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22 January 2023

The Project

Subproject 2: The ties 
of traditions

       Diary Titia Slewe-Boswijk, 1 May 1942. Source: 

       Private Collection Hein Slewe


Moving beyond the pillarization paradigm, Subproject 2 presents a historicizing and process-oriented approach to study the Holocaust in its local, socio-cultural embedment. The focus is on Jewish-gentile relations within local communities. It aims to clarify the impact of pre-existing local social structures and cultural customs on the course of the genocide, and, vice versa, the impact of the persecution on local societies.


Connection to historiography

In academic literature, little can be found on socio-cultural dimensions of the Holocaust in the Netherlands. In the few studies that do touch this topic, the issue at stake is often the extent of Dutch antisemitism (Gans 2002; Hondius 2004; Gans & Ensel 2017). International historiography comes up with more differentiated pictures, stressing the dynamic and complex character of Jewish-gentile relations and the differences between local communities (Kühne & Lawson 2010; Bajohr 2016; Frijtag & Galimi 2019). According to Finkel, a past of hostile, anti-Jewish incidents and a heterogeneous pre-war local Jewish community negatively conditioned the fate of individual Jews in the three Eastern European towns of his study (Finkel 2017). Introducing these findings to the Dutch context, what can we say about the impact of local social history in the Holocaust, of local traditions of living together, on the way a particular local Dutch community coped with (or perhaps resisted) measures that targeted its Jewish members? And what were the (after)effects of the persecution on the ties that had bound the local community? Transplanting De Swaan’s reflections to the study of Dutch local communities, where in time can we locate the turning points in Jewish-gentile relations: how did the consecutive measures that targeted only Jewish fellow citizens cause transitions in those processes of identification or disidentification within local communities?



Similar to Subproject 1, Subproject 2 starts with taking inventory of literature, connecting international, national and local work to the conceptual framework offered by De Swaan (resulting in chapter 1 of the thesis). Once again, this analysis will further develop the conceptual and comparative framework required for a theoretically grounded case selection of local communities that will be studied more in detail. 


In the qualitative empirical research, we look at sites of interaction between Jews and gentiles at two different scales. First, that of individual relations (resulting in chapter 2). Streets and neighborhoods, the spatially nearest ‘circle of (dis-)identification’, figure as our prime sites of interaction. Starting in the prewar years, we follow how these neighborly contacts at key-moments developed. The relevant sources consist of memoirs, diaries, correspondence, postwar interviews and particularly survivor’s testimonies. Next, we study these relations in organized context (resulting in chapter 3). We will investigate the embedment of Jews within these organizations, how these organizations reacted at the different measures of different key-moments, and when and to what extent they offered ‘protection’ to their Jewish members. To obtain a fair cross-section of organized ‘circles of (dis-)identification’, we choose different categories of local civil society organizations: sports- and leisure clubs, small business and trade unions, churches, youth movements and local charity. We will tap little studied archival collections, such as the archives of the Dutch Lawn Tennis League and the Royal Dutch Football Association and their local sections.


Finally, Subproject 2 turns to the postwar years and the question of return, restoration, and social integration of Jewish locals. Official documents from local institutions and relief organizations, combined with ego-documents of the persons involved and local newspapers of the first postwar period will be analyzed to discern immediate postwar effects of the Holocaust on communal life and Jewish-gentile relations (resulting in chapter 4).