At the end of the 16th century the first Spanish Portuguese Jews, the so called “sefardiem”, settled in Amsterdam at the start of the city’s economical explosion of the golden age. On the run from the Spanish and Catholic inquisition they arrive through Antwerp in tolerant Amsterdam where they would regain the freedom to return to Judaism, to practice their religion and to live and trade in relative freedom while traditional Christian anti-Semitism, wars and pogroms take their toll on Jewish communities all over Europe. Because of this even larger numbers of poor Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe start to migrate to Amsterdam in the first decades of the 17th century. Although they were free to live in any part of the city, the Jewish immigrants crowded together in the eastern part of Amsterdam near the harbours. There, they developed into a very independent community which would become the most important Jewish settlement in the European Diaspora. Over the century’s Jewish life and tradition have been a major influence on Amsterdam society or “Mokum” as it is called in Yiddish and would produce many famous “Amsterdammers” like Spinoza, Sarphati, Polak and Tuchinsky.
This tour ,which brings us to the main sites of the old Jewish neighbourhood , ends with the horrible story of the destruction of Jewish Amsterdam by the Germans in 1942 when 60,000 Jews (95% of its population) were put on transport to the death camps in Poland from which only a few would return. This tour starts at the weigh house on the Nieuwmarkt and ends at the Auschwitz monument in the Wertheimpark where we will stop for a while. It lasts 2,5 hours including a drink in one of Amsterdam’s best bars. Brukhim habaim!