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Herzogenbusch Concentration Camp
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Herzogenbusch concentration camp (Dutch: Kamp Vught, German: Konzentrationslager Herzogenbusch) was a Nazi concentration camp located in Vught near the city of 's-Hertogenbosch, in the Netherlands. Herzogenbusch was the only concentration camp run directly by the SS in western Europe outside of Germany. ]
The camp was first used in 1943 and held 31,000 prisoners. 749 prisoners died in the camp, and the others were transferred to other camps shortly before the camp was liberated by the Allied Forces in 1944. After the war the camp was used as a prison for Germans. Today there is a visitors' center with exhibitions and a national monument remembering the camp and its victims.
A view along the fences of the camp, 1945
During World War II, Nazi Germany occupied the Netherlands (1940–1945). The Nazis transported Jewish and other prisoners from the Netherlands via the transit camps Amersfoortand Westerbork to concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.When Amersfoort and Westerbork appeared to be too small to handle the large amount of prisoners, the Schutzstaffel (SS) decided to build a concentration camp in Vught near the city of 's-Hertogenbosch.
The building of the camp at Herzogenbusch, the German name for 's-Hertogenbosch, started in 1942. The camp was modelled on concentration camps in Germany. The first prisoners, who arrived in 1943, had to finish the construction of the camp; it was used from January 1943 until September 1944. During this period, it held nearly 31,000 prisoners: Jews, political prisoners, resistance fighters, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, homeless people, black market traders, criminals, and hostages.
Due to hunger, sickness, and abuse, at least 749 men, women and children died there. Of these, 329 were murdered at an execution site just outside the camp. When allied forces were approaching Herzogenbusch, the camp was evacuated and the prisoners were transferred to concentration camps further east. When the camp was liberated in September 1944, by the 4th Canadian Armored Division and the 96th Battery of the 5th Anti-Tank Division, the camp was almost deserted.
In the first years after the war, the camp was used for the detention of Germans, Dutch SS men, alleged collaborators and their children, and war criminals. At first, they were guarded by allied soldiers, but shortly after by the Dutch.
Commanders Karl Chmielewski
The first commander of Herzogenbusch was 39-year-old Karl Chmielewski. During the first few months, the camp was poorly run: prisoners didn't receive meals, the sick were barely treated, and the quality of drinking water was very low. Subsequently, many died during Chmielewski’s reign.He was sacked in 1943 for stealing from the camp on a large scale. In 1961 he was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the concentration camps.Adam Grünewald
The second commander was 40-year-old Adam Grünewald. Immediately after assuming command over the camp, he set very strict rules. In January 1944 he ordered that a group of female prisoners was to be put into one cell. This resulted in what has become known as theBunker Tragedy: twelve of the women packed into the cell died during the night. His superiors, unhappy that this tragedy was leaked to the press, brought him before an SS judge and he was sent to the Russian front as a common soldier. He was killed in battle in 1945.Hans Hüttig
The last commander of Herzogenbusch was 50-year-old Hans Hüttig. He fought during the First World War and was already a member of the Nazi party in 1933. The SS leadership was satisfied with his performance. Under his leadership, at least 329 men were executed.
Concentration camp Vught officially was referred to as Konzentrationslager-KL Herzogenbosch - concentration camp 's-Hertogenbosch.
The first camp commandant was SS-Untersturmführer SS Subaltern Karl Chmielewski. This SS Officer had already earned his badge of cruelty and disgrace at Gusen concentration camp. He was well known for the barbaric atrocities he had committed while serving at Gusen, a notorious Nazi camp annex of Mauthausen. Mauthausen ranked among the most brutal of the Nazi camps. In October 1943, accused of grand theft, he was replaced by a new commandant,
SS-Hauptsturmführer - SS Captain Adam Grünewald. Grünewald was responsible for the infamous bunker drama. Because of this, he was replaced in February of 1944 by yet another SS officer,
SS-Untersturmführer - SS Subaltern Hans Hüttig. Hüttig was responsible for at least 329 murders, victims who were executed at Vught between July and September of 1944. This happened just prior to the liberation of the camp by Allied forces.
