During the Holocaust, Friesland’s vibrant Jewish community was forever obliterated, including its endemic customs and distinct Yiddish dialect. It is one of the starkest examples of how the Holocaust decimated and irreparably changed Dutch Jewry.
That’s why the recent surfacing of a unique film from 1939 showing the wedding of a Frisian Jewish couple who escaped the genocide is generating remarkable reactions from local media and Dutch state historians here over the past week.
Just a year after filming, the people in the movie would come under the Nazi occupation that decimated the Frisian Jewish community, along with 75 percent of Dutch Jews — the highest death rate in occupied Western Europe. How many Jews in each country …yadvashem.
The film is the only known footage of Frisian Jewish life from before the Holocaust. Its discovery comes amid a wave of popular interest in the Holocaust in the Netherlands, including in films and series with record ratings and in the construction of monuments – most recently with the opening last year of the National Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam.
The silent, black-and-white film was the subject of a special aired last week in prime time by the region’s public broadcaster, Omrop Fryslân. All the region’s main dailies reported on it, as did some national publications — including the Netherlands’ main television guide. Placed on YouTube by the Frisian Film Archive on Jan. 25, it received thousands of hits, becoming the archive’s second-most-watched video over the past two years.
|The Boas-Pais family, who perished in the Holocaust, in front of their home in the Frisian city of Harlingen, the Netherlands, before World War II. (Courtesy of the Annehuis ter Harlingen)|
To read more about this fascinating film, Dutch Jewish Wedding of 1939. Entire article and video from JTA.
More about the Jews of Leeuwarden: The economic conditions in which Leeuwarden Jews lived during the first half of the nineteenth century were quite poor. In 1842, the community opened a school for the city's Jewish poor, located on the Nieuweburen. The school later was converted into a religious school and in 1886 was relocated to a new building on the Jacobijner Kerkhof. To keep up with the needs of Leeuwarden's growing Jewish population, the community inaugurated a cemetery, located on the Spanjaardslaan, in 1833.
During the nineteenth century, Leeuwarden had the largest Jewish population of any city in the north of the Netherlands and emerged both as an important center of Jewish culture and as the seat of the regional chief rabbinate. Influential rabbis including Samuel Berisch Berenstein, Saul Levi Löwenstamm en Baruch Bendit Dusnus served as regional chief rabbis at Leeuwarden.
Chief Rabbi Abraham Salomon Levisson
About Dutch Jews today: In 2012 a film, Make Jewish Babies has begun to transform the remnants of Dutch Jewry to learn about their heritage. About the Film’s makers, Danielle Davidson. Every year thousands of Jewish youngsters from around the world travel cost free to Israel to learn more about their promised land. In the documentary Make Jewish Babies? the sisters Daniëlle, Evelien and Marianne Davidson capture their experiences of this special visit on film.
The three twentysomethings are of Jewish descent, but it had hitherto little significance for them: they didn’t have a specifically Jewish or religious upbringing and until recently they had never even been in a synagogue. During this journey they find out what Jewishness means for them. The documentary, ‘Make Jewish Babies?’ was broadcast on Dutch National TV by NPO.