Veendam en Wildervank

Jews settled in Veendam and Wildervank during the last decades of the 17th century. In 1738, a Jew living in Veendam built a house on the Midden-Verlaat to serve as a synagogue for local Jews. In 1745, this synagogue was replaced by another one set up in a private home also located on the Midden-Verlaat. This building was bought by the local Jewish community sometime during the 1790s. The building was renovated and officially reopened as a synagogue in 1798. A Jewish cemetery was established along the Jagtveensloot during the mid-18th century; it was expanded in 1779 and once again in 1902.

Portret van Judith Sanders(1846-1925), dochter van een Veendamse manufacturenhandelaar, geschilderd door Salomon Garf (1879-1943)

Portrait of Judith Sanders(1846-1925), daughter of a Veendamse tradsman, paited by Salomon Garf (1879-1943)

At the outset of the 19th century, the Jewish community of Veendam-Wildervank was a relatively large one by Dutch standards. Most of the community's breadwinners worked as butchers, retailers, market peddlers, and dealers in hides.

Initially, the Jews of Veendam and Wildervank were considered part of the Jewish community at Meppel. In approximately 1810, conflicts among the Jews of Veendam and Wildervank required intervention from outside. In 1821, the Jews of Veendam and Wildervank were recognized as constituting an independent Ringsynagoge (regional community) under the aegis of the Jewish community at Groningen.

Synagoge te Veendam

Synagogue in Veendam

The Jewish population of Veendam and Wildervank rose throughout the 19th century. At the time, the community was managed by seven of its members, of whom three formed a directorate to handle daily affairs. Other officials of the community included a council for the distribution of aid to the poor and a treasurer for collecting and dispensing funds to aid Jewish settlers in Eretz Israel.

Approximately twelve voluntary organizations are maintained by local Jews. These included a burial society, study fellowships, societies for aiding the sick and the needy, and a society responsible for the upkeep of the interior of the synagogue. The Maatschappij tot Nut der Israëlieten in Nederland (Society for the Welfare of Jews in the Netherlands) also maintained a chapter in Veendam and Wildervank. The community maintained a school for Jewish children which reached the peak of its activities in about 1860. The local synagogue was renovated in 1892.

Early in the 20th century, a Jewish cultural youth organization was established in Veendam and Wildervank as a society for the assistance of pioneers bound for Palestine. Local Jews were also active in local life at the time, with several members of the community participating in public administration.

The Jewish population of Veendam and Wildervank peaked at the outset of the 20th century and declined thereafter. This was due in part to the poverty of the region and to the attraction of larger, industrialized locales. Many of the Jews remaining in the Veendam and Wildervank worked as butchers.

During the World War II German occupation of the Netherlands approximately ten Jews from Veendam and Wildervank managed to survive the war in hiding. The rest were taken in the autumn of 1942 to the detention and transit camp at Westerbork and from there deported to Nazi death camps in Poland where most were murdered. The community's Torah scrolls were taken to Amsterdam for safekeeping but were never recovered.

The Jewish community of Veendam and Wildervank was dissolved in 1948 and the locale was placed within the jurisdiction of the Jewish community at Stadskanaal. The synagogue was sold just after the war and razed in 1947.

In 1967, a small monument was unveiled to mark the place where the synagogue had once stood. A monument to the murdered Jews of Veendam and Wildervank was unveiled at the local Jewish cemetery in 1951. The cemetery is currently maintained by the municipal authorities.

A small number of Jews lived in nearby Muntendam during the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th.

The Jewish population of Veendam and Wildervank:

The size of the Jewish community over time