Leonard Freed

Photographs of Jewish Amsterdam in the 1950s

May 2013, the Jewish Historical Museum purchased a hundred photographs from the archives of the famous Jewish-American photographer Leonard Freed (1929-2006).

These photographs are part of a detailed  documentary series about Jewish life in Amsterdam that was made in the late 1950s. Some of these photographs were published in 1958 in Freed's well-known book Joden van Amsterdam (Jews of Amsterdam). Freed  lived in Amsterdam for a number of years in the 1950s and 60s, became a member of the famed photographers' collective Magnum in 1972, and is internationally renowned as one of the leading social documentary photographers of the twentieth century.

The newly acquired photographs present a rich and colourful picture of the Jewish community as it was, in all its diversity: Orthodox and secular, in the synagogue and at home, at school and in the Joodse Invalide nursing home. His subjects include Professor Jacques Presser and a merchant in Waterlooplein, a bar mitzvah in the Carlton Hotel, and a sandwich at Sal Meijer's shop. Freed intended these photographs as an expression of his admiration for the resilience of Amsterdam's Jewish community after 1945, and for the reconstruction of Jewish life. As an American, he also attached great importance to the city of Amsterdam's tradition of tolerance and the very successful integration of Amsterdam's Jews.

With his characteristically direct and dynamic style of photography, which was unusual in the Netherlands in those dates, Freed left behind a vibrant and unique record of a particular time and place. His photographs are of inestimable value to our understanding of Jewish life in Amsterdam in the first few decades after the Second World War, because relatively few photographs from this period have been preserved. At the same time, Freed's series makes an outstanding addition to the museum's collection of documentary series on Jewish life, which also includes series from the 1980s by Bert Nienhuis, from the 1990s by Han Singels, and from the early 21st century by Pauline Prior.

A selection of 46 photographs can be found below. If you recognize any of the unidentified people or places shown, please contact our photography curator Bernadette van Woerkom, bernadette@jhm.nl, phone number + 31 20 5310 375. This acquisition was made possible in part by the Rembrandt Association and the BankGiro Lottery.


Toraschild, Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam, 1958 (JHM 12187)

Silver Torah shield donated to the Orthodox Ashkenazi Jewish Community of Amsterdam (NIHS) in 1888 by Alfred Marcus of Boston (USA). The shield is still in use.

This is the first photograph in the book Joden van Amsterdam ('Jews of Amsterdam'). The accompanying text is a reference to Exodus 28:15-21, which describes the 'breastplate of judgment' with twelve stones for the twelve tribes of Israel.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12187

Celebration of Hoshana Rabbah in the Portuguese Synagogue, Amsterdam, October 1959

During Sukkot (the Feast of Booths), a bundle of plants (the lulav) is worn while circling the raised platform (bimah or tebah) in the centre of the synagogue. The seventh day of Sukkot is called Hoshana Rabbah because of the seven circuits (hakafot) made  around the synagogue while reciting liturgical poems with the refrain 'Hoshana'   (G'd help us, Psalm 118:25). The lulav consists of a palm frond (lulav), a citron (etrog), two willow branches (aravot), and three myrtle branches (hadassim). The odourless fruit of the palm, the fragrant citron, the sweet-smelling myrtle, and the willow, which has no odour or flavour, symbolize different personality traits. The four branches are waved in all directions to attest to the union of all these elements in human beings and in society.

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12179)







Ab Coronel and Cecil Emmanuels; behind them is Mauke Samson.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12179 (see also 12154)

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12171)






From left to right: Lou Vega, Philip Polak. Standing by the bench: David (Loulou) Sondervan. Man with black hat in right background: Ab Coronel.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12171

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12175)

From left to right: Mr Allegro, chacham Salomon Rodrigues Pereira (left foreground), Ab Coronel (behind the chacham to the left), Benzion Moskovits (behind the chacham to the right, in front of the pillar). Carrying the Torah: Lex Vega, Zwi Werblovski.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12175

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12177)


From left to right: Philip Polak, David Lopes Quiroos, Leo Polak (seen from behind), Zwi Werblovski (carrying the Torah), Lex Vega (far right, carrying the Torah).

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12177

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12178)



Far right: Philip Polak. Man with Torah: David Lopes Quiroos. Vaguely visible in left background: Lou Vega.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12178

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12180)







Left: David Lopes Quiroos; right: Philip Polak.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12180

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12167)






David Nabarro, the son of Salomon Nunes Nabarro, cantor of the Portuguese Jewish Congregation.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12167

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12181)






Left: Max Nebig; right: David Nabarro, the son of Salomon Nunes Nabarro, cantor of the Portuguese Jewish Congregation.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12181

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12170)






Jehuda Palache, the son of Leo Palache.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12170
(see also 12153, 121588 and 12169)

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12176)






Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12176

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12160)



From left to right: Mauke Samson (seen from behind), Sam Behar (centre, with lulav), David (Loulou) Sondervan (right, in profile).

