Westerbork the Jewish refugee camp that became a concentration camp.

Westerbork

What a lot of people don’t realize is that Camp Westerbork was actually established as a refugee camp for Jews escaping the Nazi regime in Germany and Austria.and who had illegally entered the Netherlands. It was established by the Dutch government in the summer of 1939.

In July 1942, the Nazis took over the camp and turned it into a transition camp. Jews arrested in the Netherlands were taken to the camp and put on transport. Transport trains arrived at Westerbork every Tuesday from July 1942 to September 1944, and left with close to 100,000 jews.But also Roma and Sinti were transported from Westerbork.

The Deportations were part of  the responsibilities of Gestapo sub-Department IV-B4, which was headed by Adolf Eichmann.

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Although the camp was relatively “humane” by  Nazi standards , it was cruel in other ways. Jewish inmates with families were housed in 200 interconnected cottages The cottages  contained two rooms, a toilet, a hot plate for cooking, and a small yard. Single inmates were put  in oblong  shaped barracks which contained a separate bathroom for each sex.

The camp also had a school, hairdresser, orchestra and even restaurants arranged by SS officials to give inmates a false sense of hope for survival but also to aid avoiding problems during transportation.

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Nearly t all of the  estimated 95,00 persons deported to Auschwitz and Sobibor in German-occupied Poland were killed upon arrival.

The camp was  liberated by Canadian forces on April 12, 1945. A total of 876 inmates were found.

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The fact that the Nazis maintained that false sense of hope is probably one of the most sickening aspects of the camp. They knew what the fate was of the inmates and giving them that hope that they would survive, that they were only going to be resettled to Eastern Europe.

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Sources

USHMM

Liberation Route Europe

 

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This building had once stabled 80 horses. There were 1,200 men in it, five to a bunk.

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The title is a line from a report by Edward R. Murrow, a CBS radio news reporter.He  reported largely from Europe during World War II, and was the first reporter on scene following the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp The report was broadcast on  Sunday, April 15, 1945, in Studio B-4 of the BBC, only a few days after the liberation.

I could include pictures of what the allied troops encountered in April 1945. Pictures of piles of corpses or emaciated inmates, and there are plenty. But I won’t do that. I have decided to tell the story with some of the excerpts from the report. When you initially read it then probably just like me, you won’t be that shocked,maybe a bit disturbed but not shocked.

This is probably because the horrors written down, don’t trigger a response. However when you read it again and leave the words sink in, the horrors become so clear and they will stick with you more so then any picture could do.

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Report from Edward R. Murrow

“There surged around me an evil-smelling stink, men and boys reached out to touch me. They were in rags and the remnants of uniforms. Death already had marked many of them, but they were smiling with their eyes. I looked out over the mass of men to the green fields beyond, where well-fed Germans were ploughing.

I asked to see one of the barracks. It happened to be occupied by Czechoslovaks. When I entered, men crowded around, tried to lift me to their shoulders. They were too weak. Many of them could not get out of bed. I was told that this building had once stabled 80 horses. There were 1,200 men in it, five to a bunk. The stink was beyond all description.

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We went to the hospital. It was full. The doctor told me that 200 had died the day before. I asked the cause of death. He shrugged and said: ‘tuberculosis, starvation, fatigue and there are many who have no desire to live. It is very difficult’ He pulled back the blanket from a man’s feet to show me how swollen they were. The man was dead. Most of the patients could not move.

In another part of the camp they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only 6 years old. One rolled up his sleeves, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm. B-6030, it was. The others showed me their numbers. They will carry them till they die. An elderly man standing beside me said: “The children- enemies of the state!” I could see their ribs through their thin shirts.

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They called the doctor. We inspected his records. There were only names in the little black book, nothing more. Nothing about who these men were, what they had done, or hoped. Behind the names of those who had died, there was a cross. I counted them. They totaled 242. 242 out of 1,200, in one month.

As we walked out into the courtyard, a man fell dead. Two others, they must have been over 60, were crawling toward the latrine. I saw it, but will not describe it.”

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Unlike Auschwitz or other camps Buchenwald’s gate did not say “Arbeit macht Frei” but ” Jedem das Seine” which translates to “to each his own” or “to each what he deserves”. No one in Buchenwald got what they deserved. No one deserves to be treated as a subhuman. Nor did they deserve to be murdered for being Jewish,Communist or just critical of the Nazi regime.

