The history of the Jewish community of Alkmaar

​The history of the Jewish community of Alkmaar dates to the beginning of the seventeenth century and the purchase of a small cemetery site in the nearby village of Groet by a group of Portuguese Jews from Amsterdam.

Two years later, Alkmaar became the first city in the northern Netherlands after Amsterdam to open her gates to Jews. Even though Alkmaar offered Jews protection, safety and freedom of religion, only a few Jews actually chose to settle there. Apparently, the application of Jews to settle in Alkmaar was meant more as a means of pressuring the city fathers of Amsterdam into providing similar guarantees to Jews there.

The small Jewish community of Alkmaar soon died out. An attempt in 1655 to entice Portuguese Jews to establish a silk working industry in Alkmaar came to nothing due to an outbreak of the plague.

In the late seventeenth century Ashkenazi Jews settled in Alkmaar. Their numbers included many poor and needy people. Only in the middle of the eighteenth century did a Jewish butcher become the first person of his faith to achieve full rights as a citizen of Alkmaar.

In 1744, the Jews of Alkmaar were granted the right to conduct religious worship in public. The first synagogue services were held in a private residence. In 1792, the Jewish community decided to establish a permanent synagogue in a house located to the south of De Laat, near the Zakkenstraat. A purpose-built synagogue was constructed in 1808 on the Hofstraat and still stands. The Jewish cemetery on the Westerweg dates from the 1740s. The Jews of Alkmaar also maintained a religious school and a ritual bath. In 1779, the statutes of the Jewish community were recognized by the municipal authorities.

The Jewish community of Alkmaar grew steadily through the late 1860s. Thereafter, the Jewish population of the city began to decline.

Synagogue in Alkmaar, 1961 (RDMZ)

During most of the nineteenth century, the economic situation of the Jews of Alkmaar was rather poor. This situation began to improve only towards the end of the century. The majority of the Jews of Alkmaar were shopkeepers or peddlers. In 1891, a society was established to provide aid to the Jewish poor. The Jews of Alkmaar also maintained a burial society, a religious society, and a Jewish Theater Club.

During the 1930s, Alkmaar provided refuge to a number Jews fleeing Germany. On March 5, 1942, all the Jews of Alkmaar were expelled to Amsterdam. They were deported to the concentration camp at Westerbork in the north of the Netherlands soon thereafter, and from there to the death camps in the East, from whence only a few returned. In addition, a few dozen Alkmaar Jews survived the war in hiding. Following the deportation, almost all of the ceremonial objects were stolen from the Alkmaar synagogue. After the war, only a single Torah scroll remained.

During the postwar period, the Jewish community of Alkmaar sold the synagogue and the school building. The former synagogue now houses a Baptist church which has plans to move to new quarters in the near future. Today, Jewish residents of Alkmaar and its surroundings are united into a small community. The in 1997 established Alkmaar Synagogue Foundation started fundraising in 2004, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Alkmaar's Jewish Community, in order to ber able to restore the synagogue. In 2009 the Foundation bought the building and started the restoration. In December 2011 this led to the opening of the restored synagogue, which is now open for visitors, and where synagogue services are held on a regular basis.

A memorial in the Jewish cemetery of Alkmaar commemorates local Jews murdered during the war. The cemetery is presently maintained by a group of volunteers. A memorial stone honouring the seventeen Jews of nearby Bergen murdered during the war was unveiled in May, 2000 in the Allied Military Cemetery on the Kerkedijk in Bergen.

On April 16, 2013, a monument is unveiled on the Kerkpad in Castricum in remembrance of the 31 Jews that were killed during the holocaust.

In September 2013 in the general cemetery at Schoorl, a monument was erected honouring the three Jews of Schoorl who were murdered in Nazi death camps.

The Jewish population of Alkmaar: