Jews lived in Ter Apel from the beginning of the 19th century on. An organized Jewish community was established in approximately 1875 and was officially recognized as independent in 1885.
In the early years of Jewish life in Ter Apel religious services were held in a rented room on the Boetseweg in the village of Roswinkel. By 1881, Ter Apel had emerged as the center of Jewish life in the surroundings, which included the villages of Roswinkel, Sellingen, and Munnikemoer. A synagogue was opened in Ter Apel in 1883.
Three Jewish cemeteries eventually were established in the surroundings. The first, located on the Roswinkelstraatweg in Roswinkel, was in use until 1886. The second, in the village of De Maten, remained in use until 1870. The third, located in Ter Apel, was inaugurated in 1886.
The board governing the Ter Apel community consisted of three members. The community's children received their Jewish education from a religious teacher. The only voluntary organization was a burial society, founded in 1902. The burial society also organized visits to the sick and evening study sessions.
In 1942, during the World War II German occupation of the Netherlands, Sellingerbeetse, a forced labor camp for Jewish inmates was established near the village of Sellingen. The approximately 300 slave laborers who registered in the camp in September, 1942 were deported via the detention camp at Westerbork to Nazi death camps in Eastern Europe. Most of the Jews of Ter Apel was deported and murdered as well. Only a few of Ter Apel's Jews managed to survive the war in hiding.
The Jewish community at Ter Apel was officially dissolved in 1948 and the locale placed under the jurisdiction of the Jewish community at Stadskanaal. The synagogue was during the war and in the post-war years was sold to the municipality of Vlagtwedde and later razed. The Jewish cemeteries at the Ter Apel and De Maten are now maintained by the local authorities at Vlagtwedde. The cemetery at Roswinkel is maintained by the municipality of Emmen. In 1998, the cemetery at Roswinkel was cleaned and repaired by the Stichting Landschapsbeheer Drenthe (The Foundation for the Protection of the Landscape of the Province of Drenthe).
In 2004, a monument was unveiled at the corner of the Oosterstraat en de Schotslaan, the site of the former synagogue, in memory of the 49 Jews of Ter Apel murdered during the Second World War.
The Jewish population of Ter Apel and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time