© Cor Snabel
In 1550 Amsterdam had about 10 to 12 thousand inhabitants and merchants were starting to explore the world seas. In 1585 The Spanish troops under command of Alva conquered Antwerp and 19.000 Protestants -Baptists and Lutherans- escaped and went north.
Amongst those were a lot of merchants and skilled craftsman and many of them settled in Amsterdam and gave the city an enormous economical impulse.
In 1598 a ship loaded with Portuguese Jews arrived in Amsterdam. At the end of the 15th century the Spanish Jews were persecuted and went to Portugal, but now Spain had annexed Portugal and they had the choice of being converted to Catholicism or end up being burned at the stake.
Most of these Jews were wealthy merchants and they invested in the Amsterdam trading companies and founded synagogues, of which some still exist.
Not all Portuguese Jews were rich, but they were a lot better off than their East European fellow-believer. In the 17th century they were constantly persecuted and threatened by pogroms and the ones who had the chance, escaped to saver places like Amsterdam. They were penniless and it was hard for them to build a new existence. The Portuguese Jews took care of them, but soon the number of High German Jews exceeded the number of their Portuguese brothers. They too founded their own synagogues close to the ones of the Portuguese Jews.
This neighborhood is still known as the Jewish quarter although W.W.II made and end to the hegemony of the Jewish population.
The Jews have always had a huge influence on many aspects of Amsterdam, they made the city one of the most important diamond centers in the world, and they even added several typical words and expressions, which originated from Hebrew, to the Amsterdam dialect.
On 18th Oct. 1685 Louis XIV and cardinal Richelieu made an end to the relative freedom of the French Protestants, the so-called Huguenots, by the "Edict of Fontainebleau". This was the beginning of violence, the systematic destruction of Protestant properties and the for France disastrous exodus of 400.000 Huguenots. Many of them moved to Amsterdam and gave the city a new impulse. But the economy of Amsterdam was declining and many of them moved on, a small group went to South Africa, other groups went to America and had an important influence on the colonist's population.
But also smaller groups had put their marks on Dutch society, Armenians, which were Orthodox Christians, came to Amsterdam to practice their religion in peace. Russian, Greek and Italian merchants, who settled here, but also adventurers from Germany and Hungary, sailors from Norway and Ireland. Amsterdam was a melting pot of nationalities and cultures. At the end of the 18th century the population of 220.000 was 50% Reformed, 22% Catholic, 15% Lutheran and 10% Jewish.