A Jewish community came into being in the village of Stadskanaal (a part of the municipality of Onstwedde) during the 1840s. A Jewish cemetery was established along the Afdraai, the present-day Gedempte Ceresdiep, on the southern end of Stadskanaal in 1845.
In the early days of Jewish settlement, the Jews of Stadskanaal belonged to the Jewish community at Veendam. Because of the distance between Stadskanaal and Veendam, the Jews of Stadskanaal gathered for their religious services in a room at the Boerendiep. Despite opposition from the Jews of Veendam, the Jews of Stadskanaal were awarded the status of Bijkerk or local community in 1850, and were recognized as forming an independent community in the decennium that followed. The synagogue on the Hoofdstraat in the center of Onstwedde dates from 1860.
The local Jewish community grew rapidly during the second half of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. Most Jews in Stadskanaal worked in the cattle trade. The community included so many children that two teachers were employed to instruct them. The economic circumstance of most local Jews was reasonable.
The Jewish community at Stadskanaal was governed by a council. The community structure also included a council for aid to the poor. Voluntary organizations included a burial society, a society that maintained the appurtenances of the synagogue, and societies that cared for the sick and the needy. During the 1930s, a number of Jewish refugees from Germany settled in Stadskanaal.
Between August and November of 1942, under the World War II German occupation of the Netherlands, the majority of the Jews of Stadskanaal and surroundings were arrested and interred at the concentration and transit camp at Westerbork from whence they were deported to Nazi death camps in Eastern Europe. Few returned. Several dozen local Jews managed to survive the war in hiding. The synagogue was plundered and heavily damaged. The Torah scrolls and curtains of the ark were hidden in advance and recovered after the war.
The damaged synagogue building was sold and razed in 1958. Until 1964, religious services were held in the former residence of the community's teacher, located next to the site of the former synagogue. The teacher's residence was also later razed. A monument to the memory of local Jews murdered during the war was unveiled on the Navolaan in 1986. The Jewish community at Stadskanaal was formally disbanded and merged into that of Groningen in 1988. The local Jewish cemetery is maintained by the municipal authorities.
The Jewish population of Stadskanaal and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time