From Spain and Portugal, the first Jews (Sephardim) immi grated to the Republic in the 1590s, especially after the blockade of the River Scheldt since 1585, which impeded commerce with the harbor of Antwerp from the sea. In 1619, the provincial States of Holland decided that the cities were free to admit Jews (and to let them live in a ghetto) as they pleased, but it was explicitly forbidden to compel Jews to wear external distinctions. During the 17th cen tury, Jews emigrated from eastern Europe. Both the Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities were granted autonomy by the Calvinist authorities in cities such as Amsterdam, The Hague, and Rotter dam, where they were also allowed to build synagogues. In 1796, during the Batavian Revolution, Jews were emanci pated: they were regarded as citizens of the new Republic—adherents of a religion, not of a nation. Social emancipation was slow in fol lowing the granting of equal political rights, however. The 19th cen tury revealed persistent anti-Semitism on religious grounds. Increas ing integration and assimilation caused a reaction among Orthodox Jews, who deplored the disappearing observance of religious tradi tions. Zionism gave another impulse to orthodoxy. During the first decade of the 20th century, the Orthodox Jewish religious communi ties diminished. The Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II (1940–1945) brought the so-called final solution of the “Jewish problem”: Nearly two-thirds of the “Jewish” population —according to the racist Nazi definition—was wiped out. Since 1974, the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI, in The Hague) has distributed information on the relationship be tween the Netherlands and Israel and on the Dutch Jewish commu nity (recently estimated at about 40,000 members).

Historical Dictionary of the Netherlands. . 2012.

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