Jewish Social Services

Many Jewish social services existed in the Netherlands before World War II. In the nineteenth century every sizeable Jewish community had a committee for poor relief.

Local committees and associations for poor relief

These committees provided indigent Jews with financial and material assistance (such as fuel for heating their homes in the winter and matzes at Passover). In the larger cities, these boards opened Jewish hospitals, homes for the elderly, and orphanages. The committees for poor relief were assembled by and consisted of members of the Jewish community.
In addition to the official committees for poor relief, there were several independent, local relief associations. Many of these associations had very specific missions, such as staying beside people at their deathbed or caring for the sick. Special burial funds were also commonplace.

Jewish orphanages, hospitals, rest homes, and homes for the elderly

At the start of the twentieth century, the Dutch state gradually assumed responsibility for poor relief. Nonetheless, Jewish care institutions continued to operate. Jewish hospitals, orphanages, rest homes, and homes for the elderly existed in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague, as well as in other communities. Haarlem, for example, had a Jewish hospital, Leiden and Utrecht Jewish orphanages, and Hilversum, Gouda, Arnhem, and Groningen Jewish rest homes and homes for the elderly. These institutions accommodated the Jewish religious customs of their residents.

Special institutions: the Apeldoornse Bos and the Joodse Invalide

During the first four decades of the twentieth century, a few private Jewish institutions were opened to serve Jews throughout the Netherlands. The Apeldoornse Bos, for example, was a Jewish psychiatric institution. Here, Jews were treated for psychiatric disorders according to the latest methods at premises in the middle of an idyllic forest near Apeldoorn from 1909. The Apeldoornse Bos expanded rapidly. By 1938 the institution had 900 patients, including 74 at the Paedagogium Achisomog, a special ward at the Apeldoornse Bos where mentally retarded and wayward children boarded.
The best-known Jewish care institution beyond any doubt was the Joodse Invalide, which housed those unable to continue living on their own because of a physical handicap. The Joodse Invalide, which opened in 1911, was particularly innovative with respect to nursing care, accommodations, and fund-raising. At the Joodse Invalide patients were referred to as ‘people’, and new treatment methods were devised and applied to make the lives of the handicapped as meaningful as possible. In the 1930s, when the Joodse Invalide outgrew its premises for the second time, the architect J. F. Staal was commissioned to produce a state-of-the-art design for the era. Funding for this construction and other operations was raised through appeals broadcast over the radio, lotteries, performances, and several other means. Thanks in part to these efforts Dutch non-Jews were familiar with the Joodse Invalide as well.

After 1933

Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933 directly affected Jewish care institutions in the Netherlands. After all, the Jewish community was responsible for providing the German-Jewish refugees arriving in the Netherlands with relief and support, as had been the case throughout history. Since the end of the nineteenth century, organizations such as the Mozes Montefiore association and Hachnosas Ourchim had helped Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, respectively, and had arranged for the refugees to move on whenever possible. Now, the refugees from Germany needed help.
Following the course of events in Germany, the Comité voor Bijzondere Joodse Belangen (CBJB) [committee for special Jewish interests] was formed under the aegis of David Cohen and Abraham Asscher, who were later in charge of the Jewish Council. The Comité voor Joodse Vluchtelingen (CJV) [sub-committee for Jewish refugees] within the CBJB provided relief to Jewish refugees from Germany, arranged passports and visas for people hoping to continue their journey, and provided advice and financial support – if necessary – to refugees who remained in the Netherlands. At the end of 1938 the rigid refugee policy of the Dutch state drastically reduced the number of refugees admitted. All refugees were henceforth required to live in a central camp. To this end, Camp Westerbork was built near Assen in the province of Drente.

After 1940

In December 1940 the Nederlandse Zionisten Bond (NZB) [Dutch Zionist League] and the two Jewish congregations established a central Jewish organization to coordinate Jewish affairs under the Nazi occupation. This Joodse Coördinatiecommissie (JCC) [Jewish coordination committee] was chaired by L.E. Visser, Esq. The JCC was closely associated with the CBJB and the CJV, endeavoured to protect Jewish interests with the Dutch authorities, and organized courses and lectures. In February 1941 the Jewish Council was formed at the order of the Nazis. While at first the Jewish Council operated exclusively in Amsterdam, over time it was designated in increasing measure by the Nazis as the central Jewish authority. In October 1941 the responsibilities of the Jewish Council were expanded to include all of the Netherlands. The JCC – which was far less amenable than the Jewish Council to cooperating with the Nazis – was forced to discontinue its operations.
Most Jewish social organizations were disbanded by the Nazis. Wherever possible and permitted, the Jewish Council assumed their responsibilities. The Jewish Council served an important social purpose, including in education and financial assistance, especially because the wave of anti-Semitic measures left increasing numbers of Jews unemployed and consequently without any means of financial support.

