Wartime exile and return to the Netherlands
As the risk of war increased, Jacques Levi Lassen’s friends and employees urged him to leave the Netherlands. Initially reluctant, he finally requested and obtained visas for himself and Pauline, and they left for Paris on that same day, in April 1940, cutting things fine as it turned out, since the Germans invaded the Netherlands on May 10th of that year! From Paris, Jacques and Pauline found their way first to Portugal, and then across the ocean, to the USA.
They reached New York in October 1940, where they remained for the duration of the war.
Meanwhile, the managing staff of Jacques’ enterprises in the Netherlands struggled valiantly to protect his companies. They were successful in that, despite the physical destruction of a number of properties, the Levi Lassen concern was saved from being liquidated by the Nazis. On his return to the Netherlands in 1946, J.L. Lassen was able to resume leadership over his company. On his return Jacques once again took up residence in The Hague, albeit in a hotel, no longer in a home of his own.
The old Jewish shopping area
The sight of the Jewish quarter’s empty shops and streets - the immediate consequence of the Nazis’ heinous persecution, deportation, and annihilation of the city’s Jewish population - filled him with immense pain and sadness. Moved by the desire to honor the memory of the neighborhood’s vanished inhabitants, he resumed buying pieces of real estate all along the Gedempte Gracht, longing to recreate a shopping street on the location of the quarter’s once vibrant commercial heart.
It is indeed with true passion that Jacques Levi Lassen dedicated the last 16 years of his life to furthering the redevelopment of this area, which comprises the streets Spui-Gedempte Gracht-Voldersgracht-Bezemstraat and forms the subject matter of I.B. van Creveld’s book entitled De Verdwenen Buurt ("The lost neighborhood"). In pursuing this goal, J.L. Lassen also proved to be most insightful. He clearly perceived the potential of this area which borders The Hague’s commercial city center, and is currently at the heart of yet another large-scale urban renewal project.