 

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Sources

Scrapbook pages

Jewish Virtual Library

Berkley Library

 

 

Holocaust Remembered

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On 27 January 1945, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, was liberated by the Red Army.

UN Resolution 60/7 establishing 27 January as International Holocaust Remembrance Day urges every member nation of the U.N. to honor the memory of Holocaust victims, and encourages the development of educational programs about Holocaust history to help prevent future acts of genocide.

“We must also go beyond remembrance, and make sure that new generations know this history. We must apply the lessons of the Holocaust to today’s world. And we must do our utmost so that all peoples may enjoy the protection and rights for which the United Nations stands”

Some of the pictures below are graphic and may be disturbing. But please do keep in mind disturbing as they may be, they are still fairly sanitized there are other images even more disturbing.

In 1948 ,a girl who grew up in a concentration camp was asked to draw “home” and what she drew was scribbles. It shows how the horrors of the concentration camp warped her mind. It’s a mystery what the lines truly mean to her, probably the chaos or the barbed wire.

A girl who grew up in a concentration camp draws a picture of home while living in a residence for disturbed children, 1948

Transport

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SS prison guards forced to load victims of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp into trucks for burial, 1945

SS prison guards forced to load victims of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp into a trucks for burial, 1945

Evil words

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Photos of Jewish children in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

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Prisoners were stripped of all their possessions when they arrived at the camps. In an area of the camp called Canada people\’s personal belongings were processed, stored and then redistributed to Germans.

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Glasses collected from people murdered in the gas chambers.

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Jews being transported to the Camps

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A long-buried documentary, co-directed by Alfred Hitchcock and produced by Sidney Bernstein, provides unequivocal proof of the Holocaust’s horrors.

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SS guards humiliating Orthodox Jewish man

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German soldier shooting a woman with a child in her arms, Ivanograd, 1942.

EXECUTIONS OF KIEV JEWS BY GERMAN ARMY MOBILE KILLING UNITS, 1942

A group of holocaust victims that are often forgotten are the Roma

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Lithuanian nationalists clubbing Jewish Lithuanians to death. Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania, June 27, 1941.

The Kovno Garage Massacre - Lithuanian nationalists clubbing Jewish Lithuanians to death, 1941 (1)

The liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army.

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I often hear people say “Leave the past in the past” but if we do that we repeat the mistakes, some of the mistakes have already been repeated.

NEVER FORGET.

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Let the celebrations begin

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Although most of Europe was liberated in September 1944 but the war was still raging in the pacific. The severe winter of 1944 in Europe also threw a spanner in the celebrations, since some parts were still occupied by the Germans.

It was only on VE Day in May and Japan’s surrender in August of 1945 before the celebrations could start.

Below are some impressions of those celebrations.

A double-decker bus slowly pushes its way through the huge crowds gathered in Whitehall, London to hear Winston Churchill’s victory speech and celebrate Victory in Europe Day on May 8, 1945.

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A member of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps seated on a courthouse lion celebrates the end of the war. August 1945.

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V-E Day celebration in Trondheim, Norway. May 8, 1945.

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American servicemen and women gather in front of the Rainbow Corner Red Cross Club in Paris to celebrate the unconditional surrender of the Japanese on August 15, 1945.

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Residents of Oak Ridge, Tennessee fill Jackson Square to celebrate the surrender of Japan on August 14, 1945. Oak Ridge was one of the three main sites of the Manhattan Project and was responsible (though those working there did not know it) for refining uranium to be used in the first atomic bombs.

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A sergeant interrupts his shave in a barber shop and holds up the latest copy of the Stars And Stripes newspaper announcing the surrender of Japan with the headline of “PEACE.” Paris, France. August 14, 1945

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V-E Day celebrations on Bay Street, Toronto, Canada on May 8, 1945.

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Four MPs take a break along a German road in May of 1945 to read about the Nazi surrender in the Stars and Stripes newspaper.

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A French woman kisses an American soldier. France. Date unspecified

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As World War II ended, women were able to obtain nylon stockings once again. Date unspecified

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Liberation of Geleen-Sept 18 1944-When no shot was fired.

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On September 18,1944 my hometown Geleen was liberated. Geleen is a town in the south east of the Netherlands in the province of Limburg situated in the most narrow part of the Province in between Belgium and Germany.

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The liberation actually happened by chance. The Germans did hide behind several objects, ready to take on the approaching American troops.

