No man’s land between The Hague and Scheveningen
The Jewish cemetery was founded in 1694, in no man’s land at the inland toll-gate of the Scheveningseweg between The Hague and Scheveningen near the sea. The old white toll-house still standing today marks the spot were the cemetery was started. The cemetery then measured only 84 square meters. The cemetery served both Sefardic and Ashkenazi Jews.
Sefardim or Ashkenazim?
Sefardic or Portuguese Jews, often business people, jewelers and financiers, driven out of Portugal and Spain, started in the 17 th century to settle in The Hague, the seat of government of the Dutch Republic. The first Ashkenazi or Polish German or High German Jews followed as kosher butchers, kitchen staffs, suppliers, pedlars, shopkeepers, physicians and lawyers.
The founding of the cemetery for both Jewish communities in 1694 was the initiative of a Ziskind Pos from Poznan, Poland. He was under the name of Alexander Polak one of the first Jewish members of a shopkeepers-guild in The Hague. The premises of his shop are still standing on the corner of Spui and Gedempte Gracht, facing the new city hall. Ziskind Pos was buried here as one of the first, near the Scheveningseweg, in 1697. His grave lies on the oldest part of the cemetery, where initially Sefardim and Ashkenazim were lay to rest side by side.
In 1710 the cemetery was split in two, in a Sefardim section (the oldest part of the cemetery) and an Ashkenazim section.
The cemetery was considerably enlarged due to the strong growth of the Ashkenazi community in The Hague in the 18 th and 19 th centuries.
The Ashkenazi section, by far the largest part of the cemetery, was filled to capacity around the year 1900. Therefore in 1906 a new Jewish cemetery was opened in Wassenaar, just North of The Hague. From 1906 onwards the Ashkenazi section in The Hague was used only in exceptional circumstances.
The small Sefardic section of the cemetery along the Scheveningseweg in The Hague is still in use.
The gravestones are uniform in size; according to the Jewish believe that after death there is no difference between rich and poor.
Inscriptions and ornamentations on the stones have changed over the past three centuries. In the 18 th and early 19 th century the Ashkenazi gravestones were donned with texts in Hebrew with Jewish names, Jewish date of decease and symbols indicating the duties the deceased held in synagogue.
The 18 th and early 19 th century Sefardic gravestones bear texts and always the family-name (contrary to the given names on Ashkenazi gravestones) in Portuguese, Spanish and Hebrew, sometimes family-crests and ornate symbols and mostly the date of decease in Jewish as well as in worldly era.
Later Dutch names and texts in Dutch appear as well as military and civic titles, royal honours and non-Jewish symbols according to the taste of the day.
Why only 2,860 gravestones on 10,000 graves?
Gravestones were too expensive for most Ashkenazi families. Also gravestones have disappeared. For instance due to natural decay, an allied bomb and the construction of German trenches on the cemetery in the second world war.
The memorialAccording to Judaism all matter on the cemetery belong to the deceased and must remain there. Gravestone-fragments collected during the restoration of the wall in 2006 have been assembled in a small monument on the cemetery. This memorial was designed by pupils of the Wateringse Veld College and constructed by pupils of the Escamp VMBO, both schools in The Hague, in 2009.
The history of the cemetery is described in the 1992, number 5, edition of the so-called ‘VOM series’, entitled “De joodse begraafplaats aan de Scheveningseweg in Den Haag: geschiedenis en restauratieverslag”. It was edited by Drs. Francine Püttmann and H.P.R. Rosenberg.
On www.archieven.nl you can search for : 7000-01, which is the number of the Library of The Hague Municipal Archives. Number 1 of the Digitised Collection is this book in PDF – or you can simply download it here.
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