Last Updated on February 4, 2021 by Jim Ferri
Some sites in Europe strike an especially responsive chord with Jewish travelers…
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
By Marcia Levin
Europe is a popular topic in many homes these days as Americans plot and plan summer vacations abroad. Should we see this? Should we try to do that?
Many vacationers choose to cruise around Europe, (and to be sure, there is a huge flotilla of ships sailing from ports all over the continent.)
A big draw this summer is the 70th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy, the mega military maneuver that marked the beginning of the end to the brutal Nazi invasion of the continent.
And for many cruise passengers, whose ships will come close to France, those invasion beaches will be one of the most popular shore excursions. Cruise lines have put together lot of shore excursions focusing on the invasion and visits to the beaches.
But many other spots on European soil are attractive to travelers who can explore and expose the bloody history of Nazism as well as the paths taken by millions of Europeans to migrate to the U.S. and Canada.
And many of these sites strike an especially responsive chord with Jewish travelers.
Red Star Line Museum, Antwerp
One of the newest European sites for Jewish travelers is in Antwerp. The relatively new Red Star Line Museum documents the history of 2 million European immigrants who made the trip from Antwerp to New York City from 1897 to 1934. They all sought a better life.
Among them was a five-year-old boy named Israel “Izzy” Berlin who became famed songwriter/composer Irving Berlin. He wrote “God Bless America” in 1918.
Tel: +32 3 298 27 70
Anne Frank Museum, Amsterdam
The most well-known European sites for Jewish travelers is the incredible Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, possibly one of the most visited Jewish-themed travel sites outside of Israel. It’s exceptionally popular with many non-Jewish visitors as well.
In 2013 a record number of visitors from around the globe saw the site where Anne and her family hid during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. The number 1,954.456 visitors is greater by more than 40,000 than any other year. Contemplating life for the family in the hidden annex is challenging for all.
Anne received a diary for her 13th birthday on June 12, 1942. Three weeks later the family went into hiding, where they lived for more than two years.
Cruise passengers can walk to the Museum from Amsterdam’s port, although a cab ride is easier. Online ticket booking is recommended.
1016 GV Amsterdam, Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 556 7100
Manchester Jewish Museum, Manchester
In the 1840s immigrants from Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empires were the first Jewish settlers in Manchester. Early cotton merchants from Holland and Germany arrived at about the same time, but by 1912 there were only five Jews in the industrial city
Six thousand refuges from Nazism settled there in the 1930s. Concentration camp survivors and Egyptians, Hungarians and Iranians, avoiding political situations in their homelands, came in the1940s and 1950s.
One of the European sites for Jewish travelers, it is only a 10-minute walk from Manchester Victoria train station and contains haunting personal histories, artifacts of early settlement, and ancient religious items.
190 Cheetham Hill Road
Manchester M8 8LW,
Tel:+44 161 834 9879
Jewish Town, Prague
Every visitor to Prague, Jew and non-Jew alike, should visit this one of the European sites for Jewish travelers The Old-New Synagogue is the oldest landmark in Jewish town and among Europe’s oldest surviving synagogues. The Old-New Synagogue (Altneuschul,) reflects 700 years of history.
A walk through the old district, the mesmerizing cemetery, the entire feeling in the area, remain with you long after you walk away.
110 01 Praha 1
Tel: +420 224 800 812
Theresienstadt Concentration Camp
After a 40-minute ride from Prague in the Czech Republic, on a major highway that could be the Florida or New Jersey Turnpike – complete with plazas and $4 cups of coffee – visitors come to an old 18th century army fortress.
Sprawling walkways lead to the infamous Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. The German name is Therensienstadt, Czechs use “Terezin.” The name comes from name of the mother of the emperor, Maria Theresa of Austria. It is another of the mesmerizing European sites for Jewish travelers and non-Jews alike.
More than 140,000 prisoners were sent to Terezin. Most were Czech Jews, but also included 40,000 from Germany, 15,000 from Austria, 500 from the Netherlands, 500 from Denmark.
Most were sent to concentration camps in Auschwitz-Birkenau where most died. It is said that 33,000 died in Terezin, many from typhus at war’s end. Terezin survivors number 17,247.
From the German cruise port of Rostock, it is possible to visit Berlin. Consider the Jewish Museum, Holocuast Memorial, Book Burning Square, the Berlin Wall and Check Point Charlie.
In Dublin, don’t miss a stop at the Jewish Museum in that capitol city. Ireland has a long Jewish history.
Kahal synagogue, in the Jewish quarter on the Greek island of Rhodes, is the oldest synagogue in Greece.
This is a partial list. Just as there are tours which stress theater or museum visits, meeting locals, and more, many standard tours and cruises can provide a little bit of ethnic history. On line bookings and research are strongly recommended.