Jews settled in Gulpen in the middle of the eighteenth century. At first, the local population was hostile to the new arrivals and a number of near-violent incidents took place. By 1786, the Jewish population of Gulpen was sufficiently large for the requisite ten adult males to be found for prayer. Religious services commenced in an improvised synagogue in a private residence.

In 1818, the community at Gulpen was officially recognized as a Bijkerk (local community) within the district of the Ringsynagoge (regional community) at Eijsden. In 1823, the Gulpen community built a synagogue of its own, located on the present-day Kiebeukel (the former Kippenheuvel). The Jews of Gulpen also organized a Jewish school for their children and inaugurated a new school building in 1875. Jewish communal organizations at Gulpen included men's and women's associations, both originally founded as burial societies. The community buried its dead in the Jewish cemetery on the Rijksweg.

Prentbriefkaart van de Kippenheuvel in Gulpen met synagoge, ca. 1920. Het gebouw met toren op de achtergrond is de synagoge.

Postcard of the Kippenheuvel in Gulpen with the synagogue (building with tower), ca. 1920.

The Jewish population of Gulpen peaked in about 1870. By the outset of the twentieth century, the number of Jews at Gulpen declined to the point that the community was merged with that at Vaals, whose numbers also were declining. In 1935, the combined community was officially renamed Gulpen-Vaals.

Under the German occupation of the Netherlands during the Second World War all the Jews of Gulpen-Vaals were deported to Nazi death camps in Poland where they were murdered. Not a single Jew returned to Gulpen and Vaals after the war. What was left of the synagogue building, which had been in poor condition even prior to the war, was used as a stable and by a cheese factory. Years later a private residence was built on this spot. In 1947 the Jewish community at Gulpen-Vaals was officially dissolved and the locale was placed under the jurisdiction of the community at Maastricht.

De kippenheuvel in Gulpen met op de achtergrond de synagoge (gebouw met torentje), ca. 1930

Postcard of the Kippenheuvel in Gulpen with the synagogue (building with tower), ca. 1930.

The Jewish cemeteries at Gulpen and at Vaals presently are maintained by the local authorities. In 1989, a monument to the Jews of Gulpen murdered during the war was unveiled on the Kiewegracht in Gulpen. A smaller monument can be found at the Jewish cemetery in Gulpen.

The Jewish population of Gulpen and surroundings:

The size of the Jewish community over time