They did hide quite well ,therefore a friar from the nearby monastery ventured outside assuming the Germans had fled the scene. He then brought out a big orange banner to celebrate, which was the signal for the neighbours to follow suit and hang out the Dutch flag and the national colors.

When the Germans saw this they assumed that the Americans had already arrived and were on their heels, so they frantically fled although not one of the allied troops had actually been seen yet.

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Below are just some impressions of that day. The liberation day where no shot was fired.

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Below an image of Vincent DiPaquale of the 116th Infantry Regiment,born in Buffalo New York. He was one of the liberators.

Vincent DiPaquale

 

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When liberation came too late

The_Liberation_of_Bergen-belsen_Concentration_Camp,_April_1945_BU4195For many the joy of being freed from the brutal Nazi regime was short lived. After the concentration camps were liberated the deaths didn’t stop straight away.

British forces liberated concentration camps in northern Germany, including Neuengamme and Bergen-Belsen. They entered the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, near Celle, in mid-April 1945. Some 60,000 prisoners, most in critical condition because of a typhus epidemic, were found alive. More than 10,000 of them died from the effects of malnutrition or disease within a few weeks of liberation.

Initially lacking sufficient manpower, the British allowed the Hungarians to remain in charge and only commandant Kramer was arrested.

KRAMER

 

Some British Soldiers pushed cigarettes and sweets through the wire to the inmates who fell on them so ferociously that some were left dead on the ground, torn to pieces in the sordid scramble. The Hungarian Wehrmacht soldiers, who had been assigned to guard the camp during the transition, shot into the mob and killed numerous people.

On April 20, four German fighter planes attacked the camp, damaging the water supply and killing three British medical orderlies.

Robert Desnos (French:  4 July 1900 – 8 June 1945), was a French surrealist poet who played a key role in the Surrealist movement of his day.

During World War II, Desnos was an active member of the French Resistance network Réseau AGIR, under the direction of Michel Hollard, often publishing under pseudonyms. For Réseau Agir, Desnos provided information collected during his job at the journal Aujourd’hui and made false identity papers he was arrested by the Gestapo on 22 February 1944.

He was first deported to the German concentration camps of Auschwitz in occupied Poland, then Buchenwald, Flossenburg in Germany and finally to Terezín (Theresienstadt) in occupied Czechoslovakia in 1945.

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Desnos died in “Malá pevnost”, which was an inner part of Terezín used only for political prisoners, from typhoid, a month after the camp’s liberation

Many others died due to Refeeding syndrome a syndrome consisting of metabolic disturbances that occur as a result of re-institution of nutrition to patients who are starved, severely malnourished or metabolically stressed due to severe illness.This syndrome is a result of the human body changing fuel sources during starvation and can be fatal.

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After liberation, many Jewish survivors feared to return to their former homes because of the antisemitism (hatred of Jews) that persisted in parts of Europe and the trauma they had suffered. Some who returned home feared for their lives. In postwar Poland, for example, there were a number of pogroms (violent anti-Jewish riots). The largest of these occurred in the town of Kielce in 1946 when Polish rioters killed at least 42 Jews and beat many others.

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The liberation of the Netherlands

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On 4 May 1945 at Lüneburg Heath, east of Hamburg, Field Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery accepted the unconditional surrender of the German forces in the Netherlands.

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On 08:00 AM on the 5th of May 1945 the Netherlands is officially liberated, although the Southern provinces had already been liberated by September 1944.

Below are photographs of the liberation of the Netherlands.

Liberation of Geleen and Sittard in the south eastern province of Limburg on the 18th and 19th September 1944.

 

Liberation of Hoensbroek also in Limburg on the 17th of October 1944.The kids were orphans being cared for by the Nuns near castle Hoensbroek, The kids dressed up for the occasion.

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The liberation of Ermelo

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An ecstatic crowd in Utrecht welcomes the Canadian liberators

An ecstatic crowd in Utrecht welcomes the Canadian liberators

Groningen

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Holten-Rijssen April_1945

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Some tender medical care

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Ontarios parade in Holland to celebrate Dutch liberation, 1945

Ontarios parade in Holland to celebrate Dutch liberation, 1945

Citizens of Utrecht celebrate newfound freedom on May 5

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World War II: Liberation of the Netherlands–South of the Rhine (September-December 1944)

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Liberation Parade in Witteveen, Netherlands.

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Some final personal words.

My young friend, you sacrificed your live selflessly for my freedom.

We never met but yet your act of valour has changed my life.

