Before I start writing about Camp Vught in the Netherlands, there is something I have to get off my chest. Two days ago I was watching the Irish news, they were talking about the Stutthof camp, in connection with the recent detention of 96-year-old Irmgard Furchner, who worked as a secretary in the camp’s office.. The news reader said “Polish camp”. I immediately said “There will be complaints about this” and sure enough a day after Poland’s ambassador to Ireland protested against Irish national broadcaster, RTE.
In a letter to RTE CEO Jon Williams, Ambassador Anna Sochańska pointed out that wartime concentration camps in Poland were built and run by the Germans, who were occupying Poland at the time.
“This is completely wrong, because the death camps were Nazi-German camps in occupied Poland. Poland was under German occupation at the time when several Nazi-German concentration and death camps were operating on its territory,” Sochańska wrote.
Except for Ireland, UK, Spain, Portugal, Malta, Sweden and Switzerland all other European countries were occupied, or axis powers. In all occupied countries there were Nazis and Nazi collaborators, even in Poland. If the Polish government keeps denying that, they are betraying the memories of the brave Polish soldiers and resistance fighters who died fighting the Nazis and their helpers. They are distorting their own history and that helps no one, past and future generations will not thank them for it.
As you can see the title of this blog is “Camp Vught-Concentration camps in the Netherlands” and not occupied Netherlands.
The prisoners at Camp Vught included Jews, political prisoners, Sinti and Roma gypsies, and resistance fighters. They were subjected to slave labour and were forced to make products for the German war industry, such as torches and radios. Despite their difficult circumstances, the prisoners managed to resist even in the prison camp by sabotaging the goods they were forced to make.
The as camp located in Vught near the town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands. The camp was opened in 1943 and held 31,000 prisoners. 749 prisoners were murdered in the camp, and the others were transferred to other camps shortly before the camp was liberated by the Allied Forces in 1944. It is also known as ‘Herzogenbusch concentration camp’
After the war, the camp was used as a prison for Germans and for Dutch collaborators.
Camp Vught witnessed endless cruelty on order of the Nazi regime . One of the most infamous events was the bunker drama. On 15 January 1944, to punish prisoners for a women’s protest in the camp, the camp commander put 74 women in cell 115, a bunker measuring 9 square meters without ventilation. When the soldiers opened the bunker door the next morning, 10 of the women were dead.
Camp Vught was the only SS concentration camp outside Nazi Germany.
As I stated earlier every occupied country had indigenous people helping the Nazis, and to be honest I don’t know what I would do if I was put in that position. Many people helped the Nazis purely out of self preservation. The Dutch railways and the civil servants had a lot to answer for. Their actions enabled the murder of over 100,000 Jews and a great number of others. But the Dutch were not unique in this, the only difference is that the Dutch were more efficient because of a well oiled citizen registry.
It would have been physically impossible for the Germans to fight on 2 fronts, defend the Atlantic wall from Norway down to France. And control more than 44,000 incarceration sites, without getting help from the locals.
If we keep diluting history we will never learn from it.