Westerbork may not have been an extermination camp, but that didn’t mean it was less evil. In a way, it may have been eviler because it created an illusion that life wasn’t that bad and gave the people a false hope that their endurance of camp life would be temporary.
The 261 couples married at Camp Westerbork did so without knowing their fates.
Rosalie Norden married Max Wieselmann at the Westerbork camp on 22 October 1943. He later died at Buchenwald Camp in the first months of 1945, and she survived the war and moved to Australia in 1951. She died in 2002.
Saskia Aukema devoted a book to the marriages of Camp Westerbork, Tot de dood ons scheidt (Til Death Do We Part).
Aukema became interested in the camp marriages when she learned that a great-aunt had married at the camp—Annie Preger married Hans van Witsen on 28 January 1943 at the Westerbork Transit Camp. He was a nurse, and she was a student nurse. The marriage lasted 36 days. On 5 March 1943, in Sobibor they were murdered.
The camp management facilitated the marriages. A special barrack became the registry office where a wedding official would appear regularly to perform the ceremony. The administration kept careful records of the unions.
There was even room for intimacy. Max Vlessing bribed someone on his wedding night with a loaf of bread and butter for privacy. “After transport in the upper beds of the barracks was also an option,” his wife Mientje Vomberg added. Max and his wife survived the Holocaust.
That led to Westerbork babies being born. Robert Falk, for example, was born on 28 March 1943—nine months after his parents’ Westerbork wedding.
His father, Max Falk, was murdered in the Langenstein-Zwieberg Concentration Camp in Austria, a subcamp of Buchenwald, on 19 March 1945. Robert and his mother, Franscisca Falk-Grün’s date or place of death is unknown.
Approximately 60 of the 261 couples that Westerbork married survived.
The last few years have been a strange year for a great number of countries across the world, especially when it comes to education. There is no doubt that the Covid 19 pandemic will have consequences down the line for many students.
However most of them when they go back to school, they will still see their fellow school friend and students.
During the Holocaust a great number Jewish children were killed. In the Netherlands 75 % of all Jews were murdered. Yet the Nazis still created the illusion, that life was reasonably ‘normal’ for the Jews. Jewish children were still going to school, although their curriculum was greatly reduced. Even extra curricular activities were still encouraged.
This to me is one of the more sickening of the Nazi occupation, they gave people false hope. I have said this before that the Nazis had never been abled to succeed with their final solution plans without the help of other. The bureaucrats, the civil servants, the public transport staff and also other citizens who thought they could benefit from the removal of their Jewish neighbours, this wasn’t only the case in the Netherlands but all of occupied Europe. The one main difference with the Netherlands compared to many of the other countries, the Dutch had an extremely efficient public service, which was used to its full capacity by the Nazis.
I sometimes wonder how distressing it must have been for those poor children to see that every time they came back to school from a break, or after the weekend, some of their classmates were gone. What questions would have gone through their minds?
Any nation that kills their children, kills its own future. Most of the children in the pictures in this blog would have been murdered during the Holocaust. I don’t know their names, where they lived, what age they were. But that is not important, all I know that none of them deserved to be treated like subhuman, none of them deserved the be murdered, none of their futures should have been stolen from them. What they deserve now is to be remembered and for all is us to work hard to avoid something like the Holocaust happening again.
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.
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.
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.
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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