogue the history of the last 25 years.
In 1933 the community management decided to forgo the 25th jubilee celebration, which was to be held during the Omer period, because of the prevailing persecution of Jews in Germany.
On May 24th, 1936 Naatjen Slosser-Meijer celebrated her 100th birthday and on this occasion Chief Rabbi Vredenburg held a festive prayer service of thanksgiving. A boys' choir led by Chazzan Nieweg sung an ode to the century old lady.
The last big celebration of the Doetinchem Kehillah was held in March 1938 in honour of its 60 years' existence. Amongst others two solemn services were held at the synagogue. A committee in charge of the festivities compiled a guide to the festivities, containing introductions by Chief Rabbi Vredenburg and Mayor Slothouwer. The guide also contained a short synopsis of the most important events in the Kehillah from 1878 to 1938. According to the enthusiastic author of this festive guide, the synagogue in Doetinchem "could compete both in its exterior as well as its interior with the most beautiful synagogues in the province of Gelderland."
During the war the synagogue in Water Street was used as a warehouse for generator blocks on orders of the German occupier. These wooden blocks were transported each week to Berlin. Equipment of Organization Todt was also stored in the synagogue. Furniture, chinaware and other possessions of Jewish families were stored in the nearby Roman Catholic St. Martinus Church. These possessions were not handled with care. But this complaint was discussed extensively in the Dutch press only in the late Nineties.
The end of this beautiful synagogue came on March 21st, 1945 at 17.00 hrs from a bombardment. During the fighting on April 2nd, 1945 Canadian soldiers used flamethrowers in order to break German resistance and thus the remaining parts of the synagogue went up in flames. There were many wounded and 180 dead were mourned.
Around 1850 the Jewish school in Doetinchem had facilities for about 25 pupils. The highest number of pupils was reached in 1903 – namely 34. At that time also the number of community members was at its highest, at 190. In 1845, 35 pupils attended the Jewish school. Twelve pupils were in the first class, 10 in the second class and 13 in the third class. The pupils received lessons in translating the 5 books of the Tora and in Hebrew cursive writing. Rabbi Meier Schaap , in function from 1886 till 1891, was a very capable teacher. Sam de Wolff, the socialist Zionist and famous moderator of a well-known discussion panel on the radio, wrote the following: "Schaap is an exceptional person, like whom there were not many amongst the Jewish Religion teachers". During the years 1911 – 1940 Rabbi Joseph Frank was the much appreciated religion teacher. He organized every year a big Chanukah party and taught religion to about 25 pupils.
In 1693 in the certificate book of deeds of Maria Magdalena, douairiere of Nassau, at the Judicial Court of Doetinchem, the term of "Jodenberch" is mentioned. Is this perhaps an indication of an old Jewish cemetery? In 1762 the magistrate threatened banishment from the town because a Jewish child was buried without permission. Although afterwards a plot was acquired for a Jewish cemetery, it is not known whether it was inaugurated as such. "The Israelite Community has a separate cemetery outside the boundaries of the town" – this is mentioned in the report of the community council of 1866. The oldest tombstones are the ones inscribed as follows: 15th April 1818 with the name of Zadok and 19th January 1824 with the name of Mordechai. The cemetery in Borneo Street has an area of 7800 M2, it contains 98 tombstones. Beginning 1992 the first translation was ready, as well as of all texts in the Jewish cemetery in Gendringen. In 1945 a memorial plaque was placed in memory of the members of the Kehillah, perished in the Shoa. In 1982 a new "metaheer house" was also built.
Some well known Jewish families in Doetinchem
Families Philips, Vreij and Meijer came to live in Doetinchem after 1830. The oldest famililies were Menk, Leij, Grienhiem, Gomperts, Vredenburg, Marcus, Themans, Israel and Van Perlstein.
Around 1830, 13 Jewish families lived in the town, the oldest inhabitant in 1830 was the 82 year old tradesman Isak Levij, who was born there. Hartog Themans was born in 1841 in Doetinchem and died in 1906. He played a role in church matters (building of a new synagogue) and society (member of the board of the market regulation board).
Family Van Perlstein
One of the most well known families was the Van Perlsteins who for many generations had a lot of influence. Amongst others they exploited a loan bank, they were lombarians and managed a distillery and a gin factory. The Perlsteins also belonged to the most influential members of the Kehillah in Doetinchem. Also influential was banker Levij as well as the well-known trader Levij Beer Levij. David de Wolff should also be mentioned, he began as a second hand dealer and later left for Friesland in order to become a pedlar in soft goods. He was the father of the above-mentioned Sam de Wolff. Also well known became the fashion house for textiles and clothes of Widow S. Jacobs, which was established in 1896 near the market place and which exists till this day under a different name. The largest furniture shop in Doetinchem and perhaps in the whole of the Achterhoek was established in 1895 by Maurits Mogendorff. On the front of the warehouses of Mogendorff in Seevinckgang the name is still mentioned. In 1935 the 50th anniversary was celebrated.
