Tag Archives: Fort Breendonk

Breendonk het kamp van de waanzin

Op 9 september 2004, juist 60 jaar na de bevrijding van het kamp van Breendonk werd in Histories (Canvas) de reportage Breendonk, het kamp van de waanzin, uitgezonden waarin het gaat over leven maar belangrijker en meer over “overleven”.

Het kamp werd voorgedaan als een vakantiekolonie, maar dat was het allerminst.

Met de hand moesten de gevangenen 300 000 kubieke meter grond afgraven, waarbij even een rustpauze nemen niet bij behoorde. Voor elke 30 gedetineerden was er één bewaker waardoor dit kamp het meest gecontroleerde bleek te zijn, waarbij moeilijk aan de ogen van de bewakers kon ontsnapt worden. Nergens waren de fysieke en psychologische terreur zo geïndividualiseerd.

°°°

Onmiddellijk na de bezetting van België werden er her en der groepjes gevormd die het gezag van de Duitsers wensten te ondermijnen maar ook ervoor wensten te zorgen dat de nodige mensen beschermd konden worden, waarbij vooral de aandacht uit ging naar hier in nood zijnde vechters tegen de Duitse bezetter. Men kan niet negeren dat er vanaf het begin heel wat individueel verzet was, bijvoorbeeld van ambtenaren in overheidsdienst die weigerden mee te werken of de samenwerking met de bezetter saboteerden.

De collaborerende partijen in de gemeentebesturen waren voor sommigen een doorn in het oog. Zo verzamelden de stichters van de door Marcel De Mol, de koster van Tisselt, opgerichtte Zwarte Hand reeds in de zomer van 1940 inlichtingen omtrent Duitsgezinden in hun gemeenten. Na contact te hebben gehad met verzetsleden uit Brussel, begonnen ook zij ook pamfletten te maken die waren gericht tegen het gemeentebestuur dat bestond uit leden van het Vlaamsch Nationaal Verbond. Hun pamfletten kregen ze via de Brusselse Maria Moens. Ook kwamen er bepaalde vormen van weerstand, elk met een specifiek karakter en doel, die reeds tijdens de Eerste Wereldoorlog hun nut bewezen hadden: inlichtingen garing, clandestiene of sluik pers, hulp aan ondergedoken geallieerde soldaten en piloten met ontsnappingslijnen…

Naargelang de krijgskansen slechter werden en de verzetslieden actiever werden verslechterde de toestand in Breendonk nog meer. Men kan niet spreken van een professioneel georganiseerd orgaan. In vele gemeenten waren het eerder individuele en erg amateuristische sabotage-acties, tot na de invoering van de verplichte tewerkstelling, welk hen meer deed samenspannen en beter deed organiseren ook omdat het risico van de acties groter werd.  Doordat het gewapend verzet voor de bezetter en de collaboratie echt hinderlijk begon te worden verhoogde de wrevel van de Duitsgezinden en de bezetter.
Ook al mochten collaborerenden van verscheiden geestelijken horen dat zulk een samengaan met de Duitsers verkeerd was, gaf de Katholieke Kerk toch nog onvoldoende duidelijkheid wat aanschouwd moest worden als Vaderlandse plicht of burgerschap. Wat mocht namelijk het als juist aanschouwde gedrag zijn, wanneer er Vlamingen waren die er rotsvast van overtuigd waren dat zij het beste voor hadden met hun “land” (Vlaanderen).
In een herderlijke brief van 7 oktober 1940 schreven de bisschoppen het volgende:
‘Zonder twijfel is het noodzakelijk de bezettende autoriteit als een feitelijke macht te erkennenen er aan te gehoorzamen binnen de limieten van de internationale conventies, maar het Belgisch vaderland blijft bestaan, en al haar kinderen moeten haar trouw zijn en bijstand verlenen. Zorg er voor dat uw gedrag dus in alle omstandigheden correct en waardig is, zodat u zich in geweten niet hoeft te berouwen of te schamen!’
De Kerk trachtte zich dus zo goed mogelijk aan de nieuwe situatie aan te passen en heeft zich niet gewaagd een duidelijk standpunt in te nemen tegen de mensonwaardige toestanden waarvan zij duidelijk van op de hoogte moeten geweest zijn. De bezetter werd zoveel mogelijk ontzien, maar het VNV kon van in het begin niet op enige toegeeflijkheid rekenen. Voor Rex lagen de zaken enigszins anders. Tenslotte werd Rex door de kerkleiders als een katholieke ‘dissidentie’ beschouwd, die zij vóór de oorlog het liefst naar de katholieke schaapsstal hadden teruggeleid.
Toen op op 6 oktober 1942 de tewerkstelling in Duitsland werd ingevoerd heeft het episcopaat onmiddellijk de intrekking of op zijn minst de versoepeling van deze verordening gevraagd en zelfs de tussenkomst van het Vaticaan proberen te bekomen. Het antwoord was dat de Heilige Stoel geen invloed had bij de regering van het Derde Rijk. Begin 1943 leidde dit tot een open conflict tussen het Belgisch episcopaat en het MilitairBestuur.
Erg genoeg toen Vlaamse SS-ers het in Breendonk overnamen van de Duitsers overtrof hun wreedheid deze van de Duitsers.

