S.W. Josephus Jitta

The stately mansion with its high pavement and elegant door casing was home to Simon Wolff Josephus Jitta (1818-1897) in the 19th century. A socially oriented businessman and member of Amsterdam’s Municipal Council for over 25 years, Jitta was also a key driving force behind the construction of the North Sea Canal, which was aimed at boosting Amsterdam's economy.

 

The house of S.W. Josephus Jitta served as headquarters for the Jewish Council during the war.

Jewish Council

The history of this location takes a more gruesome turn in the Second World War. The Jewish Council was established on the 25th of October 1941 and while maintaining the guise of Jewish self-government, it was in fact an instrument for the occupiers to facilitate the smooth selection and deportation of Jews.

 

The entrance of Nieuwe Keizersgracht 58. Photo: City Archive Amsterdam.

Asscher and Cohen

The Council's two chairmen Abraham Asscher (1880-1950) and David Cohen (1882-1967) believed they could protect part of the Jewish community by being cooperative. The existence of the extermination camps could not be surmised at the time. The Jewish Council had numerous offices throughout Amsterdam that provided ‘assistance to departees’, health care, education and the distribution of food.

The guise of protection

The Council's staff and their families were exempt from deportation. Everyone attempted to get a job at the Council and at one point it employed over 17,000 people. More and more Jews were being deported and, finally, in July 1943 it was the turn of the Council staff, including its two chairmen. More than 104,000 of the 110,000 Jews deported from the Netherlands were killed in German extermination camps.