When I saw this photograph I was reminded of another photograph. It was a picture of my colleagues and I in 1993/1994. It was taken at work on the day of the retirement of one of my colleagues at the time. We had a small party afterwards at the cafeteria of Philips Sittard. The picture was much dissimilar to the picture above.
However the circumstances could not be more different. The photograph is of a group of men who were all interned at the labor camp ‘de Fledder’ in Drenthe in the north east of the Netherlands.
On January 7, 1942, the Jewish Council in Amsterdam was pressured and held responsible for supplying 1,402 Jewish unemployed people. In the end, 1075 unemployed were identified and more than 900 men gathered at the Amstel station on 10 January. They were sent to the labor camps in the northern provinces, in particular to perform reclamation work for the Heidemij company Of these men, 120 in total, were in Camp De Fledders near Norg in Drenthe. On October 3, Yom Kippur, 1942, the Jewish men we were deported by train to camp Westerbork. None of them survived the war.
When you look at the expression of the men’s faces, you can see all emotions from joy to sadness, and hope to despair. One man even has a bunch of flowers, possibly with the hope he will be able to give them to his wife.
The Heidemij company is now known as Arcadis NV , a global design, engineering and management consulting company. I don’t have any current figures but in 2019 the company had a revenue of 3.5 Billion Euro. Thier current stock price is € 33.50 per share. Their tagline is “Improving Quality of Life” it doesn’t appear to me that they improved the life of those who worked for them in 1942.
As for the men who were murdered in various camps after the labor camp closed, all that remains is this monument with these words by Jacqueline van der Waals:
‘EEN MONUMENT VOOR GISTEREN, VANDAAG EN MORGEN. IN 1942 VERBLEVEN IN HET NABIJGELEGEN WERKKAMP “DE FLEDDERS” 120 JOODSE MEDEBURGERS. ZIJ KWAMEN NIET MEER TERUG.’
“A MONUMENT FOR YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW. STAYED IN THE NEARBY WORK CAMP . IN 1942 “THE FLEDDERS” 120 JEWISH FRIENDSHIPS. THEY DID NOT COME BACK.”
I sincerely hope that Arcadis paid for the monument. Somehow I doubt it though.
Werkdorp (Labor Camp) Wieringermeer was opened in 1934, and was managed by the Jewish Labor Foundation. It could accommodate about 300 residents, who would follow a short (two-year) training course.
The Werkdorp , built by the residents themselves – mostly refugees from Germany and Austria – was intended to train its temporary residents in practical skills that would enable them to live in israel and work in agriculture. The boys received a two-year manual or agricultural training, the girls a short instruction in agriculture and housekeeping. In the village there was a carpenter, a blacksmith, a bakery and a joiner’s workshop.
After the German invasion and occupation in the Netherlands, the village was evacuated on March 20 1941, except for about 60 who stayed behind. W. Lages and Klaus Barbie were involved. From August 1940 until the eviction in March 1941, Abel Herzberg was director of the Jewish working village in the Wieringermeer. Herzberg was on the so-called Frederiks( Karel Johannes Frederiks was the secretary general of the department of internal affairs) list with his wife and three children and therefore enjoyed a certain protection.
On March 24, 1941, a number of members of the foundation board sent a letter to the Sicherheitspolizei in Amsterdam stating that continuing the training in the Werkdorp was the only option for the young people to emigrate afterwards. It was hoped that this would appeal to the occupier. Klaus Barbie indicated that he was sympathetic to a restart of the Werkdorp and would discuss this with Lages. On June 9, there was an answer and the members of the foundation board were told that the students could return to the Werkdorp. Barbie asked for a list of the names and addresses of the students living in Amsterdam. The foundation board believed Barbie and gave him the list. On June 11, the Werkdorpers received a message from the Jewish Council that the Nazis would come and collect them from their homes. A number of people did not believe what was about to happen and went into hiding.
Indeed, the Nazis had something else in mind. The attack on 14 May 1941 on the Bernard Zweerskade in Amsterdam – without casualties – and the attack on 3 June 1941 on the telephone exchange at Schiphol – one seriously injured – prompted the Nazis to carry out reprisal measures and they wanted 300 male Jews from 18 to 35 directly to Mauthausen. The arrests of the Werkdorpers started on 11 June. In the end, 59 were arrested. They went to camp Schoorl. 58 of them were murdered in Mauthausen, one was gassed in Hartheim Castle.