De ontsnappingslijnen werden geleidelijk aan ook meer gebruikt om naast geallieerde piloten ook gewone burgers naar Engeland over te brengen en voor hulpverlening aan joden en onderduikers.

Yvonne Nèvejean directrice NWK tijdens WOII

Hertz Jospa (Rezina Bessarabia) en Hava Groisman alias Yvonne Jospa, stichters van het Joods Defensiecomité – le Comité de Défense des Juifs (CDJ)

Van de 66.651 joodse inwoners in België werden er 32.652 gedeporteerd. 34.000 wisten op de een of andere manier aan de Duitse handen te ontsnappen, in veel gevallen door welgezinde medeburgers. Zo konden daarvan een 25.000 in België onderduiken. Yvonne Nèvejean, directrice van het Oeuvre de l’Enfance of het Nationaal werk voor Kinderwelzijn, werd  benaderd door het Comité de Défence des Juifs en Belgique, het Joods Defensiecomité (CDJ) de belangrijkste Joodse ondergrondse organisatie van België (opgericht in 1942 door Hertz Jospa zijn vrouw Hava Groisman alias Yvonne Jospa), en gevraagd om Joodse kinderen te redden die gescheiden waren van hun ouders.

Nèvejean en haar medewerkers slaagden er zo in om 4.000 kinderen te redden door hen onder te brengen bij katholieke gezinnen en instellingen. Andere organisaties zoals het Rode Kruis, de Kerk en Winterhulp speelden ook een rol in de hulpverlening aan ondergedoken joodse families.

Youra Livchitz (avant 1943).jpg

De in Kiev geboren Yura Livchitz, met zijn oorlogsnaam Georges, woonde in Brussel met zijn moeder Rachel Livchitz en oudere broer, waar zij het linkse intellectuele milieu frequenteren dat wordt bezocht door Hertz Jospa en zijn vrouw Yvonne. Samen met zijn jeugdvriend Robert Leclercq organiseeert hij het Cercle du Libre Examen (Librex).In de Librex-kring ontmoette hij enkele vrienden en met Richard Altenhoff en Jean Burgers, die in 1942 de Groep G oprichtten broeden zij plannen uit om België van haar bezetters te bevrijden. Om de kost te verdienen, is Youra een vertegenwoordiger voor het Belgische farmaceutische bedrijf Pharmacobel.

Het Joods Verdedigingscomité en het Mobiel Korps van het of saboteerden de deportaties. Zo konden Yura Livschitz, jongere broer van Alexandre Livchitz, en Robert Maistriau op 19 april 1943, gewapend met een pistool en een lamp te Boortmeerbeek-Wespelaar het XXe konvooi doen stoppen. Ongeveer één op zeven van de 1.631 personen van dit konvooi wisten te ontsnappen. Livschitz en zijn broer werden aangehouden, opgesloten te Breendonk en terechtgesteld op de Nationale Schietbaan te Brussel.

