Open Jewish Homes revolves on the one hand from the desire of the Jewish Cultural Quarter to make the Digital Monument to the Jewish Community in the Netherlands visible offline as well, and on the other hand from the initiative of present residents of ‘Jewish houses’ to commemorate the history of their house.
2011: Poster campaign in Amsterdam
In 2011, Frits Rijksbaron - copywriter, advertiser and owner of a house of which he discovered through www.communityjoodsmonument.nl that it had had Jewish residents – took the initiative to make ‘Jewish houses’ visible during the Dutch Remembrance Day on 4 May in the street scene.
In partnership with the National Committee for 4 and 5 May from Amsterdam and Mediamatic, a poster was designed that was distributed at the beginning of May through the daily paper Het Parool. The front of the poster displayed the text: “This is one of the 21,662 houses where Jews lived who were killed during the Second World War”. On the back all 21,662 Amsterdam addresses from the digital monument had been printed. Therefore, these are all addresses at which in 1940 and '41, before the beginning of the deportations, Jewish inhabitants were registered. The present residents of these houses were called to put up the poster in their windows during the Maydays. Although this did not get a massive response, the campaign did not go unnoticed. Many residents of Jewish houses who were not aware of the history of their house before, were now interested in the story of the former Jewish residents.
2012: First edition of Open Jewish Homes in Amsterdam
"Every house has a story to tell and it is good to shed more light on this once a year”, said initiator of Open Jewish Homes, Denise Citroen. Citroen has been working for years on the legacy from the Second World War, and in particular on the persecution of the Jews. During the nineties she was working on the collection of statements of survivors of the Shoah on behalf of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Archive (the so-called ‘Spielberg project'), and she was for many years engaged in the (Jewish) history of her own neighbourhood, Plantage in Amsterdam. The response from residents to the poster campaign inspired her for the concept of Open Jewish Homes: personal stories about Jewish life before and during the persecution, told in the house in which the people in question lived.
Denise found a partner in the Jewish Cultural Quarter. This museum does not only manage the Digital Monument since 2006, but set up an additional community website in 2010 as well to collect the personal responses, questions and additions from online visitors of the Monument. The small-scale gatherings of Open Jewish Homes, allowing for responses, questions and additions from the visitors, are fully in line with this.
Anat Harel, former project leader of Open Jewish Homes on behalf of the Jewish Cultural Quarter, says: "www.communityjoodsmonument.nl shows us how the Shoah has its effects and captivates people until the present day. This website gives people valuable information and allows them to develop contacts that are very important to them. The same goes for Open Jewish Homes, but in that case in a private living room in the neighbourhood. The beauty of it is that visitors who think that they have hardly any connection to the history of the Shoah are moved by the proximity of the personal stories. Open Jewish Homes makes a connection between the Shoah and the lives we currently live.”
2013: Open Jewish Homes in six cities
After the first edition of Open Jewish Homes in Amsterdam, the Jewish Cultural Quarter was looking for individuals and/or local organisations that would like to set up Open Jewish Homes in their own place of residence. In 2013 Open Jewish Homes was subsequently organised in a total of six cities by local work groups, supported in concept and in practice by the Jewish Cultural Quarter. In every city these gatherings were well attended, impressive stories were being told and visitors were moved.
2014 and further...
In 2014 Open Jewish Homes was organised in Amsterdam, The Hague, Elburg, Groningen, Tilburg, Haarlem, Leeuwarden and Rotterdam. And we hope that in the coming years increasingly more towns and villages will take this opportunity to commemorate the former Jewish residents of houses there. In support of this, the Jewish Cultural Quarter makes information on the organisation of Open Jewish Homes available on this website.