Written by Kim Tol
An important and instructive piece of history will forever remain the persecution of the Jews that took place during the 2nd World War. Everywhere in Europe you can find places that tell something about or have something to do with this terrible event from the past. That is also the case here in Edam.
During the walking route through the Jewish history of Edam you will not only learn about the time of the persecution of the Jews, but also about the peaceful history of the Jewish community before that. We even go all the way back tot the 17th century. There was a Jewish community in Edam from the early 1600s to 1886 that lived a peaceful life withing the trading town of Edam. At some point, Edam was given the status of Ring Synagogue. This means that Jewish families form the region came to Edam for their celebrations. Today, only the Jewish cemetery is still visible from this period, where more than 200 people are buried. You will also come across this cemetery during the walking route.
It is known where buildings such as the synagogue once stood, but these are not visible anymore and also not to see during the walking route. The Jewish community in Edam fell apart because it could no longer meet the prescribed ten men who had to be present during the prayer service and the remaining families joined the Jewish community in Monnickendam after 1886.
It is important to know that the Jews, Lutherans, Mennonites, and Catholics lived peacefully side by side during this period.
So how have these stories been preserved so well? Especially because of the buildings that are still here today.
In this blog I will take you on a bird’s-eye view of the various places and buildings on the route of the Jewish walking route in Edam. We start the route at Butcher Heart in the Highstreet.
This is where the walking route starts. The building of Highstreet 3 has been a butcher’s shop for a very long time. Jewish Hart family practiced this craft of butchery here.
If you think that there were no intrigues and affairs in the past, then you are very wrong. At the beginning of the 19th century Hester Lehman Levy and Philip Joseph de Haan lived in one of these houses on the Bult. Gossip has been going on for over a hundred years that Hester gave birth to a baby that wasn’t her husband’s. Discover more about this dramatic story during the walking route.
During the 2nd World War Bakker Barend Houtman lived at this address with this wife and three young children. In the autumn of 1942, this family housed a Jewish family of three. That was, of course, extremely dangerous at the time for the baker’s family and as well for the Jewish family. The baker gave also shelter to two other Jewish people, Rachel Citroen, and Eddy Hess. They were discovered through betrayal and Houtman was arrested. Standing in front of this building, it’s hard to imagine that these events actually took place here with real people. If you read how this story ends while you take a look at the pleasant street, the realization of this comes in for a while.
The walking route continues along the Lingerzijde and the Kerkstraat. A textile company was located here at the end of the 17th century. Cloth merchants also lived here, including Isaac Jacobson and Salomon Isaacson. Now it is a quiet street, but at that time it was probably very busy here.
1779 is seen as the real founding year of the Jewish community of Edam. The Berlin family played an important role in this. Learn more about this influential family during the walking route in Edam.
At Kerkstraat 6 you stop for a moment. This is where the Brandon-de la Penha family lived with their 5 children. This family was like all other families at that time. Father was a street vendor; son was a leather worker and daughter a tailor. All five were torn from life, deported, and murdered in the concentration camps. The five stumbling blocks are placed in memory of this family.
An equally drama took place a few houses away at number 10. The Faber family, who came from Germany, lived here. Father and mother were murdered in Auschwitz on February 5 in 1943 and their son in April 1943. Here are also stumbling stones been laid in memory of this family. After the Faber family, the Snijder family came to live at this address. Father Snijder was active in the Waterland resistance. During the walk you will learn more about both families and their associated heroism.
A happier story is the story of the leever family who lived on Great Mill alley 4 during World War II. The luck of this family was that Max Leever was married to a non-Jewish woman. They came to Edam in 1941 because the conditions in Amsterdam deteriorated for the Jews. Later they moved to Purmerend and lived peacefully. The great mill alley 4 will therefore always stand for happiness in difficult times.
The stumbling blocks that you see at this building already conceal the fact that things went wrong here in the Second World War. In the first years of the war, several Jewish refugees from Germany lived in the upstairs apartment o Outport 148. These five humans who had already suffered so much became victims of the Nazis in the German concentration camps. Only one-man Jacques Veerman who later joined them escaped from this faith. Read more about his story during the walking route.
In the 19th century, this building was used as café the Harmonie, which was run by 3 elderly sisters. They had no staff and there was not even a light. During this time. Edam fell into disrepair and the Jewish community disintegrated. They mainly left for Amsterdam. Shortly afterwards, Je Jewish community in Edam was dissolved. As you can see, café The Harmonie is now back in use as a café. Here you can enjoy a snack and a drink. A little break in the walking route for you and your company.
Outport 50 is the house where Koopman Izaak de Haan, born in 1839 in Edam, lived with his wife Johanna de Vries Unfortunately Johanna passed away and Izaak remarried with Betje Rubens. With here he had eleven children. In total he had 13 children, including the later famous writer Carry van Bruggen and the man of letters, lawyers, and journalist Jacob israël de Haan. During the walking route you will learn more about this extravagant family.
In 1772 the first Jewish man was buried here and in 1920 the last Jewish woman. This cemetery was also there for Jews from the surrounding villages. You can still see the burial register and the 14 tombstones that are still visible. Near the cemetery there are two monuments to see, the tochtgenoten and the plaque for the Victims of the Persecution of the Jews in World War II. Definitely interesting to look at.
This bridge spans over the Oorgat and is located between the two sides of the outport. If you look to the right, you see the place where the wooden gate of the Jewish cemetery stood. In the 2nd World War, the fence disappeared in the firewood stove. A real shame for the references from the Bible that were carved into the fence. Take a nice photo on the bridge as a reminder of this educational walking route.
Another stumbling block. This time in memory of Franz Hirsh a Jewish interior designer or furniture maker. Unfortunately, he was deported to Wester Bork in April 1942 and in 1943 he was deported to Sobibor concentration camp where he was murdered. Name and accessories can be read on the stone. This is a moment when you may wonder why people with so many abilities were seen as scum with no right to live.
If you thought; now I have seen all the stumbling stones, then you are wrong. You will also see them at outport 73. The Jewish family levy from Germany settled at this address in Edam. Alfred Levy founded a copperware factory where unemployed Volendam Fishermen were allowed to work. Alfred, his wife, and their son were deported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1942. Hope of emigration to Palestine, but nothing could be further from the truth. Father and mother died from the hardships in the camp. There was, however, one bright spot. Discover during the walking route what this bright spot was based on the stumbling stones.
High street 10 is the address where the Jewish walking route ends. It is also the place where the Jewish Samuel Cohen Farro was brought by love. He married Rachel de Vries and earned his living as a merchant. The family had eight children and moved to Amsterdam. High street 10 was sold and then became a school. A beautiful and sweet story that came along during the route.
The Jewish history walking route is accessible to everyone. Go to www.waterlandopdekaart.nl and put the route on your mobile or iPad and start walking. You can also print the route if you prefer that. Enjoy a morning or afternoon guided by the historic buildings, each with its own story.