The history of the Jews of Amersfoort begins in the mid-seventeenth century. In approximately 1650, a group of Portuguese Jews became the first Jews to settle in the city. Ten years later, the first Amersfoort Jew was awarded full rights as a citizen of the city. Soon after, the Ashkenazi Jews began to arrive Amersfoort and, in 1676, an Ashkenazic Jew was appointed lease hold of the municipal lending bank.
During the first years of Jewish settlement in Amersfoort, religious services were held in a private house. The Jewish community of Amersfoort grew steadily and soon enjoyed the protection of the municipal leaders, not least due to its role in the tobacco trade. Around 1700, a small cemetery was established near the Bloemendaalse Poort. Eventually, the growth of the Ashkenazi Jewish population led to the construction in 1727 of an Ashenazi synagogue in the Juffersgat. The Portuguese community slowly declined.
Benjamin Cohen, an heir of a leading dynasty of Amersfoort tobacco merchants, was a fervent Dutch patriot and twice during riots in 1787 offered his house on the Zuidsingel as a refuge to Stadtholder Willem V and his wife.
The Jewish community of Amersfoort was extremely observant. Its leaders not only opposed reforming measures put forth by the central Jewish Consistory at the outset of the nineteenth century but also initially opposed the establishment of the government of King Willem I in 1813.
From 1814 to 1917 Amersfoort was the seat of the Chief Rabbinate of the province of Utrecht. In 1867, a conflict within the community led to the building of a second synagogue located near the Kortegracht. In 1873, the community purchased a parcel of land along the Soesterstraatweg to serve as a new cemetery.
The Amersfoort Jewish community maintained a religious school, a burial society, and a society offering care to the sick and aged. A women's society engaged in charity and cared for the maintenance of synagogue appurtenances. The community also maintained two study societies, a cultural society, and a theater society. During the twentieth century, a number of Zionist organizations were founded.
During the German occupation, the lot of the Jews of Amersfoort was the same as that of Jews elsewhere. In September, 1941,the community established a school for Jewish children banned from public education. Between August, 1942 and April, 1943 the Jews of Amersfoort were deported to the concentration camp at Westerbork in the north of the Netherlands. From there, they were eventually transported to Nazi death camps in eastern Europe and murdered. Fortunately, several dozen Jews from Amersfoort and surroundings managed to survive the war in hiding.
Not far from Amersfoort is the site of the Polizeiliches Durchgangslager (Police Detention Camp) established by the Germans in 1941. The worse lot at this infamous detention center was suffered by its Jewish labor unit. In 2000, a memorial center was established at this terrible site.
After the war, the Amersfoort Jewish community was established anew. The synagogue on the Drieringensteeg was re-consecrated. In 1949, its badly damaged interior was fully restored. From 1960 untill 2008, in addition to a fully functioning Jewish community, Amersfoort was home to the Sinai psychiatric hospital of the Central Association for Jewish Mental Health. In 2008 the Sinai centre moved to Amsterdam.
In 1999, a memorial in the form of a scroll bearing the names of the 333 Jews of Amersfoort murdered during the war was unveiled at the local historical museum, the Flehite Museum. The scroll will be moved to permanent place at Amersfoort's municipal information center.
In the summer of 2000, during the restoration of a building at Muurhuizen 26, remains were recovered belonging to the former Mikve (Jewish ritual bath) that had stood at the site from 1737 to 1943.
On the site of Kamp Amersfoort a holocaust memorial was unveiled in May 2013. The monument consists of a concrete relief that was originally on the facade of the Apeldoornsche Bosch.
The Jewish population of Amersfoort and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time