Arrival of Jews at the station of Vught
Another arrival of Jewish prisoners in Vught
Originally, Vught was divided into two sections. The first section, JDL - Judendurchgangslager - transit camp for Jews, was designed to house Jewish inmates before they were deported to Poland. These transfers were carried out in two stages. First they were moved from Vught to Westerbork. Next, they were sent from Westerbork to either the extermination camp of Auschwitz/Birkenau or Sobibor. Approximately twelve thousand Jews including two thousand children under the age of sixteen left Vught via Westerbork to extermination centers in Poland or, as in the case of two transports, these went directly to Poland . The transfer of Jewish prisoners to Westerbork hardly ever created panic. Although, because of separation from father or mother, or both, children often felt deserted and bewildered. Treatment in Vught had been barbaric. Many who were transferred thought that they would permanently stay in Westerbork. That in itself was a consolation of sorts. They did not realize that Westerbork was but a holding place and subsequent portal for deportation and ultimate extermination in either Birkenau or Sobibor.
Arrival of the first prisoners in 1943
The second section of Vught served as Schutzhaftlager - security camp. This section received Dutch as well as Belgian political prisoners, both men and women. Unlike Westerbork and Ommen, the guards were exclusively drawn from the SS. Food was nearly non-existent. It basically consisted of warm water with some carrots or sauerkraut floating on the surface. The SS guards tortured the prisoners with incredible cruelty often beating them to death. Several prisoners were brutalized with a club wrapped with barbed wire. SS men often provoked their dogs to attack the prisoners. Several former inmates gave testimony how attacks by dogs had left them with horribly inflicted wounds, including wounds to the genitals. Hundreds of Dutch and Belgian prisoners were executed by firing squad in a place called De IJzeren Man - The Iron Man. This place was located approximately half a mile outside camp perimeter.
Prisoners worked six and
one half days per week , under extremely difficulttorturous circumstances
Extensions to camp Vught were carried out. Two sections were added in May and in August 1943 respectively. In May Frauenkonzentrationslager, FKL - a women's concentration camp and in AugustPolizeiliches Durchgangslager, PDL - a police ordered transit camp was added. The latter was reserved for hostages. A number of inmates of the PDL were shot by firing squad in retaliation for acts of sabotage committed by underground fighters, a.k.a. partisans.
Vught had its own gallows and crematorium. 747 prisoners, mostly Jews, perished in Vught between 1943 and 1944. In September 1943, these gallows were used for the executions of twenty Belgian prisoners. Several prisoner convoys left Vught directly for major camps located in Germany and Poland. However, most Jewish prisoners were deported to the extermination centers via Westerbork. The most notorious of all transports was the children transport which left Vught on the 5th of June 1943. Its ultimate destination was the extermination center at Sobibor. This transport was made up of 1266 children, all under the age of sixteen. The number of executions increased dramatically as the war came to a close.
On the 4th and 5th of September alone 117 prisoners were shot to death at the shooting range outside the camp. Tension and uncertainty descended upon the camp. Prisoners asked themselves what would happen with them. Speculation was widespread. Especially when news did the rounds that a freight train had been observed in the vicinity of the camp. Was the train for them? Would they be deported just before liberation?
In early September 1944 it had the appearance that the war would soon be over. On 4 September the
BBC broadcast the news that the Americans had entered South-Limburg. All expectations were that the German war-machine would soon collapse..Later that evening the news even came that allied forces had reached the outskirts of the city of Breda. This resulted in the chaotic retreat of German nationalists and collaborating Dutch citizens fleeing the south for the north-east of the Netherlands and some attempted to get into Germany. This phenomenon became known as Dolle Dinsdag - Chaotic Tuesday. The British Field Marshall Montgomery opened an enormous offensive on Sunday, the 10th of September. Its purpose was to make a quick end to the war with Germany and defeating Hitler's Nazi regime. Montgomery's intentions were to make a corridor from Belgium through to Arnhem. In doing so he hoped to capture the bridges over the rivers Rhine, Maas and Waal, in order to secure a passage way through to Germany. This operation was code-named Market Garden. Pressured by the Allied offences, the SS leadership,who had committed crimes against humanity in campVught, did not want to wait for the approaching Allied troops. In haste the camp was vacated.
