Belgian Jewish Life in the different Belgian archives

The Antwerp City archive is only one of the many archives which has useful files for researchers on Jewish topics

Just as in other countries, Jews also left traces (and still are leaving traces) in Belgium: The oldest trace is a gravestone in the Flemish city Tienen (French: Tirlemont) of a girl who was known as Rebecca, daughter of Mozes. She passed away in the Jewish year 5016 which corresponds with the Gregorian calendar as 1255-1256.

Other traces of Jewish life are to be found in:

  • documents: from the Middle Ages through the French Revolution up until now, documents by occupiers of the country (decrees and edicts for the general population or against the Jews specifically), documents by resistance fighters, documents by Governments, documents by the Jewish communities, etc.
  • biographies
  • chronicles like ‘Maagel Tov’ (see http://hebrewbooks.org/21838) by Rabbi Chaim Joseph David Azulai who was also known as the Chida (1724 – 1 March 1806) , whose travels took him also to Belgium
  • gravestones
  • photo’s
  • etc.

I found it exciting to read about a project by some academics and the Belgian State Archives who have been working for some months on the compilation of a Guide to Archives related to Judaism and the Jewish population in Belgium in the 19th-20th century. The makers of the guide intend to collect all details of all archival material from as many instances a possible such as the Belgian Government, local communities, Jewish communities, everything related to the holocaust, the alien archives (in which many Jewish immigrants can be found), pamphlets, poster, plans from synagogues, etc.

All these records are dispersed over different institutions which make it hard to do a full research on any subject pertaining to Belgian Jewry without having such a guide with an inventory. The group hopes to identify both the existing sources on Judaism and the Jewish population in Belgium and it also hopes to track new and forgotten archive files. The new guide should hand historians an invaluable tool with which they can refine and broaden their analysis and knowledge. Moreover, it will not only appeal as a tool to professionals and academics, but also to the general public because the archives will be more accessible and appear less as a closed wall.

You can read more about this project in the magazine Science Connection n° 38 of the Belgian Science Policy Office (in Dutch: http://www.belspo.be/belspo/organisation/Publ/pub_ostc/sciencecon/38sc_nl.pdf, in French: http://www.belspo.be/belspo/organisation/Publ/pub_ostc/sciencecon/38sc_fr.pdf)

In the meantime, some of the good bibliographies I’d like to recommend are:

  • Jacques Déom (red.), “Les Juifs en Belgique. Guide bibliographique”, Fondation de la Mémoire contemporaine, Bruxelles, 2008. p 140
  • J.-P. SCHREIBER, “Joodse gemeenten, instellingen en organisaties”, in G. VANTHEMSCHE, P. VANEECKHOUT (red.), Bronnen voor de studie van het hedendaagse België (19de-20ste eeuw), Brussel, 2009, pp. 1129-1149 – (available online: www.kcgeschiedenis.be/pdf/bronnen/34JoodseGemeenteInstellingenOrganisaties.pdf)

14 thoughts on “Belgian Jewish Life in the different Belgian archives”

      1. Thank you. After checking them out after reading your comment I realized the index at trauring.net/antwerp wasn’t working properly (due to the Felix Archives moving the images) so I reworked them again so they work.

        Do you know if now they now offer any of the index from post-1930 by the way?

        1. Hi. I searched the inventory and found here something which could be interesting. It is an index but it is not online yet and I am not sure what information it contains. I should check it during one of my next visits: http://zoeken.felixarchief.be/zHome/Home.aspx?id_isad=273119.
          But to answer your question, it seems that the next range of indexes will only be available from 1/01/2026 and onwards. See here: http://zoeken.felixarchief.be/zHome/Home.aspx?id_isad=205244

  1. Hello Gershon,

    Do you know anything about the accuracy of the “Antwerp Police Immigration Index”?

    While I was browsing https://familysearch.org, I came across an entry of an -to me- unknown lady who was born in 1923 but is listed as an immigrant between the years 1901 and 1915. My grandfather, born in 1904, is also indexed as an immigrant before 1915, which I find very unlikely. Since I don’t know when he arrived in Belgium, I can’t tell whether something is off in the immigration index, but perhaps you have noticed some inaccuracies as well?

    I will do some other checks, to see if they match the data I have myself.

    1. Hi,

      The accuracy in overall is quite good. I did not find many mistakes.
      But obviously there can, and there will be, some mistakes. This can be due to some factors such as the officer making mistakes while s/he was taking notes, the immigrant giving incorrect details, etc.

      Also familysearch volunteers have made mistakes while indexing the files. I in fact found more mistakes when in these digitized indexes then in the original files, that is why you always should consider taking a look at the original files to double check.

      Could you please share the details of the relatives you found on familysearch to have possible mistakes? It should be interesting to see these.