Sommige verzetsgroepen werden gesticht op basis van een duidelijke politieke ideologie, andere ageerden uit zuivere vaderlandsliefde. Het Molotov-Ribbentroppact of niet-aanvalsverdrag tussen de Sovjet-Unie en Nazi-Duitsland leidde tot een grote controverse binnen de gehele communistische wereldbeweging en daarmee ook de KPB. In de beginfase van de Tweede Wereldoorlog hield de KPB zich op grond van het beleid van Moskou gedeisd. Maar toen door de Nazi’s het niet-aanvalspact tussen de Sovjetunie en nazi-Duitsland werd verbroken trad de communistische partij, de enige die een sociale revolutie nastreefde, in haar geheel in het verzet. Samen met andere groepen en gelijksgezinden richtte ze het Onafhankelijkheidsfront op, een pluralistische beweging. De nazi’s in België hadden deze ommekeer voorbereid en brachten onmiddellijk de KPB een zware slag toe met Operation Sonnenwende (Operatie Sonnenwende).  Vooral de parketten en gerechtelijke politie van Antwerpen en Luik hadden de Duitsers informatie verstrekt, naast wat die laatsten zelf in beslag hadden genomen. Spilfiguur was de Haupt-V-Mann van de Sipo-SD in België en Noord-Frankrijk Emiel Van Thielen alias Max Günther.
Over het hele land drongen de Duitsers op 22 en 23 juni binnen bij mandatarissen, militanten en sympathisanten van de KPB, die overigens buiten de wet werd gesteld. De arrestanten werden afgevoerd naar het Fort van Hoei en de Auffanglager Breendonk (of het Opvangkamp Breendonk). In aanwezigheid van Günther werden de communistische leiders gefolterd in de gruwelbunker van Breendonk.

Auffanglager Breendonk in Fort Breendonk – gang naar de martelkamer of hel

Martelkamer in Auffanglager Breendonk (Opvangkamp Breendonk)

Vele arrestanten zaten op het treinkonvooi dat op 22 september 256 politieke gevangenen naar Neuengamme deporteerde (107 uit Breendonk en 149 uit Hoei). Ook het naast het of opgerichte partizanenleger was een communistisch initiatief.

Het Belgisch Legioen (later het Geheim Leger) was een initiatief van koningsgezinde Belgische officieren die de orde wilden herstellen in een staat geleid door een sterke vorst, Leopold III. Toen dit niet mogelijk bleek, streed deze groep als een gehergroepeerd Belgisch leger tegen de bezetter.

De Nationale Koninklijke Beweging was gewonnen voor het toekennen van dictatoriale machten aan de koning. Ook de Belgische Nationale Beweging had ultraconservatieve bedoelingen. Neutrale vaderlandslievende groepen als de Witte Brigade en de Groep G wilden niet de Belgische staatsstructuur veranderen, maar wél het land bevrijden

In onderstaande video kan u een reconstructie vinden hoe het er aan toe ging in het “Kamp van de Waanzin” in het Fort van Breendonk

Waarschuwing bij deze video!

Een interessante en kritische beschouwing over deze uitzending is terug te vinden op https://wo2forum.nl/viewtopic.php?f=3…  waar o.a. wordt bekriticeerd:
… de kennis van zowel de tv-makers als van de gevangenen over de interne structuur was zeer matig tot slecht. Men bleef spreken over ,,SS’ers” terwijl de officieren duidelijk Sicherheitsdienst waren, met ondersteuning van regulier Wehrmacht-wachtpersoneel. Dat de WH hier bewaking uitoefende is wel opmerkelijk. Zoals je al opmerkte werd op dit punt amper aandacht gericht. Eén zin van een gevangene en dat was het. Ik ga hierover door in de voorlaatste alinea, maar in ,,de processen van Mechelen”, zoals vermeld in de uitzending, werd slechts één persoon ter dood veroordeeld (en gebracht) die met de SS te maken had, en dat was dan nog iemand van de Germaanse-SS. {Thomas op WO2 forum}
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De commentaar gemaakt bij de opnames van het proces waren typisch voor de geest van die tijd. De huidige commentaar (“het belgisch gerecht doet zijn werk”) was een flater van jewelste: zelfs het kleinste kind weet de repressie- en epicuratiemachine de meest onbetrouwbare rechtspraak opleverde uit de hele belgische geschiedenis. Typisch is het geval van Ernest Claes. Lange tijd zonder reden of grond opgepakt en in de cel geworpen. Toen hij voor de rechter werd voorgeleid deed deze laatste zijn ,,strafdossier” open en er zat alleen een blanco pagina in. {Thomas op WO2 forum}

