References in a document dated 1558 suggest that Jews had lived in Den Bosch during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. There are no other mentions of Jews in Den Bosch until the 1680's, when the first Jew to do so received citizenship in the city. By 1777, a total of thirteen Jews had become citizens of Den Bosch and a number had been admitted to the market vendors' guild.It was not until after the introduction of full civil equality in the Netherlands in 1796, however, that the Jews of Den Bosch achieved a secure legal footing in the town. Over the century before, economic competition between Jews and non-Jews had engendered legal obstacles. In 1779, for example, all Jews without valid residence permits were forced to leave Den Bosch. Those Jews who did hold residence permits were faced with restrictions as to the observance of their religion; permission to hold religious services was denied to local Jews as was their petition to establish a Jewish cemetery. It was not until 1790 that the Jews of Den Bosch finally were allowed to purchase a cemetery, located on the present-day Berkenheuveldreef in Vught, in which they in fact had been burying their dead for a number of years previously.
The Emancipation Decree of 1796 changed all this. An officially recognized Jewish community was founded in Den Bosch in 1799. In 1824, a synagogue was opened in a private home located on the Mortel. Ownership of the synagogue were transferred to the community some years later and the building went on to serve the Jewish community of Den Bosch for more than a century. In 1937, it was rebuilt to serve as a meeting hall and the community's auxiliary synagogue. A newly constructed synagogue located on the Prins Bernhardstraat was consecrated in 1938.
Den Bosch was also important to the Jews of the region. Following the establishment of a national Jewish consistory in 1814, Den Bosch was selected as the seat of the chief rabbi of the province of North Brabant. At the close of the nineteenth century, Jewish organizations in Den Bosch included a fellowship for Talmudic studies, a burial society, a women's society for the upkeep of the interior of the synagogue, a second women's society for the purchase of ceremonial objects for the synagogue, and a branch of the Alliance Israélite Universelle. Aid to the poor was administered by a community council and a separate voluntary charitable organization. The community also maintained a Jewish school.
The majority of the Jews in Den Bosch work in the cattle trade or in the manufacturing of shoes and cigars. Due to the overall prosperity of Den Bosch, the local Jewish community, unlike many of those in the Mediene, continued to grow during the first years of the twentieth century. From 1910 to 1940, community membership rolls remained relatively constant. During the same period, new Jewish organizations arose including both Zionist organizations and organizations opposed to Zionism.
Following the 1941 expulsion of Jews from public education during the Second World War, a Jewish elementary school and Jewish high school were established in Den Bosch. The first round-up of Jews for deportation occurred in mid-1941. A representative of the German-controlled Jewish Council was appointed for Den Bosch late the same year year. When deportations began in earnest late in August, 1942, Den Bosch served as a detention and transit point for Jews deported from throughout the province of North Brabant. This was due in part to the stationing of a special brigade (Einsatzkommando) of the Nazi security police at Den Bosch and to the proximity of Den Bosch to the German prison camp at the Dutch town of Vught.
The camp at Vught was established in 1942 and modeled on the Nazi prison camps at Buchenwald and Dachau. Only a part of the Vught camp was intended for Jews. An estimated 12,000 Jews passed through the prison camp at Vught between January 1943 and the closure of the camp's Jewish section in June 1944. During their detention, a portion of the Jewish prisoners at Vught labored in factories established in the camp by companies including Philips. Deportation of the Jews of Den Bosch was completed in April, 1943. Of the 500 Jews deported from Den Bosch only 200 survived the war. The synagogue came through the war intact; its contents, however, were stolen.
Jewish life in Den Bosch was reestablished immediately following the Allied liberation of the south of the Netherlands in 1944. The synagogue was consecrated anew in 1947 and furnished with the contents of the former synagogue at Zaltbommel. In 1947, a plaque in memory of the murdered Jews of the city was unveiled in the interior of the Den Bosch synagogue.
By the 1970's, membership in the Den Bosch community had fallen to the point that it was no longer possible to hold Sabbath religious services. In 1989, a foundation was established to restore the original 1824 synagogue building which, by then, was in an extremely poor state. In 1996, during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the restored building was reopened as a musical theater. In 1984, a monument designed by Otto Treumann in memory of the Jews who passed through the prison camp at Vught was unveiled in the village's railway station. In 1995, on the fiftieth anniversary of the final Allied liberation of the Netherlands, a monument was erected in the Casinotuin garden in Den Bosch in memory of the murdered students of the war-time Jewish elementary and high schools.
The Jewish population of 's-Hertogenbosch
The size of the Jewish community over time