Netherlands was part of the Spanish Empire but in 1581 the Northern provinces declared independence,
the main reason being to freely practice the Protestant religion. A century earlier, in 1492 Jews were expelled from Spain but many
remained there as conversos who continued to practice Judaism in great secret. The independence of the Dutch provinces created a
unique opportunity for these conversos to leave Spain and settle in a country where they could openly return to Judaism. They began
to establish themselves in the Netherlands, mainly in Amsterdam from 1593 on. Ashkenazi Jews began to settle there too.
The Germans invaded the Netherlands in May 1940. The conditions of life of the Jews became progressively
harsher. The 1941 Nazi census counted 121,000 Ashkenazim and 4,000 Sephardim. Their deportation in 98 transports began on January
1942 from Westerbork, a local internment camp, to various concentration camps: Auschwitz, Sobibor. Theresienstadt and Bergen Belsen.
Located in Lower Saxony, the Bergen Belsen camp was established in April 1943 as a detention camp for
prisoners who were to be exchanged with Germans imprisoned in Allied countries. Eight transports arrived in Bergen Belsen which
became a concentration camp as all the others from January 1944. Netherlands Jews were the first Jews to be interned there.
The present index which includes 131 names of Netherlands Sephardic deportees, is based on the book:
Bergen Belsen; 1940-1945 Niedersachsische Landerzentrale fuer Politische Bildung. Gedenkbuch ; haeflinge des Konzentrazionlager
. Bergen Belsen, Gedenstatte, 1995. It lists Jews from all the nations who were interned in Bergen Belsen death camp.
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