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Interned and tortured at Breendonk before deportation to Auschwitz and later Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen.

Catherine Annabel, who established in 2012 “Inspiration for Life” loves to write about the things that interest, challenge and move her. She is retired after many years working in higher education administration, most recently for the University of Sheffield.

She gave a talk at the 2019 Conference, Violent Spaces, of the Landscape, Space & Place group from the University of Nottingham, where she mentioned Winfried Georg Sebald who was born in Bavaria in 1944, in the last months of the war.

Born in Wertach, Bavaria Winfried Georg was one of three children of Rosa and Georg Sebald. From 1948 to 1963, he lived in Sonthofen, having his grandfather as the most important male presence in his early years, because his own father being in prison as a prisoner of war until 1947. His father had served in the Wehrmacht, but after he returned home, having spent a couple of years as a prisoner of war, the things that he had seen, and done, were never spoken of.

While at school in Oberstdorf the boy got to see images of the Holocaust. –  probably the liberation of Belsen – it looked unbelievable. No wonder that no one knew how to explain what they had just seen, because those who had to speak about it, where at the time of the events ‘part of the system’.

writes:

It was, in a way, what we’d now call a box-ticking exercise. Because, of course, the teachers were part of the context. Sebald, like many of his contemporaries, was unable to accept this collusive silence, and his increasing alienation from his homeland led to him working first in Switzerland and then moving to the UK, where he spent the rest of his life, teaching at UEA until his death in a car accident in 2001. {Marks of Pain: Architecture as Witness to Trauma in W G Sebald’s Austerlitz}

Sebald’s work imaginatively explored themes of memory as they related to the Holocaust. His novels include Schwindel, Gefühle (1990; Vertigo), Die Ausgewanderten (1992; The Emigrants), Die Ringe des Saturn (1995; The Rings of Saturn), Logis in einem Landhaus: über Gottfried Keller, Johann Peter Hebel, Robert Walser und andere (1998; A Place in the Country: On Gottfried Keller, Johann Peter Hebel, Robert Walser, and Others), and Austerlitz (2001).

Catherine Annabel writes,

The Holocaust, indeed, became a presence in his poetry and his prose writing. It seems never to be very far away, invoked maybe by the name of a place, innocent in itself, but carrying the weight of history. In many of his works, it is addressed obliquely, but the figure of the refugee appears in several of his books.

Max Ferber, one of the four protagonists of The Emigrants, left his home in Munich (capital of Bavaria) in 1939, following Kristallnacht, his father having obtained a visa for him by bribing the English consul. We are introduced to Ferber via the narrator, who does not ask about his history, why or how he left Germany, until their second meeting, at which point Ferber tells how letters from his parents ceased, and he subsequently discovers that they were deported from Munich to Riga, where they were murdered. In Sebald’s final work, Austerlitz, the Holocaust becomes text, not subtext, foreground rather than context.

Sebald’s (fictional) protagonist, Jacques Austerlitz, is an architectural historian, with a particular interest in what he calls ‘our mightiest projects’ – fortifications, railway architecture, what they used to call lunatic asylums, prisons and law courts. {Marks of Pain: Architecture as Witness to Trauma in W G Sebald’s Austerlitz}

We meet the narrator first in a carceral space – Antwerp’s zoo. After his first conversation with Austerlitz, he is moved to visit Breendonk, one of the fortresses that Austerlitz had mentioned.

