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.
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