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Presser, Jacob


PRESSER, JACOB (Jacques ) (1899–1970), Dutch historian and writer. Presser was born in Amsterdam into a secular and well-assimilated family. He studied history at the University of Amsterdam, earning his doctorate in 1926 with a thesis on Das Buch "De Tribus Impostoribus," and became a teacher.

After the German invasion in May 1940, he and his wife tried to flee the Netherlands; when their attempt failed, they tried to commit suicide. In March 1943, Presser's wife was arrested and deported to Sobibor death camp. Presser went into hiding.

Soon after the war, he was taken on by the University of Amsterdam, where he eventually became a full professor. In 1950 the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation commissioned him to write a study of the persecution of the Jews in the Netherlands. Ondergang. De vervolging en verdelging van het Nederlandse jodendom 1940–1945 ("Destruction: the Persecution and Extermination of Dutch Jewry 1940–1945") was published in 1965 and had an enormous impact on Dutch society.

Presser also wrote poems and detective stories. The short story "De nacht der girondijnen" ("Breaking Point," 1958) was a poignant account of the Dutch Jewish transport camp of Westerbork.

The mass murder of the Jews greatly increased Presser's Jewish consciousness, but he never became a Zionist. After 1967, however, he did express growing concern about Israel's security.

Among his writings, in addition to Ondergang, are De Tachtigjarige Oorlog (1941); Napoleon (1946); and Amerika. Van kolonie tot wereldmacht (1949).


C. Kristel, Geschiedschrijving als opdracht. Abel Herzberg, Jacques Presser en Loe de Jong over de jodenvervolging (1998); N. van der Zee, Jacques Presser. Het gelijk van de twijfel. Een biografie (1988).

[Conny Kristel (2nd ed.)]

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