But it is not the history of how such places were designed, the flawed theories of defence against enemy incursion, that confront him there, but the much more recent past, Breendonk’s conversion into a concentration camp in the Nazi era – a transit camp for deportation to Auschwitz, and a place of torture.

    • Originally built for the Belgian army 1906-13 to protect Antwerp – ‘it proved completely useless for the defence of the city and the country’
    • Covered by a five-metre thick layer of soil for defense against bombings, a water-filled moat and measured 656 by 984 feet (200 by 300 m)
    • Requisitioned by the Germans as a prison camp for political dissidents, captured resistance members and Jews
    • Infamous for prisoners’ poor living conditions and for the use of torture. Most prisoners later transferred to larger concentration camps in Eastern Europe
    • 3,590 prisoners known to have been imprisoned at Breendonk, 303 died or were executed within the fort itself and as many as 1,741 died subsequently in other camps before the end of the war. {Marks of Pain: Architecture as Witness to Trauma in W G Sebald’s Austerlitz}

Sebald brings in a human witness here, the Austria-born essayist Jean Amery, born Hanns Chaim Mayer, who by his participation in organized resistance against the Nazi occupation of Belgium got detained and tortured by the German Gestapo at the Auffanglager Breendonk in Fort Breendonk, afterwards to be brought to other concentration camps, Auschwitz and later Buchenwald and finally being liberated at Bergen-Belsen in 1945. After the war the former Hanns Mayer changed his name to Jean Améry (the surname being a French-sounding anagram of his family name) in order to symbolize his dissociation from German culture and his alliance with French culture. He settled in Belgium, where he  lived in Brussels, working as a culture journalist for German language newspapers in Switzerland. He did not write at all of his experiences in the death camps until 1964, when, at the urging of German poet Helmut Heißenbüttel, he wrote his book Jenseits von Schuld und Sühne (“Beyond Guilt and Atonement”). It was later translated into English by Sidney and Stella P. Rosenfeld as At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and its Realities.

Haunted by nightmares of the horror he had witnessed he committed suicide in 1978.

Our narrator finds Breendonk to be a place of horror. The darkness inside is literal, but also metaphysical, and it becomes heavier as he penetrates further into the building. He begins to experience visual disturbances – black striations quivering before his eyes – and nausea, but explains that

‘it was not that I guessed at the kind of third-degree interrogations which were being conducted here around the time I was born’,

since he had not at that point read Amery’s account. Sebald is telling us that the narrator’s reaction to Breendonk is not, therefore, personal, not related in any way to his own experiences or even to things he had read, but intrinsic to the place, as if its use, or abuse, has changed its very nature, violence become part of its fabric.

Breendonk is the first of the trio of Holocaust sites around which the text is structured.

It’s built to a star shape, a six-pointed star. This was a favoured design both for fortresses, designed to keep invaders out, and for prisons, designed to keep wrongdoers in. {Marks of Pain: Architecture as Witness to Trauma in W G Sebald’s Austerlitz}

According to Austerlitz this is a fundamentally wrong-headed design for a fortress, the idea that ‘you could make a city as secure as anything in the world can ever be.’ The largest fortifications will attract the enemy’s greatest numbers, and draw attention to their weakest points – not only that, but battles are not decided by armies impregnably entrenched in their fortresses, but by forces on the move. Despite plenty of evidence (such as the disastrous Siege of Antwerp in 1832), the responses tended to be to build the same structures but stronger and bigger, and with inevitably similar results. {Marks of Pain: Architecture as Witness to Trauma in W G Sebald’s Austerlitz}

As the design for a prison, the star shape makes more sense. It does not conform to the original layout of the panopticon, but it does allow for one central point of oversight and monitoring, with radial arms that separate the inmates into manageable groups. The widespread use of existing fortresses as places of imprisonment for enemies of the Reich was primarily opportunistic, of course, but the ease of this transformation illustrates Austerlitz’s arguments quite well. {Marks of Pain: Architecture as Witness to Trauma in W G Sebald’s Austerlitz}

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the Soup will not be eaten as hot as it is served

“Are they really bringing people to workplaces to give them a better life?”

