Memories of Jewish life in the Gelderse Achterhoek

May 4, 14:56


AALTEN – ‘As long as I think of you, you will remain for me’. That is the motto of the lecture with images that Henk Teeuwen will give on Thursday 12 May in the Aalten Library. He conducted research into the Jewish communities in the Gelderse Achterhoek and can tell you well about it.

The Jewish cemetery in Aalten is a good starting point for a conversation with Henk Teeuwen. At the entrance of the cemetery is the metaheerhuisje, an important place. The deceased entered the house at the front, was ritually washed there and then entered the cemetery through the back. An example of the many rituals within the Jewish community.

Henk Teeuwen gives a tour of the well-maintained cemetery with neatly raked paths. He points to the ‘faces’ of the tombstones, all of which are oriented (or oriented) to the east. Day in, day out, these tombstones wait for the sun. They expect life. “That is also characteristic of Judaism,” Henk Teeuwen continues. “The history of Judaism is marked by much suffering, but it is always very much focused on life.”

Fleeing persecution, many Jews from Poland, Germany, Ukraine and Belarus ended up in the Achterhoek. Until the German occupation, the Netherlands was a good place to stay. And Aalten was a breeding ground for resistance. Many Jews were able to hide here, protected by the closed, Reformed community, and survived the Second World War. This can also be seen in the post-war graves in the Jewish cemetery.

There are stones on top of a number of graves. Henk Teeuwen also takes a pebble from the ground and places it next to one of the graves. “When you are at a grave of a loved one or someone you know, you may place a stone on it. With this you say ‘I am here with you and I will remember you. As long as I remember you, you exist for me’”, says Henk Teeuwen.

On the excavation site is also a small mound. Henk Teeuwen explains: “Jews were not buried at the church but had to have their own cemetery. That is why they bought land for this purpose on high areas.” A few graves are still visible on the hill. The graves may not be cleared. Officially, the Jewish cemetery dates from 1820, but people have probably been buried there for some time.

Henk Teeuwen conducted research into the Jewish communities in the Gelderse Achterhoek, which resulted in the booklet ‘Jewish heritage in the Gelderse Achterhoek, a route description’. This booklet describes the history of Achterhoek Judaism in a nutshell and shows the visible traces of Jewish life per location. “One of the reasons I wrote this book is to pass on what it once was like in the Achterhoek, and how good it actually was,” says Henk Teeuwen. He also does not want to portray the Jews as victims, but rather to clear the view of life as it was before the war ended.

With a lot of patience, careful research and a listening ear, Henk Teeuwen can document the stories about Jewish families well. In this way they continue to exist. The lecture will be held on Thursday 12 May from 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm in the Aalten Library. You can reserve a spot for this lecture via the activity calendar on or by calling 088-0062929.

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