Netherlands // Amsterdam //

The Old Jewish Quarter and the Eastern Docklands

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Originally one of the marshiest parts of Amsterdam, prone to regular flooding, the narrow slice of land sandwiched between the curve of the Amstel, Kloveniersburgwal and the Nieuwe Herengracht was the home of Amsterdam’s Jews from the sixteenth century up until World War II. By the 1920s, this Old Jewish Quarter, or Jodenhoek (“Jews’ Corner”), was crowded with tenement buildings and smoking factories, but in 1945 it lay derelict – and postwar redevelopment has not treated it kindly either. Its focal point, Waterlooplein, has been overwhelmed by a whopping town hall and concert hall complex, and the once-bustling Jodenbreestraat – the “Broad Street of the Jews” – is now bleak and very ordinary, with Mr Visserplein, at its east end, one of the city’s busiest traffic junctions. Picking your way round these obstacles is not much fun, but you should persevere – among all the cars and concrete are several moving reminders of the Jewish community that perished in the war, including the imposing Esnoga (Portuguese synagogue) and the fascinating Joods Historisch Museum (Jewish Historical Museum), as well as Rembrandt’s former home, the Rembrandthuis.

 

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