Prince William of Orange (1533-1584) proved himself a great champion of freedom of conscience. During this period, when Europe was primarily dominated by strong, absolutist rulers and the persecution of religious minorities was rife, the Dutch Republic occupied a unique position: freedom of conscience was guaranteed and went hand in hand with a sense of safety. The principle of freedom of conscience provided the basis on which Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews were admitted to the Dutch Republic at the beginning of the seventeenth century. They built up good relations with the country’s different public authorities: the States-General, the Provincial Executive, local burgomasters (mayors), and stadholders. They would establish an especially close relationship with the stadholders and their descendants – the sovereign rulers of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
This exhibition looks at that relationship, a bond that changed from one period to the next, but that seemed to be fundamentally unassailable, assuring the Jewish community of protection and safety as long as the House of Orange continued to reign. The Second World War changed all that. In the exhibition, visitors learn about the dramatic impact of Queen Wilhelmina’s role in regard to her Jewish subjects.
This story of 400 years is envisioned by 125 items: objects, documents, photographs, film footage and interviews.
The exhibition is accompanied by a book (only in Dutch but with more than 300 images).