      Gershon

  2. I came across the following entry, of a non-family member, born in 1925, but listed as an immigrant between 1901-1915: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/JSYD-XMW

    Which of course made me doubt the data I already found on familysearch. So I decided to browse back to the first page of the original files, and I found out that the person mentioned above was actually registered between 1916 -1930. Beside that, there is a difference in handwriting in the files from 1901-1915 and 1916-1930. The files in which my grandfather is listed is written in the same handwriting of the years 1916-1930, and that makes much more sense to me 😀

    So the inaccuracies lie more in the transcription of the files and less in the archives themselves. I’ve also noticed that the first pages are sometimes missing, including the immigration dates. This is what I’ve found out so far. So yes, it was a good idea to check the original files 😀

  3. Two links I wanted to share:

    Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database: http://resources.ushmm.org/hsv/person_search.php

    Quote: “List contains the names of an estimated 11,250 people from the Antwerp Jewish community. List includes first and last names, occupations, addresses, places and dates of birth, and notes.”

    The stories of the victims and survivors of Belgian transit camps, in Dutch, French and German: http://www.getuigen.be

    English Google translation of this website: http://tinyurl.com/k55kn34

    I haven’t figured out yet whether it’s possible to search the Jodenregister/Jewish Register in its totality, on the first website mentioned. It would be great to search for keywords or addresses. As far as I know, this is the only database online with so much data from the Jodenregister. I hope to find out more about this interesting find.

    1. Thank you!
      You can read more about the Joodse Registers (one for Antwerp and w-one for Belgium on the website of Kazerne Dossin:

      The Register of Antwerp Jews
      Number: 21,564 images, 10,012 in the index
      Description: Register of Antwerp Jews
      Available for consultation: Yes

      The Register of Antwerp Jews contains the index cards drawn up by the municipality of Greater Antwerp during the Second World War. The German decree of October 28th 1940 made it compulsory for all Jews over the age of15 to enrol in the Register of Jews of the place where they were domiciled.

      The index cards from the register contain the following data: surname, first names, date and place of birth, nationality, profession, religion, grandparents, parents, children, date of arrival in Belgium and the successive addresses.

      This archive belongs to the Centraal Beheer voor Joodse Weldadigheid en Maatschappelijk Hulpbetoon v.z.w.(The Central Administration for Jewish Charity and Social Services), the ‘Centrale’ for short. A digital version of the register is available from the search service. A name index was created to make these index cards more accessible. It, too, can be consulted at the search service.

      The Register of Jews in Belgium
      Number: 217 ring binders containing registration forms
      Description: Register of Jews in Belgium
      Available for consultation: Yes – on request

      The forms in the Register of Jews were filled in by the Belgian municipalities during the Second World War. They were acting on the German decree of October 28th 1940, which made it compulsory for all Jews over the age of 15 to enrol in the register of the place where they were domiciled. The Register of Jews in Belgium consists of 217 ring binders containing registration forms. Administrative documents were attached to some of the forms. The register was arranged alphabetically according to municipality.

      The individual forms were filled in in Dutch or French. Each document contains the following boxes: surname, first names, date and place of birth, profession, nationality, religion and also name, date and place of birth and religion of the spouse, the parents, the grandparents and the children, date of arrival in Belgium, the country the person has left, address, date and place of registration, and the person’s signature. Rarely was all the information filled in during the registration process.

      The Joodse Sociale Dienst (Jewish Social Services) in Brussels owns the Register of Jews in Belgium. The Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance cleaned, inventorized, digitized and wrapped the collection in acid-free paper. After that the register was placed in storage at the Musée Juif de Belgique in Brussels. The Register of Jews in Belgium can be consulted in digital form at the Kazerne Dossin Documentation Centre on receipt of a valid request. Researchers can have access to an alphabetic index.
      (Source: https://www.kazernedossin.eu/EN/document-ation-centre/overview-collections/21_collections, cited on 1 July 2013)

      Regarding the resource on the website of the USHMM, I found the following:

      […]is currently held at the Rijksarchief in Beveren, the main collection facility of the National Archives. Dr. Velle, its director, is integrating the collection into the National Archives collection. The collection number is PK ANTWERPEN 2003 B, nrs. 161-162 Dr. Velle offered to scan this relatively low number of pages for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum) and sent a copy of all pages in 2008. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives received the digitized collection via the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum International Archives Project in April 2008.
      (Source: http://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn36752, cited on 1 July 2013)

      We should keep in mind that the Germans YM”S ordered a few registrations throughtout the war. But from its description it looks as if it is (from the USHMM and the Kazerne Dossin) the same collection.

  4. Thanks Gershon. I wrote the USHMM a short email yesterday to find out more about this archive, and whether it can be accessed fully online, but you’ve already answered half of my questions. And this is what I found on the website of the Belgian Rijksarchief: http://search.arch.be/ead/BE-A0512_104420_102432_DUT

    I haven’t been in contact yet with the Dossin Kazerne, I will do that when I have gathered enough information and know what questions to ask. Until now I’ve done all of my research online, and it’s been an interesting journey so far.

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