Several Portuguese Jews moved to Vlissingen from Antwerp sometime late in the 16th century but remained in the town only for a short time. It was not until the second quarter of the 18th century that a Jewish population once again arose in Vlissingen. The new settlers were Ashkenazi Jews. In 1738 these new arrivals were granted permission by the local authorities to purchase two properties in the Lange Noordstraat (the present-day Molenstraat) and furnish them as synagogues. In the same year, the group also established a cemetery on the present-day Julianalaan. Some years later, the Ashkenazim also left Vlissingen.
By about 1845, a Jewish community had risen anew at Vlissingen and was granted independent status from the larger Jewish community at Middelburg. Until 1861, the Jews of Vlissingen held religious services at a locale in the Rioolstraat and, for a number of years thereafter, at another locale in the Beursstraat. A subsidy from the national government of the Netherlands enabled the Vlissingen community to commence construction of a new synagogue at a site on the Peperdijk in 1867. That synagogue was consecrated in 1868 and remained in use until 1920.
In 1870, the Vlissingen community purchased ground for a Jewish cemetery on the Julianalaan near the Leeuwentrap. In the same year, a portion of the Vredehof cemetery on the Koudekerkseweg was also inaugurated as a Jewish cemetery.
At the outset of the 20th century, the Jewish community at Vlissingen was governed by a board and council and also maintained a separate board for the distribution of aid to the poor. Voluntary organizations included a burial society, a society for the upkeep of the interior of the synagogue, and a society for aiding the needy. As a century progressed, the community shrunk in size as many local Jews joined the general trend and migrated to the country's larger and industrialized cities.
Nevertheless, a new synagogue was inaugurated on the Gravenstraat in 1921. In the years that followed, however, the community used their new synagogue only on holidays.
The synagogue was plundered by German occupation forces in 1940. By that time, however, the synagogue's Torah scrolls and other ceremonial objects had already been taken to Amsterdam. The Jews of Vlissingen were forcibly moved to Amsterdam in March of 1942. From Amsterdam, they were deported and ultimately murdered in Nazi death camps. Only two of the Jews of Vlissingen survived the war in hiding.
Jewish life was not re-established in Vlissingen after the war. The synagogue, which had been heavily damaged during an Allied bombardment in 1944, was razed in 1945. In 1948, Vlissingen was placed within the jurisdiction of the Jewish community at Middelburg.
A memorial dedicated to the Jews of the province of Zeeland murdered during the war was unveiled in the Jewish cemetery on the Vredenhoflaan in 1954. The local authorities cleaned up the cemetery in 2004 as part of the preparations for its reopening. The house for the ritual preparation of the dead at the cemetery was restored in the same year; as part of the restoration, the building was refitted with its original decorative tiles. Today, all Jews residing in the province of Zeeland comprise a single community, the NIK Zeeland.
The Jewish population of Vlissingen and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time