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Borders and Boundaries in and around Dutch Jewish History

Borders and Boundaries in and around Dutch Jewish History

Judith Frishman
David J. Wertheim
Ido de Haan
Joël J. Cahen
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Borders and Boundaries in and around Dutch Jewish History
    Book Description:

    This study explores the shifting boundaries and identities of historic and contemporary Jewish communities. The contributors assert that, geographically speaking, Jewish people rarely lived in ghettos and have never been confined within the borders of one nation or country. Whereas their places of residence may have remained the same for centuries, the countries and regimes that ruled over them were rarely as constant, and power struggles often led to the creation of new and divisive national borders. Taking a postmodern historical approach, the contributors seek to reexamine Jewish history and Jewish studies through the lens of borders and boundaries.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-2149-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 7-18)
    Judith Frishman and Ido de Haan

    The focus on borders and boundaries is part of the postmodernist trend in history writing in which historians of Jewish history in general and Dutch Jewish history in particular have belatedly taken part. While this postmodern boundary discourse represents an innovative and conscious move away from an essentialist approach to history and identity, the focus on borders may hardly be said to be new. Geographically speaking, Jews have never been confined within the borders of one nation or country. Even there where their places of residence remained the same for centuries, the countries and regimes that ruled over them were...


    • The Ghetto of Florence and the Spatial Organization of an Early Modern Catholic State
      (pp. 21-34)
      Stefanie Siegmund

      The history of the early modern Italian Jewish ghetto should be of particular interest to modern historians and to all with an interest in the contemporary struggles of local and national governments to knit together people of disparate ethnic and religious affiliations into peaceful, tolerant, respectful, and flourishing states or unions. Specifically, the history of the ghettos, and more broadly of the “space” and places designated for Jews in early modern Europe before a political commitment to religious freedom was fully developed, may help set in perspective a comparative history of European approaches to the incorporation, integration, and toleration of...

    • Explaining the Formation of Ghettos under Nazi Rule and its Bearings on Amsterdam. Segregating “the Jews” or Containing the Perilous “Ostjuden”?
      (pp. 35-44)
      Dan Michman

      On January 13, 1941, the Nazi ruler of the occupied Netherlands, Reichskommissar Arthur Seyss-Inquart, instructed the plenipotentiary (Beauftragter) for the city of Amsterdam, the Lübeck Senator Hans Böhmcker, to take measures regarding the “question of the presence of the Jews in Amsterdam”.¹ Three days later, Böhmcker ordered the local Dutch city authorities to provide him as soon as possible with detailed data on a series of questions regarding the residential distribution of Jews in Amsterdam, foremost however about those neighborhoods in which Jews were a majority. He also asked for an accompanying map on which the borders of the “Jewish...

    • Markers of a Minority Group. Jews in Antwerp in the Twentieth Century
      (pp. 45-62)
      Veerle Vanden Daelen

      In a 1955 report, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), the renown American welfare organization for Jewish immigrants, observed how Jewish inhabitants of Antwerp stood out from the rest of the city’s population and were perceived as “Jewish”: “Everybody can point at a Jew in Antwerp – unfortunately. They are bearded, they wear a kaftan, they assemble publicly in certain streets, and therefore attract the attention of the Flemish-speaking population.”¹ To this day, Jews in Antwerp remain highly visible and sustain their community as a “minority group” that is considered “different” and is distinguishable from the rest of the city’s...


    • Jewish Parliamentary Representatives in the Netherlands, 1848-1914. Crossing Borders, Encountering Boundaries?
      (pp. 65-80)
      Karin Hofmeester

      In 1879, Michel Henri Godefroi received a commemorative gold medal for his thirty year jubilee as Lower House member. From 1849 till 1881 Godefroi sat in the Lower House, interrupted only by the years he was Minister of Justice in 1860-62 and a short break for health reasons. In 1849, he had been the first Jewish member of the Lower House in sixty years.¹ After Godefroi, a substantial number of Jewish politicians made their entrance into the Lower House.

      As they crossed the border of national politics, Godefroi and later Jewish representatives evoked debates within Jewish circles on the legitimacy...

    • Catinka Heinefetter. A Jewish Prima Donna in Nineteenth-Century France
      (pp. 81-94)
      Ronald Schechter

      On January 7, 1841, the poet, dramatist, and cultural critic Théophile Gautier reviewed a performance ofLa Juive(The Jewess) at the Paris Opera. Writing inLa Presse, France’s largest newspaper, he focused on the debut of Catinka Heinefetter in the lead role of Rachel. He began with “a physical portrait” of the twenty-oneyear-oldprima donna, lamenting that “[t]oday we do not attach much importance to the beauty of actresses”, a category that included opera singers. Mademoiselle Heinefetter had “large, well-formed shoulders, a majestic figure”, a slender waist, and ample bosom. “Her whole person had something robust and energetic about...