Several prisoners were released immediately, others were first sent to Amersfoort where these too were released upon arrival. Following the last transport of Jews to Germany on the second of June, the last remaining 2221 male political prisoners were hastily put on a freight train on the 5th of September and transferred to the notorious Sachsenhausen prison camp. The next day, the 6th of September, the last 600 female political prisoners and the remaining 600 male prisoners were also deported to Germany. The women went to Ravensbrück while the men went to Sachsenhausen.
Commanders~Karl Chmielewski~ Teufel von Gusen
Chmielewski joined the SS whilst unemployed in 1932 and joined the Nazi Party the following year. After initially serving in the office ofHeinrich Himmler he was transferred to the Columbia concentration camp in 1935 before moving to Sachsenhausen concentration camp the following year. He was promoted to Untersturmführer in 1938 and attached to the Schutzhaftlagerführung (the 'Protective custody' units of the SS-Totenkopfverbände).
From 1940 to 1942 Chmielewski, by then a Hauptsturmführer, served as Schutzhaftlagerführe at Gusen concentration camp and it was here that he developed a reputation for extreme brutality. He then became commandant of the newly established Herzogenbusch concentration camp, where he further became a by-word for cruelty.
Amongst the claims made against him was that during inspections he ordered the drowning of prisoners in buckets of water. Fellow camp commandant Franz Ziereis claimed after the war that Chmielewski had used the skin of prisoners to make wallets, book binding etc., something Ziereis claimed was strictly forbidden by the Nazi authorities. Chmielewski's reign at Herzogenbusch also garnered a reputation for corruption and he was eventually tried for personally enriching himself through stealing diamonds from prisoners. He was deprived of his position and rank, being succeeded as commandant by Adam Grünewald, and ended the war as an inmate at Dachau concentration camp.
Having disappeared in Austria, Chmielewski was not tried until 1961, although he would receive a life sentence of hard labour when he was. The trial pronounced him a sadist who took pleasure in killing prisoners, whom he did not see as human, by scalding them with boiling water. He was ultimately found guilty of causing the deaths of prisoners through his brutality
- 16 July 1903~1 December 1991
The son of a carpenter who died when he was 8, Grünewald apprenticed as a baker but found work difficult to come by when the First World War ended and the demobilised soldiers entered the labour market Attracted to the nationalist propaganda prevalent at the time Grünewald joined the Freikorps before signing on with the army for a 12 year stint. Leaving the army as a staff sergeant in April 1931 Grünewald again struggled to find employment and so joined the Sturmabteilung. He rose to the rank of Obersturmbannführer in the SA before switching to the SS shortly after the Night of the Long Knives.
In 1943 he succeeded Karl Chmielewski as commandant of Herzogenbusch concentration camp however like his predecessor he too was tried and found guilty of causing the deaths of prisoners by excess cruelty, in his case for the Bunker Tragedy. He was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment but was then pardoned. He finished the war with the 3rd SS Division Totenkopf and died in battle.
- 20 October 1902~ 22 January 1945
The son of a carpenter, Hüttig's father would eventually open a shop selling photographic equipment and this became the family trade, with Hans Hüttig's brother a founder of Zeiss Ikon. Sent to a boarding school in south Germany he attempted to enter the army in 1911 but failed the exam and returned home to workm as a salesman in his father's shop. Early in 1914 he left the shop to take a post with an import-export company in German East Africa.
Following the outbreak of the First World War Hüttig enlisted in the German Imperial Army, seeing action in the East African Campaign and eventually rising to the rank of master sergeant.[ Wounded in December 1917 the military hospital was captured soon afterwards by the British Army and he was sent to a POW camp in Cairo where he was held for two years.