It was known or said that even if Jews were converted to the Christian faith, they remained “different” because of their bloodline. It was also known that many were jealous for the lifestyle and family feeling which could  be found in the Klal Yisrael or Jewish communities. Many goyim found the Jews separated themselves from the society, but they did not often see it were goyim who themselves gave enough reason not to mix too much with them.

Samuel Morgenstern was one of those shopkeepers who was one of the most loyal buyers of Hitler’s paintings in Vienna, by which Hitler could receive enough money not to be a tramp. Naturally there were also rumours Hitler could not stand Jews because he got a disease from regularly going to some ‘Jewish harlots’.

Portrait of Karl Lueger (ca. 1900), mayor of Vienna. He used anti-Semitism as a political strategy. Collection: Austrian National Library / painter: Alois Delug. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Rights: Public Domain

Hitler, Adolf: Mein Kampf

Mein Kampf, (German: “My Struggle”) political manifesto written by Adolf Hitler. It was his only complete book and became the bible of National Socialism (Nazism) in Germany’s Third Reich. It was published in two volumes in 1925 and 1927, and an abridged edition appeared in 1930. By 1939 it had sold 5,200,000 copies and had been translated into 11 languages.

It perhaps were not just rumours that the politician, co-founder and leader of the Austrian Christian Social Party, and mayor of Vienna Karl Lueger (1844-1910), used anti-Semitism as a political strategy, and that he was also praised as “the greatest German mayor of all time” by Adolf Hitler (In Mein Kampf) who did not mind following his ideas.

The prejudices about the role of the Jews in the Great War were incorrect, but as with many rumours, it spread like a virus. Many Germans did not want to believe how more than one hundred thousand German and Austrian Jews had fought for their homeland, one of them being Otto Frank, the German-born merchant best known as the father of Anne Frank, who witnessed the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

In the 1920ies our family members could already hear how our brethren were compared with germs. It was as if our people had been infecting generations for ages. That Hitler never thought his people were not strong enough to live according to the wishes of their god or according to the mitzvot of the Only One True God, the Elohim Hashem Jehovah. Lots of our friends could not believe that those who said they were “Christian” and as such would, or should, be following the Nazarene Jewish rabbi who preached brotherly love, could do such atrocious things, as others told about them. Perhaps it was to set up Jehudiem against Christians, so that the goyim had all the reason to tell

religion is the cause of war.

The words spread that Hitler said that you cannot fight a disease without destroying the person who caused it, and as such according to him, the influence of the Jews would never disappear without removing the perpetrator, the Jude, from the midst of the Arian race.

Radical ideas paved the way for the mass murder of the Jews in the 1940s, but not many of the Bnei Yisroel or Chosen People of God wanted to believe the rumours at first.

In many families, like ours, it was the saying

“the Soup will not be eaten as hot as it is served”.

They heard about plans which would be taken, but they seemed so unbelievable that they could not be true or would have been exaggerated, as by a circling fire. Others were not so much at ease, and warned

“to be aware of a silent dog and still water”.

Should we look askance at him? Now we can easily say they had much better looked at him out of the tail of their eyes. By not believing the many rumours, lots were woken up with a start, when it was too late.

For a long time, many wondered if it was within the odds, whilst others said

“He is not likely to go.”

Others wanted to be a friend to all, forgetting that then they would be a friend to none. Many debates about what went on in Germany and Austria could bring lots of talks after the children were sent to bed. For sure that what was to be spoken about was not for children’s ears.

It was, and is still, known that there was and is, an existing prejudice that Jews associate with financial power and monetary gain. Many are also convinced Jews are “foefelaars“, who make their pile on the poor white people. Lots of Jews may be looked at as a ramay / nokhel, a fiddler or cheater whilst there was no oysnarn at all.

White movement propaganda poster from the Russian Civil War era (1919), a caricature of Leon Trotsky, who was viewed as a symbol of Jewish Bolshevism.

