The Open Jewish Houses- Houses of Resistance project will throw open the doors of historical properties across the country that had a role in the Second World War- including in Groningen and Friesland
Translated by Thomas Ansell
‘We’re standing on the terrace of Beth Zekenim, the Jewish retirement home on the Schoolholm in the city of Groningen. Everything that the Jewish community of the time needed, was located here’, said Marcel Wichgers, an educational officer at the Groninger Synagogue, and reported by RTV Noord.
Beth Zekenim will be open to the public for the first time as part of the Open Jewish Houses- Houses of Resistance, this weekend on May the 4th. Cities across the country are also joining in with the initiative, where houses that Jewish people lived in before the Second World War are opened to the public. The present owners, or local historians, will then talk about the story of the people that formerly lived there.
Wichgers, from the Groningen Synagogue, is one such person- and commenting on the Beth Zekenim on the Schoolholm said ‘Beth Zekenim literally means ‘the retirement home’. We couldn’t get closer to the lives of the old Jews of Groningen. We’re overlooking the synagogue, which was used for services and feast days. Also, near to here sat the youth synagogue, where you could be taught Jewish law- and eventually you came here to Beth Zekenim in your old age.’
In 1940, between 25 and 30 people lived in the Jewish retirement home on the Schoolholm. During the war, it became a Jewish hospital, and all healthy elderly residents had to move. Eventually in 1943, the residents were deported.
The Open Jewish Houses- Houses of Resistance will be open this weekend, and in the city of Groningen 19 properties will be available to view, with 21 stories having been selected for telling to guests. In Winschoten, three properties will be open, including the original Rabbi’s house. Across the Northern Netherlands, several cities will also have houses open with stories to tell. In Leeuwarden there is a particular focus on houses of resistance fighters, including those of the illegal Frisian printers the Van der Weij family, who printed and disseminated posters reading ‘Vrij Nederland’ (Free the Netherlands) and ‘Trouw’ (Faith).
For more information, and to see which houses are open in which city, just check out the Open Jewish Houses-Houses of Resistance website.