It appears that Jews lived in Bergen op Zoom during the late Middle Ages. According to archival evidence, local Jews were awarded civil rights equal to those of Christian residents in 1428. The economic decline of Bergen op Zoom at the end of the fifteenth century led to the decline of the Jewish population of the city.
Jews settled anew in Bergen op Zoom during the early years of the eighteenth century. In 1793, Jews obtained a parcel of land on which to found a cemetery on the Bergsebaan at the outskirts of the city. In 1815, a part of the space occupied by the municipal weighing house was acquired by the community for the construction of a synagogue. Less than twenty years later, a new synagogue was built on the present-day Koevoetstraat. The Jews of Bergen op Zoom also maintained a small Jewish school which was provided with a building of its own in 1868. Communal organizations included a burial society and society for the maintenance of the synagogue.
Most of the Jews in Bergen op Zoom worked in the retail sector and were largely anonymous in the life of the city. The Jewish population of Bergen op Zoom peaked in the mid-nineteenth century and declined slowly thereafter.
During the Second World War the Jews of Bergen op Zoom suffered under the same anti-Jewish measures as implemented by the Germans throughout the Netherlands. On November 11, 1942, they were summoned for deportation via Amsterdam to the detention camp at Westerbork in the east of the Netherlands. A few dozen managed to escape into hiding but the majority were ultimately transported to Nazi death camps and murdered.
In 1958, the Jewish community of Bergen op Zoom was formally dissolved and incorporated into that of the city of Tilburg. Since 1967, the Jews of Bergen have been part of the community of the city of Breda.
The interior of Bergen op Zoom's synagogue was badly damaged during the Second World War. After the war, the synagogue was sold and for several decades served as commercial space. In 1975, both the synagogue building and the community's former ritual bath were restored. Since then, they serve as a permanent memorial to the decimated Jewish community of Bergen of Zoom and occasionally are used to house exhibitions and meetings.
The Jewish cemetery at Bergen op Zoom is now maintained by local authorities. Remaining space in the cemetery is used by Jews from across the nearby Dutch-Belgian border. For more than a century, Jews from the Belgian city of Antwerp had buried their dead at the village of Putten, just inside the Netherlands. Many Belgian Jews prefer burial in the Netherlands where, unlike in Belgium, cemeteries and graves are legally protected from eventual clearing.
The Jewish population of Bergen op Zoom and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time