There is evidence of the presence of Jews in Doesburg as early as the Middle Ages. By the fifteenth century, the town contained a street named Jodenstraat (Jews' Street). By 1639, the local lending bank was operated by Jewish leaseholders and a small Jewish community had begun to grow. Most of the Jews of Doesburg lived in dire poverty. Early in the eighteenth century some were so hard-pressed as to join bands of roving robbers.
The granting of civil equality throughout the Netherlands in 1796 gave Jews the freedom to live where they wished. The city fathers of Doesburg opposed this and, ultimately, the provincial authorities were forced to intervene on behalf of Jews seeking to settle in the town. This enabled the Doesburg community to grow. Growth continued throughout the nineteenth century but, nevertheless, the majority of the community remained direly poor. For the most part, the Jews of Doesburg worked in the meat industry, retail trade, and banking and lending. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the Jewish population of Doesburg began to decline.
Starting in the seventeenth century, the Jews of Doesburg held religious services in a private home. In 1800, the community bought a building in the Torensteeg and converted it into a synagogue. This building collapsed during a storm in 1807. Soon after, the community purchased a second building soon with support from the central consistory of Dutch Jewry (NIK). In 1898, the community built a new synagogue near the Martini Church and Doesburg's market square. The Doesburg community maintained a religious school from the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Over the course of its history, the Doesburg community used three cemeteries. The oldest dated to the seventeenth century and was located near the Ooipoortwal. The community inaugurated a second cemetery near the Veerpoortwal in 1723. By the outset of the nineteenth century, the community had outgrown this cemetery and obtained permission to annex adjacent ground. From 1856 on, the community buried its dead in the Molenveld, in the garden of the orphanage located just outside of the Meipoort. A burial society was founded in 1896.
During the Second World War, the majority of Doesburg's Jewish population was apprehended and deported during a series of raids in 1941 and 1942. A few local Jews were able to find hiding places but none of the deported returned. During the war, the synagogue was plundered by members of the Dutch National Socialist party, the NSB. Despite this, some of the contents of the synagogue were hidden and later reclaimed and are now exhibited in the Rooden Tooren Museum for Doesburg and Surroundings. The synagogue building itself was largely destroyed just prior to the end of the war when the Germans blew up the tower of a neighboring church.
The Jewish community of Doesburg was formally disbanded in 1947 and administratively merged into that of Arnhem. What was left of the synagogue building was razed in 1951. Over the years, all three of the Jewish cemeteries have been cleared away. A plaque in memory of Doesburg Jews murdered during the war was unveiled in the city hall in 1985. In 2000, a plaque commemorating the destruction of the synagogue in 1945 was unveiled in the Torensteeg near the Martini Church.
The Jewish population of Doesburg and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time