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Jews began to settle in Holland in 1322, but were driven out in the latter part of that century. However, late in the 15th century, as Jews and Marranos began to arrive from Spain, many Marranos returned openly to the Jewish faith. Many of the Jewish refugees had capital and initiative, and in time they attained positions of economic importance. In the 17th century, their ranks were swelled by Ashkenazic Jews arriving from Germany and Poland. The flourishing Dutch communities were strictly Orthodox and did not tolerate any act of reform or heresy. For this reason Uriel Acosta was excommunicated in 1618, as was Baruch Spinoza in 1655. Dutch Jewry enjoyed more political rights than did their fellow Jews in other European lands. Until the occupation of Holland by the Germans in 1940, local Jewry played a significant part in the economy, culture, and media of the Netherlands.

In 1942, the Germans herded all Dutch Jews into ghettos and concentration camps. The largest of the latter was Westerbork, from which 117,000 Jewish men, women, and children were transferred to Auschwitz and Sobibor in Poland, where they were exterminated in gas chambers. Their possessions, factories, and businesses were plundered by the Germans. About 25,000 Jews, some of them of mixed ancestry, and others concealed in special hiding places survived.

In 2007, the Jewish community in the Netherlands numbered 30,000, of whom about half lived in Amsterdam. The years following World War II were taken up with recuperation-efforts to recover property and assets, to restore a semblance of order to religious and social institutions, and to bring back Jewish children harbored by Christians and often brought up in the Christian faith. By the end of 1949, the remnants of Dutch Jewry had begun to take on the characteristics of a stable community. Economically, they were self-supporting and better off than the rest of Europe’s Jewry. Synagogues and schools were reopened, and the work of restitution proceeded at a steady, if slow pace. The central Jewish welfare agency reported at the end of 1955 that it was affiliated with 28 religious and 37 private organizations.

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