In 1636, a Jewish physician received permission to settle in Doetinchem. By the end of the seventeenth century, a number of Jews resided in Doetinchem and, by the eighteenth century, a small Jewish community had come into being. Most of the Jews in Doetinchem had come from across the nearby German border, mainly from Kleef.
The majority of the Jews of Doetinchem worked as traders. In addition, the local lending bank was run by Jews. Nevertheless, a large part of the community lived in poverty, even as late as the nineteenth century. A distillery established during the second half of the nineteenth century by the Jewish Van Perlstein family came to play an important role in the economy of Doetinchem. During the early twentieth century, several Jews served on Doetinchem's town council.
Doetinchem's first synagogue, dating from the second half of the eighteenth century, was located near the town walls, not far from the Grutport. In 1878, a new synagogue was built on the Waterstraat. During the early twentieth century, a conflict led to the establishment of a breakaway second community that held religious services in a private residence in the Nieuwstad neighborhood of Doetinchem. The Jewish cemetery on the IJkenweg was established in approximately 1770; the stone with the oldest legible inscription is dated 1792.
Despite the poverty of the Jews of Doetinchem, the community managed to maintain a school offering religious education and lessons in Yiddish. The school eventually received permanent quarters in the new synagogue in the Waterstraat.
Voluntary organizations in the Doetinchem community included the synagogue council, a women's club, a choral society, a friendship club, and a burial society. In 1907, a community center was dedicated. The center, located on the IJsselkade, contained a religious school, an apartment for the school's teacher, a meeting hall, and a ritual bath.
In November, 1940, six months into the German occupation of the Netherlands, students at Doetinchem's Municipal Lyceum held a strike to protest the firing of Jewish teachers. In the autumn of 1941, following the expulsion of Jewish children from public education, a regional Jewish school was opened in Doetinchem. The majority of the Jews of Doetinchem were deported between October, 1941 and April, 1943. Although a few dozen Doetinchem Jews managed to survive the war in hiding, all of the deportees were murdered at German concentration camps. A number of Jews who had been members of the Dutch National Socialist Party (NSB) were held at a prison camp near Doetinchem prior to their deportation to Theresienstadt.
The synagogue on the Waterstraat was destroyed during a wartime bombardment. The community's school building was destroyed by fire in 1976. Following a conflict with the NIK (the national organization of Dutch Jewry), the Doetinchem community joined with the Jewish community of the town of Terborg to form the NIG De Achterhoek (Netherlands Israelite Community of the Achterhoek region). In 2002, an organization was formed to create a monument to commemorate the rich past of Jewish Doetinchem.
In June 2007 a monument was erected at Boliestraat to the 124 Jews who were murdered during the holocaust.
The Jewish population of Doetinchem and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time