ASSCHER, ABRAHAM (1880–1955), Dutch Jewish leader, Zionist, and politician. He founded the largest diamond processing plant in his native Amsterdam, and, in 1907, served as president of the Amsterdam Chamber of Commerce. He was elected to the North Netherlands Provincial Council as a member of the Liberal State Party in 1917. Asscher was active in the affairs of the Amsterdam Jewish community from his youth and was elected to chair the Amsterdam Ashkenazi Community Council. In 1932 he became chairman of the Union of Dutch Ashkenazi Congregations (Nederlandsch-Israëlitisch Kerkgenootschap). In 1933 Asscher and David *Cohen founded the Comité voor Bijzondere Joodse Belangen ("Committee for Special Jewish Affairs") to combat Nazi antisemitism and policies, and to help refugees from Germany; for this purpose a special Sub-Committee for Jewish Refugees was established, which became one of the most powerful organizations in Dutch Jewry of the 1930s. In February 1941 Asscher and Cohen were charged by the German occupation authorities with the task of forming an Amsterdam Joodsche Raad ("Jewish Council"). This council utilized the personnel and administrative experience of the Jewish Refugees Committee, and its authority was soon extended by the Germans to include the whole of Dutch Jewry. Despite its intentions to help Jews, it became one of the tools of the Germans, first to control the Jewish population and later to deport it to the extermination camps (see *Netherlands, *Amsterdam). Asscher himself was arrested, and on September 23, 1943, was taken first to *Westerbork and then to *Bergen-Belsen. Asscher returned to Holland after the liberation (1945). There, he was denounced by some of the Jewish survivors. An honorary (Jewish) court of law condemned him, but Asscher rejected the court's verdict, and severed his connections with the Jewish community. After his death, he was buried in a non-Jewish cemetery. His and his colleague David Cohen's behavior has been a major theme of historiography and popular discussions of the fate of the Dutch Jews during the Holocaust.
A.J. Herzberg, Kroniek der Jodenvervolging (1951); J. Presser, Ashes in the Wind. The Destruction of Dutch Jewry (1968). add. bibliography: A. Asscher, Persoonlijkheden in het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in Woord en Beeld (1938); L. de Jong, Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog, vols. 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 14 (1969–89); D. Michman, "The Jewish Refugees from Germany in The Netherlands, 1933–1940," ch. 3 (Ph.D.-thesis, 1978) (Heb.); H. Knoop, De Joodsche Raad. Het Drama van Abraham Asscher en David Cohen (1983); n.k.c.a. in 't Veld, De Joods Ereraad (1989); W. Lindwer (with J. Houwink ten Cate), Het fatale dilemma. De Joodsche Raad voor Amsterdam, 1941–1943 (1995); B. Moore, Victims and Survivors. The Nazi Persecution of the Jews in the Netherlands, 1940–1945 (1997); J. Michman, H. Beem, and D. Michman, Pinkas. Geschiedenis van de joodse gemeenschap in Nederland (1999); N. van der Zee, Um Schlimmeres zu verhindern. Die Ermordung der niederländischen Juden: Kollaboration und Widerstand (1999); J.C.H. Blom, R.G. Fuks-Mansfeld, and I. Schöffer (eds.), The History of the Jews in the Netherlands (1992).
[Jozeph Michman /
Dan Michman (2nd ed.)]