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12160

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12164)


From left to right: Cecil Emmanuels, unidentified man (seen from behind), Simon Vega, Lou Vega (Simon's father), Jacques Zacharia Baruch (far right).

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12164

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12172)







From front to back: Simon Vega, Mauke Samson, David Sondervan.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12172

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12165)




From left to right: Hans Rodrigues Pereira, probably Mau Noot, Sam Behar.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12165

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12156)





Hoshana Rabbah circuit.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12156

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12183)




Looking around: Tsitse Jessurun.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12183

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12161)



Simon Vega. Next to him (seen from behind): Philip Polak. Vaguely visible in the background: David (Loulou) Sondervan. The man on the left is unidentified.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12161

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12157)





Simon Vega

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12157

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12155)





Centre: Simon Vega; left: Philip Polak.

Foto © Leonard Freed, JHM 12155

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12162)



Left: Lou Vega. Next to him: David (Loulou) Sondervan. Far right: Mauke Samson.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12162

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12163)

Group of boys on the right (from left to right): Simon Vega, his younger brother Lex Vega, Mauke Samson, David Sondervan, Tsitse Jessurun. Left in front of pillar, bearded: Hans Rodrigues Pereira; behind Simon Vega's beret and to the left: Zwi Werblovski.

Photo �� Leonard Freed, JHM 12163

Religious life

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12185)

Conference of European rabbis, Portuguese Synagogue, 5 November 1957

From left to right: David Lopes Cardozo, Maurits Cohen Paraira, Mozes Vaz Dias, parnassim of the Portuguese Jewish Congregation.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12185

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12184)

Meeting of the board of parnassim of the Portuguese Jewish Congregation. Standing: Jacques Pais, secretary of the congregation. Seated from left to right: David Lopes Cardozo, parnas; Maurits Cohen Paraira, board treasurer; Eliazar Rodrigues Pereira, board president; M.S. Vaz Dias, honorary secretary; Jacques Zacharia Baruch, member.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12184

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12215)



Morning prayer in the Swammerdamstraat synagogue. Many Jews in this synagogue came from Central and Eastern Europe.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12215

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12216)



Chazzan Benzion Moskovits blows the shofar on a weekday in the month of Elul, in the shul attached to the Lekstraat synagogue. 1957. Mr Reich is visible on the right.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12216

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12196)





Eli Abrahams, owner of the herring shop in Weesperplein, opposite the Diamantbeurs (Diamond Exchange), engages in lernen (traditional Talmud study) with others.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12196

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12217)

Jitschak Mundsztuk, teacher at the Talmoed Tora school in Swammerdamstraat, Amsterdam, giving Jewish lessons. Aviva Moskovits, the eight-year-old daughter of the cantor from the Lekstraat synagogue, was allowed to join the group because a flu epidemic had led to many absences.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12217

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12198)





Frieda Moskovits-Heinovits and her nine-year-old daughter Aviva prepare for the Friday evening meal in the kitchen of their home, Rooseveltlaan 35. Cantor Benzion Moskovits and his family kept a kosher household.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12198

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12220)




Moishe and Aviva Moskovits, the children of cantor Benzion Moskovits of the Lekstraat synagogue, help to prepare for the Friday evening meal at home. This scene was staged on Thursday, because photography is prohibited on Shabbat.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12220

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12214)

Dinner in the Carlton Hotel on the Vijzelgracht for the bar mitzvah   of Naftali (Tali) Schipper, the son of the jeweller Bernard Schipper, 19 October 1957.

From left to right: Fred Wolf (standing), Lies de Wilde-Drukker (Mozes de Wilde's second wife), Gonny Schipper (Naftali's sister), Bernard Schipper, Naftali Schipper (the bar mitzvah boy), Lien Schipper-de Wilde (his mother), Hessel Schipper (Naftali's brother), Berish Sternlicht (Naftali's uncle from London).

Other side of the table: opposite Bernard Schipper is his brother Herman Schipper with his wife Janny Schipper-Canes and children Debby and Carry; next to them is Fietje Groen, Lien Schipper-de Wilde's niece, and next to her are Sal and Toeti Moses. Next to Janny Schipper-Canes are Asser de Leeuw and his wife Greta de Leeuw-de Wilde.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12214

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12213)

Bar mitzvah boy Naftali (Tali) Schipper makes his speech at the table, 19 October 1957. Left: his mother Lien Schipper-de Wilde; right: his father Bernard Schipper. 

