Jewish Life up to 1940
Just before World War Two, there were 140,000 Jews living in the Netherlands. They had their own communities and synagogues scattered across the country. The communities in Rotterdam, the Hague and Amsterdam were by far the largest.
Although Jews had already settled in the Netherlands in the Middle Ages, the first large group came from Spain at the end of the sixteenth century, followed by groups from eastern Europe. Because Jews were denied access to most trades, they focused on the professions. Many were merchants, bankers, doctors or in the legal profession. The position of Jews improved during the reign of King Louis Napoleon and they acquired a better place within Dutch society. Many areas had Jewish communities with their own synagogues and associations. During the first decades of the twentieth century the number of Jewish communities again declined because many families moved to the big cities. The Jews became more assimilated into Dutch society.