‘Emptying’ Jewish care institutions

A few Jewish care institutions were ‘simply’ closed and the residents transferred elsewhere. Most, however, were ‘emptied’ by the Nazis in early 1943. The infirm, the elderly, orphans, invalids, and the insane were collected and deported. The deportation of the residents of the Apeldoornse Bos was particularly cruel.
In the night of 21 to 22 January 1943 the psychiatric patients were beaten and thrown onto trucks under the supervision of Aus der Fünten. Those trucks brought them to the station in Apeldoorn, where over 800 patients and 50 nurses were herded into cattle cars. The cattle cars rode straight through to Auschwitz, where nearly everybody was sent to the gas chambers upon arrival. On 1 March the patients at the Joodse Invalide were deported in a similar manner.

After the war many of the re-established Jewish care institutions merged with the Stichting Joods Maatschappelijk Werk.

Recommended reading:

On Jewish poor relief:
Marco H.D. van Leeuwen, 'Arme Amsterdamse joden en de strijd om hun integratie aan het begin van de negentiende eeuw', in H. Berg (ed), De Gelykstaat der Joden. Inburgering van een minderheid (Amsterdam en Zwolle 1996), 55-66

On Jewish care in the Netherlands in general and on Joods Maatschappelijk Werk in particular:
I. Lipschits, Tsedaka. Een halve eeuw Joods Maatschappelijk Werk in Nederland (Zutphen 1997)

On Jewish mental and physical healthcare:
R. Fuks-Mansfeld, A. Sunier en F. Pütmann (eds), Wie in tranen zaait...:geschiedenis van de joodse geestelijke gezondheidszorg in Nederland (Assen 1997)
B. Heyl, Tsedaka en gemiloet chassidiem: de intramurale gezondheidszorg in joods Nederland 1750-1943 (Rotterdam 1995)

About specific institutions:
Lea Appel, Het brood der doden : geschiedenis en ondergang van een joods meisjes-weeshuis
(Baarn 1982)
Gedenkboek ter gelegenheid van het 200-jarig bestaan van het Nederlandsch-Israelietisch jongensweeshuis "Megadle Jethomim" te Amsterdam : 1738-1938 (s.l. 1938)
J. Mendes-da Costa, Het Portugeesch-Israelietisch meisjes weeshuis "Mazon Habanoth" 1734-1934 : uitgegeven ter gelegenheid van zijn tweehonderd jarig bestaan (Amsterdam 1934)
Is. Leman en J.L. Palache, Het centraal Israelietisch wees- en doorgangshuis te Leiden in woord en beeld (1890-1929) (Den Haag 1929)
Een pot piccalily voor Westerbork: journalistiek verslag over de vernietiging van het joodse weeshuis in Leiden (Den Haag 1973)
G. Kerkvliet en M. Uitvlugt, 'De vernietiging van het joodse weeshuis te Leiden tijdens de Duitse bezetting: een verslag', in: Studia Rosenthaliana vol 8 (1974), no 1, 268-299
I.B. van Creveld, Het wezen van wezen: Joodse wezen in Den Haag 1850-1943: een monument (Den Haag 2001)

Homes for the elderly:
J. Meijer, Van Israelitisch oude mannen- en vrouwenhuis tot Joods tehuis voor bejaarden: 1841-1966 (s.l. s.a. (1966)) [Den Haag]

The Apeldoornsce Bos:
Als ik wil kan ik duiken... : brieven van Claartje van Aals, verpleegster in de joods psychiatrische inrichting Het Apeldoornsche Bosch, 1940-1943. Samengest. en toegel. door Suzette Wyers (Amsterdam 1995)
S. Laansma, De Joodse gemeente te Apeldoorn en het Apeldoornsche Bosch (Zutphen 1979)
Hanneke Oosterhof, Het Apeldoornsche Bosch : Joodse psychiatrische inrichting, 1909-1943 (Apeldoorn 1989)

The Joodse Invalide
R.G. Fuks-Mansfeld, 50 jaar Joodse Invalide (Amsterdam 1961)

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