He returned to Germany in March 1920, working initially at the shop again before filling on a number of clerical jobs. He joined the right-wingStahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten in 1925 although he claimed that this was largely to feel a sense of belonging rather than because of any deep political convictions. After a spell running his own photography shop (which closed in 1930) Hüttig enlisted in the SS in March 1932 as an unpaid volunteer and he joined the Nazi Party soon afterwards.
Following the Nazi seizure of power in 1933 Hüttig was offered an accepted a full-time billet with the SS as part of the SS-Totenkopfverbände. For the next six years he spent his time touring the concentration camps and being trained for a career in them. His first assignment came when he was appointed deputy to Karl Otto Koch, commandant of Buchenwald concentration camp and a man already known to Hüttig from Dresden. At Buchenwald Hüttig was praised by his superiors for his attitude whilst inmates would later testify to his personal cruelty.
After his spell at Buchenwald Hüttig saw service at Sachsenhausen concentration camp and Flossenbürg concentration camp and in both garnered a reputation as a troubleshooter who was suitable for special tasks. Thus he was called upon to oversee the construction of a new facility at Natzweiler-Struthof in Alsace. Following this he spent time in Norway, overseeing the construction of both concentration camps and prisons. Whilst here he commanded the security at Grini concentration camp and served as SS and Police Leader for the country. This assignment then ended abruptly when he was sent to Herzogenbusch concentration camp as commandant following the removal ofAdam Grünewald for his part in the Bunker Tragedy. The incident had caused uproar in the local area and as such Hüttig oversaw the closure of Herzogenbusch before returning to Germany to serve out the war working in a police station.
Hüttig was one of only a handful of camp commanders interviewed by Israeli historian Tom Segev for his book on the commandants Soldiers of Evil. During the course of the interview he admitted to Segev that "I knew very well what I was going to do in the SS"
- 5 April 1894 ~23 February 1980
Barbed Wire Fence With Watchtowers
Barbed wire fence with watchtowers. In the background a barrack, which, like the interior thereof, has been rebuilt and is now part of the museum and memorial center.
The Jewish student David Koker
(27 November 1921 - 23 February 1945)
David was forced to halt his studies in Philosophy and History in September 1941 when the university ceased allowing Jews to study anymore. The family did not go into hiding because they had received a sperre (exemption) and believed they were safe. Still, in 1943, they were captured and transported to Camp Vught on 11 February.
David spent some of his time teaching children at the camp. In July, he received a sperre from Frits Philips and joined his Philips Commandos. In June 1944, the "Philips-Jews" were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau from where they would be sent to other camps such as Facharbeiter to work for electronic companies.
David's mother and brother Max survived the war. David, however, fell ill and died during a transport for ill people to the concentration camp in Dachau due in part to his illness as well as hypothermia in February 1945. His father died of exhaustion in LangenBilau, a subcamp of Groß-Rosen.
During his internment, he wrote a diary which was smuggled out of the camp, pieces at a time. The diary is maintained complete, starting on 11 February 1943 and ending on 8 February 1944. In addition to standard entries, David also used the diary to write poetry.
On 2 June 1944, while the family was being transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, David managed to throw a letter from the train, an excerpt of which read:
: Lieve vrinden, we zijn nu dicht bij de grens. Het is wel teleurstellend, maar we waren erop voorbereid en zijn vol vertrouwen. Ik denk veel aan jullie. (...) Ik heb alle brieven en foto's bij me. M'n liefste bezit. Wanneer zien we elkaar weer? Dat zal nu wel lang duren. Maar erdoor komen we. (...) Heel veel liefs jongens, bedankt voor alles. Tot ziens.
: 'Dear friends, we are close to the border now. It is very disappointing, but we were prepared for it and remain hopeful. I think a lot about you. (...) I've got all your letters and photos with me. My dearest possessions. When will we see each other again? That will take a long time. But we shall survive. (...) Lots of love guys, thanks for everything. Goodbye.