Like Westerbork, Wieringermeer had also been built to accommodate Jewish refugees, prior to the war, but they were both turned into much more cynical places.
On August 12th, 1944 a report was issued in Haifa, Israel. regarding the situation of the Dutch Jewry up to May 1944, The transports to the death camps continued for another 4 months . Below is the transcript of the report. Wieringermeer is also mentioned in it.
There were 140.000 Jews in Holland at the beginning of the war (incl. 26.000 non dutch Jews)
Deported to Poland (including all orphanages, old-age homes, hospitals, lunatic-asylum Apeldoorn, and all Jews from Vught-camp excepting a few hundred working in Vught for Philips) 110.000
In hiding (estimated) 15.000
Married to Christians etc, deceased (all estimated) 6.000
(The number of Jews who are free in Amsterdam – there are none in the provinces – is negligible)
The ‘star’ of which I enclose one, had to be worn as from May 1942; the deportations started July 15th 1942 Up to December 31st 1942 40.000 Jews had been deported.
Wieringen on March 20th 1941 210 pupils (boys and girls with the Jewish manager) were brought to Amsterdam about 60 pupils and 20 people from the staff were allowed to remain in order to finish the harvesting of that years crops; they were allowed to remain until August 1st 1941 when the Werkdorp was finally liquidated.
About 60 of the pupils were sent to Mauthausen;
“ 100 were deported to Poland
“ 50 are still in Westerbork and Bergen-Belsen
“ 60 are in hiding.
The dutch authorities paid an indemnity for the property they took over; (although it were the Germans who ordered the liquidation; this money was used to keep two ‘Homes’ in Amsterdam for the remaining pupils until they too were finally dispersed in the great razzias on May 26th and June 20th 1943. The equipment of the carpentershop and the smithy and metalshop was used in trainingschools in Amsterdam and finally brought to Westerbork.
The following data were given to me in Vienna on my way through to Constantinople by the assistant of Dr Löwenherz who could not come personally;
Data July let 1944: Vienna Free Jews … 180
In hiding ………………………………………….. 2000
Versippte (Intermarriage etc) ………… 6- 8000
Sent to Theresienstadt 15000 (of whom 3800 still there)
Sent to Poland…………………………………… 48000
The rest (there were 2100000) emigrated or died.
9000 Hungarian Jews had come through Vienna on their way to Poland; 41000 were still expected. (We saw two transports of 1000 each, one in Vienna and one on the way to Hungary) 310000 jews in Budapest had not yet been interfered with.
Haifa, August 12th 1944″
It was signed by someone with the last name ‘Van Tijn’ unfortunately I don’t know who that is.
Before the close of World War II, when the Red Army failed to leave Eastern European countries, Stalin’s sphere of influence was expanding. Eventually that group of Soviet-occupied nations became known as the “Warsaw Pact.”
At Yalta, Stalin apparently never meant for his troops to leave. He just forgot to mention it to Churchill and FDR.
It didn’t take long for Churchill to predict what would happen if Stalin controlled Eastern Europe. It was, he said (at thirty-eight minutes into his “Sinews of Peace” speech), as though an “Iron Curtain” had descended. Soon after one war ended, another – the “Cold War” – had begun.
Soviet propaganda posters claimed “We Are Invincible.” (From left to right the pictured flags are from occupied Romania, East Germany, Bulgaria, Soviet Union, Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia.)
No posters, and no propaganda mentioned another crucial fact: While Nazi concentration camps were being closed, more and more Soviet forced-labor camps were being opened.
The first Soviet labor camp (which Solzhenitsyn called the “mother of the GULAG”) was a former monastery – Solovetski Monastery. Perhaps there was symbolism in that choice with barbed wires replacing open doors.
Located in the far north of Russia, the monastery at Solovetski has its own walled fortress. For six months every year, harsh winters in the area virtually cause the place (and its people) to become isolated from the rest of the world.
It was, in other words, an ideal place for a prison. Early leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution began to use it for that purpose.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn described the monastery-turned-labor-camp this way:
This was the basic idea behind Solovki. It was a place with no connection to the rest of the world for half a year. A scream from here would never be heard.