In the building where father Maurits and his wife Sara lived, there is now a photo shop. Their genealogical tree can be found at the website www.dutchjewry.org
The widow I. Heilbron operated "Het Modehuis" in Bolie Street, where many Jewish tradesmen were concentrated. The brokerage firm Heilbron existed already in the thirties and even today broker Heilbron still has an office in Keppelsweg. Sam Cohen gained his livelihood by running a market shop. He also visited his clients at their homes and then usually carried his wares on his head. This gave him the nickname of ‘kopjoedde’. At Hamburger Street 10, three generations of the Reichenberger family sold fashion articles. Sally Berlijn was the well-known pedlar in Doetinchem and surroundings. Jacob Sloesser had in the thirties a large men's clothing shop at the Simonsplein. Till this day the shop still exists with that name at the same place. Bram Berlijn rode with his carrier cycle from one farmer to the other in order to sell small cattle. Once he was hit on the road by the manager of the Electromotorenfabriek from Terborg. This man was so generous that he gave Bram a 100 guilders. Bram was very satisfied and stated that he wouldn't mind to fall again like that.
The war years 1940-1945
The first act of resistance in Doetinchem was in 1940 at a school. As a result of the German regulation that Jewish teachers were not allowed to teach anymore, the city's high school started a strike. In 1941 Jewish children were not allowed to attend primary schools anymore. In Doetinchem the mayor permitted a regional school to be opened. In this regional school 33 pupils were given lessons, three from Bergh, twelve from Dinxperlo, three from Wisch, forteen from Doetinchem and one from Laag-Keppel. In that same year the razzia's also started, mainly of men most of whom were murdered in Mauthausen. Exceptionally, the camp for Jewish N.S.B.'s, also sometimes called Mussert Jews, was in 1942 situated in Doetinchem for a short time. Six of these people were deported to Mauthausen, their protective membership in the N.S.B. notwithstanding.(Note: Anton Mussert was the leader of the N.S.B., the Dutch Fascist Party).
During the night of 7th to 8th May the window panes were smashed at Jacobs on the Market place, at Cohen in Bolie Street and at Philips in Hamburger Street. As a reaction to this the windowpanes of N.S.B. members and of Reich Germans were also smashed and as a result 10 Jewish citizens were arrested, but were released after 24 hours.
On October 1st 1941 there lived in Doetinchem 166 Jews, 11 of whom did not have Dutch citizenship. After the war some families returned and in 1947 only 24 Jews still lived there.
After the war
After the war there was no way to revive an intense Jewish life, but the few families who returned still went on supporting the small community, even though the synagogue in Water Street was destroyed in 1945. The little street connecting Plantsoen Street and Bolie Street was named Synagogue Street. At the Jewish cemetery a memorial plate was placed with list of the names of all those who perished in the Holocaust.
The well-known Dutch Jewish professor and poet, the late Andreas Burnier (Ronnie Dessaur), whose forefathers are buried at the Jewish cemetery in Doetinchem, wrote an impressive poem, from which herewith a few lines are quoted:
No one has made off with them.
No one has transported them.
No one has guarded them in Westerbork.
No one locked them up in a train.
After all they stepped out in Auschwitz
The youngest, the oldest, the men, the women
Once a year you are remembered
In heavily guarded synagogues
By crying progeny –
The children, grandchildren,
A new day of remembrance
Between the holidays.
(*) See Florike Egmond
Bestandnummers (Inventory numbers) and Location Codes of the books present at the library of the Center for Research of Dutch Jewry, Jerusalem:
Locatie Code: B103
Author: Egmond, Florike
Title: Banditisme in de Franse tijd
Publishing information: Amsterdam – Bataafse Leeuw 1986
Locatie Code: Archief Hoogduitse Joden/gemeente, no. 13
Author Egmond, Florike
Title: Contours of identity: poor Ashkenazim in the Dutch Republic
Publishing information: Jerusalem, 1993
Locatie Code: B138X113
Author: Egmond, Florike (Mathilde Florike), 1953
Title: Op het verkeerde pad
Publishing information: Amsterdam Bakker 1994
Hans Kooger, "Het Oude Volk", pages 22-72. Published by
"Staring Instituut"/Mr. H.J.Steenbergenstichting", Doetinchem , 2001 (Slightly revised)
With permission of the author.
Extracted and edited by:Trude & Berrie Asscher
Translation into English:Nina Mayer
The poem by the poet Andreas Burnier contributed by: Berrie Asscher
246 sources and research references used by the author are specified on pages 68-72 of the source.