The diary was published in 1977 with the name Dagboek geschreven in Vught (Diary Written in Vught). The manuscript was stored at theDutch Institute for War Documentation (NIOD). It has been translated into English and will be published in 2012 under the title At the Edge of the Abyss: A Concentration Camp Diary, 1943-1944.
- 27 November 1921 - 23 February 1945
Helga Deen (Stettin, Germany, 6 April 1925 – Sobibor, 16 July 1943) was the author of a diary, discovered in 2004, which describes her stay in a Dutch prison camp, Kamp Vught, where she was brought during World War II at the age of 18.
Deen was half-Dutch. Initially her father lived with his German GP wife in Germany, but moved back to the Netherlands as persecution increased. Her mother worked for a time as a doctor at a concentration camp at Vught. She was given leave to remain but chose to accompany her family to Sobibor, where she died.
After her last diary entry, in early July 1943, Helga Deen was deported to Sobibór extermination camp and murdered. She was 18 years old
Deen wrote the diary for her boyfriend, Kees van den Berg, who kept it hidden after the war. After his death his son presented the diary to archivists in Tilburg.
A memorial stone to Helga and her family has been placed by a member of the Dutch Sobibor Foundation on the pathway which used to lead to the gas chambers ('Road to Heaven'). A photo of the stone will soon be available on the Foundation's website.
- 6 April 1925~ 16 July 1943
Esther "Etty" Hillesum
(15 January 1914 in Middelburg, Netherlands – 30 November 1943 in Auschwitz, Poland) was a young Jewish woman whose letters and diaries, kept between 1941 and 1943 describe life in Amsterdam during the German occupation. They were published posthumously in 1981, before being translated into English in 1983.
On July 15, 1942, Etty Hillesum got a job at the department "cultural affairs" of the Jewish Council in Amsterdam. She only worked there for two weeks and didn't like it at all. On July 30, 1942 she was, on her own request, transferred to Camp Westerbork in order to work for the department "Sociale Verzorging Doortrekkenden." As a member of the Jewish Council she had a special travel-visa, which made it possible for her to return to Amsterdam on several occasions.
It was there that she became ill in the winter of 1942-43. When she had recovered, she refused the offers of her friends to go into hiding. She chose to stay with her people and returned to Westerbork, where she wanted to undergo the fate of her fellow human beings, she explained. On September 7, 1943, on a special order of Rauter, the Hillesum family was transported to Poland (except Jaap Hillesum, who was taken at a later stage). On November 30, 1943, Etty Hillesum died in Auschwitz.
Etty Hillesum's Diaries reveal the inner change of a young Jewish woman during World War Two. Striking is the contrast between her growing spirituality and the consequences of the ever increasing persecution of the Jews in the Netherlands. The Diaries show how Etty rapidly developed, through her meeting with Spier and other friends and the reading of existential literature, into a grown up woman, with a mature personality and her own life's vision.
She learned to accept herself and the fate of her people, without any bitterness. The Diaries have become a monument of spirituality and spiritual resistance against persecution and hatred. It is this quality that brings them up to date.
Her work has evoked a mixed reaction ever since her writings were published. Two points that stand out: A different perception on why Hillesum chose not to go into hiding and the insecurity of the Jewishness of her vision.
A careful reading, however, of the complete texts show that much of these discussions go back to an incorrect understanding of the Letters and Diaries, partly caused by the one-sided selection of "Het verstoorde leven" (An Interrupted Life).
The attempts to make Hillesum a Christian Saint or the efforts to question and confuse her Jewish identity are completely out of tune with her own personal desire to be an independent spirit, not to be bound by faith or any political conviction, but it also goes against her firm wish to be a Jewish woman in solidarity with her people.
- 15 January 1914~30 November 1943
Disturbed life. Monument in Remembrance of Etty Hillesum
Dutch uncover diary of Nazi camp
The diary written by Helga Deen is a rarity - few such records survive The diary of the dark days a Jewish teenager spent in a Nazi detention camp awaiting deportation has come to light in the Netherlands.