In many countries people also looked at the Jehudi as the originators or conspirators and spreaders of communism. The vast majority of the communist leaders at that time were Jewish. However, it is only a small part of the Jews that were communists, and what a lot of people did not see is that several Jews were promoting or aiming for social equality, this being considered by many liberals and capitalists a danger for the economy and consumption gain. During the war with the Soviet Union, from 1941 on, it will be the idea of the ‘Jewish communism’ (sometimes also called Marxian-communism or meant to be Jewish Bolshevism, also Judeo–Bolshevism) with terrible consequences. The population and the prisoners of war being brutally treated by the Germans.

When Hitler got into power rumours got stronger, but still many did not want to believe what went around. Others were smart enough to be at the safe site by sending their beloved far away from Germany and Austria. Some thought they would be safe in Holland, but how they were mistaken. Having gone to Holland luckily several managed to cross the channel and find a safe haven in the United Kingdom, but the others got taken and deported.

At the Schalkland, in the “Klein-Brabant” region, less than 25 kilometres from the centre of Brussels and 19 kilometres from Antwerp, to the south of the Dendermonde highway (Mechelen – Dendermonde) was build the “Willebroeck Fort” as a fortified defence to protect the port and city of Antwerp, which by Royal Order dated 12 January 1907 rechristened the fort “Breendonck Fort”. On september 20th 1940 Sturmbannführer Philip Schmitt brought his first victims to Breendonk. The Fort officially became the Auffanglager Breendonk, a transit camp; a major centre for the Sicherheitspolizei-Sicherheitsdienst (SIPO/SD), the german political police.

Words spread that in Breendonk the kaze-the mats were to be removed from the earth in which they were covered. Three or four men had to push a railway carriage that was loaded with the earth. It was not the best marterial the prisoners had to use. Of these vehicles, the wheels were worn out, having to be pushed on worn-out rails, so that a person would have more than it is possible. Was it a rumour or was it true that the SS guards, with their weapons beated on the upper arms, the backs of the heads of the unfortunate ones until the latter were exhausted, but also fell dead?

Former working site at the camp of Breendonk. The regime set up here by the Nazis hardly differed from that of an official concentration camp. The undernourishment and the forced labour wore down the body and mind. The ever-present physical cruelty sometimes caused the death of prisoners. Initially, the camp was only guarded by a few German SS and a detachment of the Wehrmacht. In September 1941, the Wachtgruppe of the SD arrived as back up. This time, these were no longer German SS but mainly Flemings.

Some of the prisoners were to be buried up to the neck, after they were first on a ferocious manner, beaten. The S, S. jailers were there, then settled for the pitiful earth at the face of them. The game lasted sometimes for 1 or 2 hours, and when the victims were about to die, they did not stop to punch and to death. During the singing of the song of Breendonk, the text of which these words were placed on the grave:

” Wir werden nie mehr Breendonk vergessen, das Paradies-tier Juden…’.”

Sturmbannführer (majoor) Schmitt had created and placed a pulley on the ceiling in a folterbunker (torture bunker or blockhouse) of the camp, to make, that the victim’s hands at the back tied up would be drawn to the ceiling.

After that, it was a pizzle of the shot, he was then beaten with a bullepees (bullenpees: baton between a whip and a stick made from dried penis of a bull). When the hoist was released, the unfortunate person fell on two angular boards. Kachelpoken or stove pokers were glowed for immediate use,… because the Jews were not worth the bullet. They had to be sent to death during work and by torture.

When the words rang true for most of the Jews still living in the region, it was too late to find a safe place for their children and for themselves.

After the camps in Belgium or Holland as “Musselmen” (completely emaciated) thousands were deported to Germany to find an end to their unbearable suffering, either of starvation, giving up, or in the gas chambers.

