Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Antwerp, Diamonds, and Jewish history: Brussels, Antwerp, Other in Belgium

The diamond district is modern, and people look very intent. 

Jewish history in Belgium. The diamond cutters in Antwerp at the outset of WWII were 80% Jewish, leaving the industry decimated and the professionals fleeing to "Cuba, England, Palestine, and the USA." See History of Gem Cutting at They took about 90% of the diamonds with them, to keep them from the Germans.

Short history of the diamond trade. Antwerp was a center since the 1500's, then it deflected to Amsterdam when the Spanish took over Antwerp, then it recouped. See Antwerp was incorporated into the Netherlands in 1815, after the Napoleonic wars. Germans occupied the city during WWI, until 1918.

Any serious visit to Europe, and visiting the sites so meaningful to WWI and WWII, means close contact with Jewish history - Jewish quarters in the towns, many now assimilated into general residence areas for different people, others preserved, some vacant; and the graveyards dating back so far, and with the stones of remembrance on the headstones, frost-heaved ground, old, old trees. For "Belgian Jewish Heritage," see the Belgian Tourist Office site at

In any town, if you do not see it right away, ask for the old Jewish quarter. There is a list of the major museums and synagogues. For non-Jews, there is so much history laid out at the Jewish history sites that it is a good place to start for any overview.
More blogs about Belgium Road Ways.

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