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12213

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12223)

Ceremony consecrating the marriage of Gerrie Polak and Phia Vos in the Obrecht Shul on 22 September 1957. On the bench are Philip Vos, the father of the bride (wearing glasses), and Samson Polak, the father of the groom. In the centre, holding a glove, is Ies Staal.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12223


Social and cultural life

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12219)

Meeting of Haboniem, a socialist-Zionist organization for Jewish youth aged 7-17, at Oudeschans 74. The speaker is Amnon Rafalowitz. The person to his left is unidentified; next to that is Rami de Lieme. The boy to the right of the speaker is also unidentified; next to that is madrich Eli Sondervan. On the left, seen from behind: Mirjam de Lieme; centre, with cap: Gideon van der Glas; right foreground, with chequered shirt: Benzion Soetendorp.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12219

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12201)

Elderly participants do gymnastics to loosen their muscles. The location is probably Beth Menoecha, a rest home in Plantage Middenlaan, or De Joodsche Invalide in Henri Polaklaan.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12201

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12220)



Married couple in their living room, probably in Beth Menoecha or De Joodsche Invalide.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12220

Professional life

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12200)

The vendor Jan Müller hawking his wares in Waterlooplein. To his left is Jack Maandag, the owner of an automobile scrap yard at Waterlooplein 92. The smiling man to Jack Maandag's left is Manus Neter, coal merchant.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12200

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12195)

Interior of Seropa, a wholesale textile business at Sint Antoniesbreestraat 65, established by Natsie Serphos, Herman Roeg, and his brother-in-law Benjamin Pais. Behind the large roll of fabric in the centre, from left to right: Eddy Kleerekoper, Benjamin Pais, and Herman Roeg. Centre background: Ernst, a sales clerk. Foreground (with finger in mouth): Henk Stevens, a buyer from Eindhoven.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12195

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12194)

Interior of Seropa, a wholesale textile business at Sint Antoniesbreestraat 65. Men in the centre, from left to right: Herman Roeg, the owner, and general manager Toon Dolee. Woman on the left and man on the right: unidentified buyers.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12194

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12221)

Karola Wolf helps a customer in her antique shop in Langebrugsteeg. Carola ran this shop with her sister Bettina. The 'Wolf sisters' had made a name for themselves among Amsterdam's antique dealers. They dealt mainly in Judaica (ritual objects, especially Shabbat candle holders) but also sold a great deal of antique Dutch and German jewellery and silver tableware.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12221

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12224)





The internist Prof. Juda J. Groen gives a practical training course in medicine at the Wilhelmina Gasthuis, a hospital falling under the University of Amsterdam.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12224

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12199)





Four unidentified men huddle around a precious stone in the main hall of the Diamantbeurs (Diamond Exchange) in Weesperplein.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12199


Jewish beauty queen

This girl is probably Stanny van Baer at the age of sixteen. Stanny was studying fashion design at the ORT (Organisation Reconstruction Travail, Association for the Promotion of Skilled Trades) and Leonard Freed had her pose in various outfits. She may have made the dresses herself. Freed had an eye for beauty: four years later, in 1961, Stanny van Baer would be crowned Miss International Beauty in Long Beach, California (USA), a title comparable to Miss World.

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12227)





Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12227

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12229)






Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12229

Shall I leave or stay?

After the Second World War, many Jewish survivors no longer felt at home in the Netherlands. The country was focused on reconstruction and moving forward, and they rarely had the chance to tell others about their experiences. Jews felt distrustful of Dutch society, which had allowed the deportation of more than one hundred thousand Jewish citizens to take place without the state intervening to protect them. Almost all the survivors were scarred by the loss of close family and friends. Many of them, young and old, wanted to start new lives in a place free of the burden of the past. They asked themselves, 'Shall I leave or stay?' A gradual exodus began to countries such as Palestine/Israel, Canada, the United States, and Australia. The exact numbers of people involved in this post-war Jewish emigration from the Netherlands are unknown.

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12197)

Elie Frances, a third-year economics student at the University of Amsterdam, puts his arm around Lina Aardewerk, an X-ray assistant at the Centraal Israëlietische Ziekenverpleging (CIZ) hospital in Amsterdam, during Lina's farewell party in 1957. Lina had given up her job to join the staff of the Canadian NATO office in Paris. The photograph was staged by Leonard Freed: Lina Aardewerk and Elie Frances were strangers to each other. 

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12197

Foto © Leonard Freed, Amsterdam (JHM 12231)

Lina Aardewerk says goodbye to her friend Harry Barnstijn at Central Station in Amsterdam, 1957. Lina was departing for Paris. Two years later she would briefly return to Amsterdam to say farewell to her mother and sister before emigrating to America.

Photo © Leonard Freed, JHM 12231