Promoting Normal: Jewish Culture in Occupied Amsterdam




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Amsterdam is a unique city in Holocaust history. It was home to a thriving, highly-assimilated Jewish community, some of whom could trace their presence in the city back to the sixteenth century. Is also stands apart in the number of its Jewish residents murdered in the Holocaust: seventy-five percent compared to twenty-five in France. This study examines multiple aspects of the Dutch Holocaust and attempts to answer the question of why so many lost their lives. The dissertation is divided into five chapters. Chapter 1 is essentially an urban history of Amsterdam, laying the foundation for its uniqueness in European history and chronicling the arrival of the first Jews to the city. Chapter 2 takes a closer look at the Jewish presence in Amsterdam from their first communities in the seventeenth century, to the eve of the German invasion in 1940. Here, we look at Jewish religious and secular culture, the growing divide between the Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities, Jewish social networks, and Jewish labor with its burgeoning ties to socialism. Chapter 3 begins with the German invasion in May 1940 and describes the crucial reaction of Jewish culture directly before and after the invasion. It also outlines the leadership and function of the German administration and Dutch bureaucracy in Amsterdam and goes into more detail about the formation and function of the Jewish Council and their role in the first year of the occupation. In Chapter 4, I focus on the main deportations from July 1942 to September 1943 and the insistence of many on the Council and in the community to cling to an optimistic ideal of ‘resettlement’ and ‘labor relocation.’ Chapter 5 deals with Jewish resistance and hiding, looking particularly at the catastrophic dislocation and murder of children, as well as the heroic attempts to save them. Here, the narrative turns back to the city of Amsterdam during the “hunger winter” of 1944-1945 and the last days of the German occupation. The conclusion, then, sums up the ideas of Promoting Normal.



Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Netherlands--Amsterdam, Jews--Social life and customs, Jewish way of life, Amsterdam (Netherlands)


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