Jews lived in Oldenzaal for a short time during medieval times. Modern settlement of Jews in Oldenzaal dates to the middle of the seventeenth century and the arrival of a single Jewish family, soon followed by others. At the mid-century, the Jews of Oldenzaal prayed together in a private home. A synagogue existed in Oldenzaal from 1765 on; its location, however, is no longer known.
The Oldenzaal community appears to have been plagued by internal conflicts. In 1775, five local Jewish families turned to the municipal authorities of Oldenzaal to mediate a dispute. A division in the community in 1800 led to a decision to found a second synagogue. The new house of worship was consecrated in 1802; it was located in the Weestrik, later known as the Kerksteegje. The community was reunited soon after.
During the nineteenth century, the size of the Oldenzaal community made it an influential force within Jewish life in the surrounding region. A torah study fellowship based in Oldenzaal advanced the study of Jewish law locally and regionally. Other voluntary organizations within Jewish Oldenzaal included separate burial societies for men and women. The community also maintained a fund for the support of the needy. By 1879, the synagogue in the Kerksteegje was in danger of collapse and thus was razed and replaced with a new synagogue, located in the Kerkstraat.
The oldest Jewish cemetery in Oldenzaal in modern times dates to sometime prior to 1785; its exact location is no longer known. A new cemetery - located between the present-day Carmelstraat, Sparstraat, and Lyceumstraat - was established sometime around the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Up to the late nineteenth century, most Jews in Oldenzaal worked in the retail sector. At that time Oldenzaal's industrial development benefited from Jews arriving from German border regions. The Jewish community at Oldenzaal declined in size and influence during the first four decades of the twentieth century. Nonetheless, it played an important role as a way station in the absorption into the Netherlands of Jewish refugees from abroad.
Most of the Jews in Oldenzaal were deported and murdered under the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II. A few managed to live out the war in hiding. The synagogue was used as a warehouse during the occupation but came through the war undamaged, as did the community's torah scrolls and other ceremonial objects.
The Jewish community at Oldenzaal was formally dissolved in 1948 and the location was placed under the jurisdiction of the Jewish community at Enschede. The synagogue was sold and, in 1964, was razed to make way for the construction of a new town hall. Prior to demolition, the interior of the synagogue was removed and taken to the annex of the synagogue at Enschede. The Jewish cemetery at Oldenzaal is now maintained by the local authorities. A plaque in the town hall commemorates local Jews murdered during the Second World War.
The Jews of the nearby village of Losser were part of the Oldenzaal community. Jews settled in Losser at the beginning of the eighteenth century. The Jewish cemetery in Losser was located on the Sportlaan; it was cleared away in 1954 and its graves and gravestones were moved to the Jewish cemetery at Enschede.
The Jewish population of Oldenzaal and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time