The remaining Jews in Belgium were unable to follow the course of events that their fellow believers underwent elsewhere. Their own concerns were too overwhelming for this and contact with neighbouring countries was too incomplete. The seeping job tidings were considered exaggerated …

Commissioned by the notorious member of Heinrich Himmler’s SS, the Nazi paramilitary corps, Adolf Eichmann, the Sicherheits polizei in Berlin, wrote the following urgent letter, in which the word “Secret” is not missing (22 June 1942):

“From mid-July and early August this year, special trains of 1,000 people each day are planned, first of all about 40,000 Jews from the occupied French territory,
Send 40,000 Jews from the Netherlands and 10,000 Jews from Belgium to employment in the Auschwitz camp.
“The circle of persons to be included extends primarily to Jews who are skilled in work, insofar as they do not live in mixed marriages and do not have the nationality of the British Empire, of the U.S.A., of Mexico, from the enemy states, from Central and South America, as well as from the neutral and related states.

“I may request willing access and assume that there are no objections to these measures on the part of the foreign office either.
Commissioned get. Eichman “

On 12 July 1942 the last restriction on freedom before the local raids started was put visible on billboards. From the onward Jews were no longer allowed to visit cinemas, theatres, sports grounds or public institutions. In the trams they were only allowed to stand on the front platform of the trailer.

Such regulations still did not unbalance many of the Jewish diluted community. According to many the German measures only wanted to deprive the Jews of public pleasures … (Few will then have immediately known that the first nocturnal masses in Paris on Friday July 17, 1942 raffle had taken place.)

Wimpel Organisation Todt.svg

Pennant for Organisation Todt

Bundesarchiv Bild 146-2007-0074, IG-Farbenwerke Auschwitz.jpg

Woman with Ostarbeiter OT badge at Auschwitz

The second Jewish labour team was also confidently leaving the civil and military engineering organisation “Organization Todt” to Charleville-Mèzières (18 July), until on July 22 the second deception beared its bitter fruit.(It was the day that the memorial of the destruction of the Temple took place in Jerusalem in the evening – Tischa be’af – -). Jews were arrested without any excuse! When that day the trains from Brussels and Antwerp stopped at Mechelen as usual, Feldgendarmen were on the platform. All the Jews, both men and women, were taken out. The same happened at the Antwerp and Brussels North terminus stations. (The Brussels-North-South connection did not yet exist.) Their freedom had ended. Some went to Breendonk. Most were sent to the 18th century Dossin barracks, where between 1942 and 1944, 25,484 Jews, 352 Roma and Sinti were deported. Just over 5% returned from Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Kazerne Dossin, Goswin de Stassartstraat 153, B. 2800 Mechelen, where in the old barracks, visitors will find a memorial, which commemorates countless people who stayed there in despair and fear and who died later in unspeakable circumstances.

From the onward the Jews throughout Belgium were being seized by panic. Being an ode alone was therefore sufficient here to be arrested … The Jewish Council was powerless … followed by a reaction of partial sobering among the Jewish population. They forged new flight plans that were kept secret even from close acquaintances.
The panic mood was tempered after a few days. When  people received mail from the internees in Mechelen it all looked not as bad as the rumours went around.

They are not nearly as bad there … Fruits are missing … They may receive packages …

Faces from those who lost their life after being brought to the Dosin Kazerne in Mechelen

These days we remember all those who lost their life in a struggle to survive in a hatefull world.

Let us not forget how politicians can use disinformation and propaganda to mislead many and to create unwanted scapegoats.
We also may not let ourselves be fooled this time that it would not be as bad today with what was happening in the 1930ies. There are people who say

That can never repeat again

but after the Great War all people agreed also that such a horror should never take place again. Only a few years later the world found itself again in such time or terror.

This time let us be more careful, notice the signs of people bringing others on the wrong path, and react wisely to those who want us to believe we are ridiculous seeing ghosts or bad things in what are just jokes or carnavalesc activities.

 

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Preceding

Remembrance and freedom in the Netherlands – Dodenherdenking and Bevrijdingsdag

Niet te negeren gebeurtenissen rond Joden in België

The danger of having less than 25 000 Jews in Belgium

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Additional reading

  1. The Great War changed everything
  2. Reformed Churches Muzzled but Protest at Barmen
  3. 2019 was #4 a Year of much deceit in Belgium and the rest of Europe
  4. Signs of the times – “An object of scorn and ridicule”

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