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Charlotte Salomon gouache, Life? Or Theatre?
Charlotte Salomon, gouache, Life? or Theatre?: A Play With Music, 1940-42 © Collection Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam

Charlotte Salomon gouache, Life? Or Theatre?
Charlotte Salomon, gouache, Life? or Theatre?: A Play With Music, 1940-42 © Collection Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam

A spotlight on partners' collections:
Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam

The Jewish Historical Museum Foundation was set up in 1930 for 'the collection and presentation of everything that illustrates Jewish life in general and Dutch Jewish life in particular’ and ‘the useful employment of every means to encourage Jewish art and studies'. During the Second World War, the museum was forced to close and much of the collection was confiscated. Only a small percentage was recovered after the war. Today, this award-winning museum holds around 30,000 objects, documents and photos. The collection guidelines have remained the same as when they were first drawn up. In recent decades, however, additional emphasis has been placed on the arts, everyday life and personal history.

Charlotte Salomon’s art
Charlotte Salomon self portrait The museum's focus on art encompasses both work by Dutch Jewish artists and portrayal of Jewish themes by non‑Jewish artists. The extraordinary series of Charlotte Salomon’s 1,300 gouaches entitled Leben? Oder Theater? (Life? Or Theatre?) which has travelled the world, is one of the highlights of the collection.

Charlotte Salomon, gouache [self portrait],1940 © Collection Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam

Everyday objects document
social history

Collection boxAnother important focus is represented by the growing collection of objects and documents relating to everyday life. This development was inspired by the museum’s groundbreaking exhibition in the 1990s on Jews involved in Dutch commerce and industry.

Collection box for tuberculosis hospital ‘Zonnestraal’, to be established by the Diamond Workers’ Union, 1920-1930 © Collection Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam
Gezina (Sientje) Elte portrait
Gezina (Sientje) Bloch-Elte by Willem Hendrik van den Berg, 1910-1915 © Collection Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam

Marriage newspaper
'Marriage newspaper' for the marriage of Andries Bloch and Sientje Elte, 1923 © Collection Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam

The Bloch family’s history
Personal history is another important feature of the collection. Documents such as diaries, letters and photographs as well as video interviews, portraits and personal items, testify to events in the lives of individuals and families, and provide authentic documentation of a historical period.

The museum’s interest in personal history is illustrated in a recent, very special acquisition. In 2010, the personal archive of the Jewish physician Andries Bloch (1895-1945) was found in a home on Sarphatistraat in Amsterdam. The archive, recently donated to the Jewish Historical Museum, includes a collection of touching letters written by Gezina (Sientje) Elte in the summer of 1922 to her future husband Andries (Dré) Bloch. It also includes a portrait of Sientje Bloch-Elte as a young woman by the painter Willem van den Berg (1886-1970). Dré and Sientje were married in Scheveningen on 23 March 1923. Two of the surviving documents relate to this event: the wedding invitation and a special newspaper printed for the occasion. The couple had two children, Klaartje Elisabeth (Liesje) born in 1926 and Meijer Hans (Hans) born in 1932, whose drawings and poems for the Dutch festival of Sinterklaas, class notes and letters were included in the find.

The present owners of the house lived alongside this historical treasure trove for almost 35 years. During recent home improvements, they found a hollow space behind the fireplace in their living room, which contained the documents, photos and objects that had once belonged to Andries Bloch. Apparently Bloch hid his personal belongings before his deportation to the Westerbork transit camp in 1943. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, they have resurfaced to tell the moving story of the life and work of a Jewish doctor and his family. Andries Bloch, his wife and his children did not survive the war. The discovery of this archive makes it possible to reconstruct the lives of these four random victims of the Shoah. More than 65 years after their death, they again have faces and stories of their own.

The Bloch family archive includes: Andries Bloch and Klaartje Elisabeth Bloch

Bloch family children
Liesje and Hans Bloch, ca. 1939 © Collection Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam
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Editor: Lena Stanley-Clamp (EAJC, London)
with contributions from Anat Harel (Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam), Rachel Heuberger (Goethe University Library, Frankfurt/Main), Zsuzsana Toronyi (Hungarian Jewish Archives, Budapest) | Contact us
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