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The Great Negligence: 1865 – 1968

This 140-year period is symbolized by great negligence though there were some flashes of attention for the area. In the beginning of the nineteenth century renovations of parts of the building stock have taken place. Since the great fire of 1832 until the 1970s, several efforts were made to prevent further deterioration of the once so jubilated settlement. The village was in 1833 home only to synagogue officials, the “trusted” slaves of wealthy Jews living in Paramaribo and abroad, and some elderly people, too much connected to the ground of their forefathers to abandon it.

In 1838 a campaign was launched to resuscitate the decaying Jodensavanne. Referring to Jodensavanne as the “jewel of the colony”, the Hozer Holim brotherhood, a Surinamese Jewish organization committed to alleviating the suffering of the poor, proposed to reconstruct buildings and re-inhabit the village, without result. The last European Jewish and African-origin inhabitants abandoned Jodensavanne in the 1850s. The Jews only returned periodically to memorialize their vanished community and nostalgically bury their dead.

In 1860 and 1873, when Voorduin and Zimmermann visited Jodensavanne, the synagogue was still in a reasonable condition. But, some years later, in 1906, when rabbi Hilfman visited the area, it was already a ruin. Thanks to his efforts Jodensavanne was cleaned up for the first time. There is an assumption that the rapid destruction was due to re-use of building materials of the synagogue. This also happened later, during WWII, when detainees of the internment camp were ordered to collect bricks for the construction of their encampment.

During 1943-46 these war internees carried out a cleanup and research program at Jodensavanne. They made an inventory of the Jodensavanne Cemetery, and Sprey, one of the internees, produced an accurate map. They tried to decipher as many stones as possible, but failed in most cases, as their knowledge of Portuguese was limited and of Hebrew non-existent. Of the 436 graves, only 59 were partially deciphered. Oudschans Dentz  published a partial inventory, including Latin-scripted epitaphs and a scaled plan. In 1967 another clean up was carried out by personnel of the TRIS, the Surinamese army.

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