    • The Political Significance of Anne Frank. On Crossing Boundaries and Defining Them
      (pp. 95-108)
      David J. Wertheim

      The cutting down of distinctive trees often ignites passionate communal protest, but it rarely occurs that such protests make international headlines. That, however, was the case in September 2007 when the cutting down of a 150-year-old diseased chestnut tree was due. But this was not an ordinary distinctive tree; this was the very same chestnut that had been seen by Anne Frank from the attic window of her hideout during the years of the Second World War. She even dedicated a few lines to it in her famous diary:

      From my favourite spot on the floor I look up at...


    • The Twentieth-Century Portuguese Jews from Salonika. “Oriental Jews of Portuguese Origin”
      (pp. 111-124)
      Manuela Franco

      During the Second World War, Portugal was called upon to exercise its duties of protection towards the Portuguese Jews in the territories under the German Reich. Known as “Oriental Jews of Portuguese Origin”, most of these people had received Portuguese documents as a result of a 1913 decision to grant provisional nationality to a number of Ottoman Jewish families from Salonika at the time of the Balkan Wars.

      Thus “Oriental Jews of Portuguese Origin” became a label applied to all those Jewish subjects of the Ottoman Empire who had been issued with Portuguese papers from 1913 onwards. In the following...

    • Dutch Jews and German Immigrants. Backgrounds of an Uneasy Partnership in Progressive Judaism
      (pp. 125-142)
      Chaya Brasz

      For many years, Dutch Jews widely held the opinion that during the 1930s Jewish refugees from Nazi-Germany introduced “Liberal” Judaism – nowadays called “Progressive” Judaism – to the Netherlands.¹ The earlier beginnings of Liberal Judaism as a genuine Dutch development seemed to be forgotten. The same was true for its struggle to preserve an independent Dutch character when confronted with a massive influx of German refugees from 1933 onwards.² This forgetfulness cannot be explained only by a traditional inclination among Dutch Jews to define modern forms of Judaism as “foreign import” or “not really a Dutch development”. The distorted picture...

    • Burnishing the Rough. The Relocation of the Diamond Industry to Mandate Palestine
      (pp. 143-154)
      David de Vries

      The birth of the Israeli diamond industry in the 1940s was a watershed event. While all the efforts to create a diamond cutting center during the first third of the 20th century failed, in the early stages of World War II it suddenly emerged and within a few years turned into a world-scale diamond production center. It was during the war and the period that followed immediately after that the entire edifice of the industry was shaped, making diamonds into one of the central exporting branches of the Palestinian and later Israeli economy and often affecting what had been going...


    • Some Reflections on Jewish Identity in Nineteenth-Century Poznania and Jewish Relations with Poles and Germans
      (pp. 157-166)
      Krzysztof A. Makowski

      Jewish identity and Jewish relations with Poles and Germans in postpartition Poznania (incorporated into Prussia during the first and second partitions of Poland – in 1772 and 1793 respectively) is not an easy subject to analyze. The main reason is the lack of thorough research. This does not mean, however, that historians and publicists have not expressed opinions on Jewish identity and Jewish relations with Poles and Germans. Indeed, they continue to do so to this day. Many statements devoted to the subject contain an ideological subtext as well as emotions that tend to be characteristic of writings devoted to...

    • Belgian Independence, Orangism, and Jewish Identity. The Jewish Communities in Belgium during the Belgian Revolution (1830-39)
      (pp. 167-182)
      Bart Wallet

      The nineteenth century was a period in which nation states with considerable success created strict borders for their countries, thus separating people in border regions who had thus far lived together, speaking the same dialect and often adhering to the same type of religion. National languages were to replace regional dialects, and material signs such as customs offices stressed the borders.

      This was supported by the rise of nationalism. Intellectuals and politicians constructed national identities in order to strengthen the inner cohesion of the state they envisaged, while at the same time drawing clear borders with those who were considered...

    • Citizenship, Regionalization, and Identity. The Case of Alsatian Jewry, 1871-1914
      (pp. 183-192)
      Paula E. Hyman

      The case of Alsatian Jews under German rule after the Prussian victory in the Franco-Prussian war shows the importance of what some border theorists of the past decade have emphasized to supplement the primacy of geography and politics: the relationship of boundaries and cultural identity and the social construction of boundaries.¹ Or, in the words of other theorists, “soft borders”.² Even when Alsace was transferred to German control – and all Alsatians, including Jews, lost their French citizenship – the behavior of Alsatian Jews differed in some ways from that of their neighbors.

      Before they became French citizens in 1791...

    • Moroccan Jewry and Decolonization. A Modern History of Collective Social Boundaries
      (pp. 193-200)
      Yaron Tsur

      At the start of the twentieth century, on the eve of colonial conquest, Moroccan Jewry made up the largest Jewish community in Arab lands, numbering about a hundred thousand. The Jews were deeply integrated into the country’s economy. They lived in virtually every principal location, playing a vital role in the trades and in commerce. Culturally, too, they were an integral part of their neighborhoods – with the exception of the religious sphere. Language – which was the main barrier between ethnic and religious groups in the premodern period – posed no impediment. Jews spoke the languages of their surroundings:...

  6. Index of Names and Places
    (pp. 204-208)