My young friend, I thank you for it is because of you I am here.

Often I ponder why you did what you did so that I can thrive.

 

From afar you came to deliver us from evil.

And evil you witnessed all around you.

Leaving a safe place just to be thrown into upheaval.

To see death, destruction and chaos too.

 

You don’t know it but my life you did change.

For if it wasn’t for you I may never have been conceived.

You gave up your life for a land that wasn’t yours but was strange.

Freedom was given by you and by me is thankfully received.

 

Alas there are those who do not realize the debt we owe to you.

They talk about leaving bygones be bygones and forget those who died.

My young friend not me, never will I forsake the memory of you.

The promise I make to you is that your bravery will be the source of my pride.

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The Liberation of Breda

This day 72 years ago the city of Breda is liberated by the 1st Polish Armoured Division. led by General Stanislav Maczek.

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A picture sometimes tells a thousand words, therefore below some pictures of that day 29 October 1944.

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Dutch Resistance fighters armed with captured German weapons celebrate the liberation of Breda by the Polish 1st Armored Division

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Honouring those who died for the freedom of strangers.

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The Liberation of Maastricht

maastricht

Today marks the 74th anniversary of the liberation of Maastricht, the first city in the Netherlands to be liberated from the Germans.

Due to the fact that the small village of Wyck,nowadays a suburb of Maastricht) had been liberated on the 13th of September by 117 Old Hickory, the commander of the 353rd division,General Paul Mahlmann, of the Wehrmacht decided not to defend the the city and joined the the 176th division in Maasmechelen (Belgium) during the night of the 13-14th September.

In the early morning of the 14h of September the commander ,Colonel Johnson, of the 117th regiment of the Old Hickory division, accompanied by Major Giles,Private Killinworth and a radio operator, crossed the Maas (Meusse) in a small boat, watched by hundreds of Maastricht residents.

After the city was combed for potential German soldiers left behind it was declared liberated in the evening on Thursday the 14th of September 1944. It was announced on radio Oranje on the 15 of September by correspondent Robert Kiek.

Below are some pictures of the liberation and the aftermath.

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The Monuments

 

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The Liberation of Mesch-the Netherlands

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This day marks the 74th anniversary of the liberation of Mesch. The first village in the Netherlands to be liberated.

It was more than three months after the Normandy landings when the men of the Thirtieth Infantry Division, Old Hickory, commanded by Captain Kent, crossed the Dutch-Belgian border at ten o’clock in the morning on September twelfth, 1944.

Much of France and Belgium had already been liberated, and the Allies were trying to advance to the Westwall or Siegfried Line, the defence line that the Germans had built along their border.

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In Mesch, people could hear the loud rattling of the German troops clearly retreating with horse-drawn carriages filled to the brim with everything and anything of value that they could find.

School teacher Sjef Warnier, who lived in Mesch, told a reporter about his first encounter with the liberators.

“There was a machine gun firing on the school playground. Suddenly there was silence.” When he went to look, he saw a German soldier standing with his hands in the air. He was being held at gunpoint by an American. The only thing Sjef Warnier could say was “Welcome in Holland”.which made him the first Dutchman to be liberated.

 

Leon Pinckaers (89) still lives in his childhood home in Mesch, the southernmost town in the Netherlands. “The Americans came across that meadow on the afternoon of September 12, 1944,” he recalled, pointing out the window. “They were followed by a jeep and it drove straight across the river Voer.”On the picture below Leon is the boy next to the man with the high hat.

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The family hurried outside and shook hands with their liberators. Mother Pinckaers was perhaps the most relieved of all. She was a refugee from the Belgian town of Visé, which had been all but burnt to the ground in 1914 by the advancing Germans. In May 1940 she had seen how ten inhabitants of Mesch, including her own husband, were rounded up for execution by the Germans on suspicion of sabotage. The execution was cancelled at the last minute, and the village had been quiet since.

Before the family saw the first Americans there had been fighting on the Belgian-Dutch border a mile away from ten in the morning. “Later we could see the dead Germans lying in the beet field.”

Leon Pinckaers doesn’t recall any jubilant celebrations that day. The village was still very much on a war footing. The meadow where units of the 30th Infantry Division emerged on September 12 later served as an assembly point for American jeeps and trucks. Elsewhere broken German tanks littered the road. The erratic German V2 rockets were still coming overhead. Later an American plane crashed in the village.

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A white brick monument with brass plaque commemorates the liberation.

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