Helga Deen, 18, wrote the diary during the three months she spent in the camp in 1943 so her Dutch boyfriend could understand what she was experiencing.
The diary records the desperation of life in the camp and horror at watching children being sent to the death camps.
War archivists have described it as a rare and extraordinary find.
The diary echoes those of Anne Frank, who spent years in hiding from the Nazis in German-occupied Amsterdam before her family was betrayed.
Helga Deen's diary was donated to the Tilburg Regional Archive by the family of her boyfriend, Kees van den Berg, after his recent death.
Chilling and mundane
"Maybe this diary will be a disappointment to you because it doesn't contain facts," Helga wrote in the diary to Kees.
"But maybe you'll be glad that you find me in it: conflict, doubt, desperation, shyness, emptiness."
Packing, and this morning a child dying which upset me completely. Another transport and this time we will be on it The last entry in the diary of Helga Deen, July 1943 Helga's writing spans the chilling and mundane aspects of life in Vught camp. She talks of delousing, the camp's kale soup, and of children being put on transport to the concentration camps.
"We are homeless, countryless and have to adjust ourselves to that way of life. What we have seen in these last months is indescribable, and for someone who hasn't been there, unimaginable," she wrote.
Helga hoped hard work might save her from deportation. But, in early July 1943, she was told her family would be on the next train.
"Packing, and this morning a child dying which upset me completely," she wrote.
"Another transport and this time we will be on it."
It was her last entry. Helga and her family were deported to Sobibor concentration camp in German-occupied Poland, where they are recorded as having died on 16 July 1943. About six million Jews are thought to have died in the Holocaust.
How the diary reached Kees is unknown, but his son told a local newspaper he kept it "like a religious relic", together with a lock of hair, until his death.
"I couldn't believe what I saw," said Tilburg archivist Gerrit Kobes. He described the diary, which also includes sketches of the camp, as unique.
Other war archivists agree the discovery is exceptional.
Below are three covers. The first is a cover postmarked July 24, 1943, from the Waffen SS office at Herzogenbusch. The second is a cover from a Dr. N. Tinbergen, an inmate at the Herzogenbusch work command at St. Michielsgestel postmarked December 27, 1943. The cover bears a sticker indicating that the cover was sent through the security-police. The third is a cover from an inmate at the Herzogenbusch work command at St. Michielsgestel. The cover bears a St. Michielsgestel censor cachet.
Parcel Receipt Confirmation
Below are the front and back of a parcel receipt confirmation card for a package sent to a Jewish prisoner from the Judenrat in Amsterdam. This card is identified in Lordahl as Type I2a.
Below are the front and back of a postcard to Germany from "Feldpost". The card bears a 1943 "Herzogenbusch Station" postmark. Probably censored at Herzogenbusch.
Red Cross Letter
Below are the front and back of a Red Cross letter dated November 14, 1941, from a Dutch Jew in Tel Aviv to an inmate, Emanuel Boers, at Herzogenbusch. According to The Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names, he was transferred ultimately to Auschwitz where he died on November 19, 1943,
Justus & Hetty Marchand
Justus Emmanuel Marchand was born in Amsterdam in 1914 and grew up in middle-class circumstances. His father, Isaac Marchand, one of the first importers of bicycle inner tubes, was of Sephardic origin, his mother, Rachel De Groot,Ashkenazic. Religion was not an issue for Justus Marchand, however, until his parents sent him to Jewish Sunday school and he became Bar Mitzvah. He became active in a Zionist youth group, though neither he nor his family contemplated emigration to Palestine.
In 1932, after finishing secondary school, Justus Marchand was called up for military service. After that, he began an apprenticeship as a metallurgist and worked in the metal and steel industry. In an advanced training course, he met Hetty Monasch. They became engaged in January 1938 and married two years later. In 1939, Justus Marchand became an infantry lieutenant in the Dutch army.
Wedding of Justus Marchand and Hetty Monasch, 1940
When the Netherlands capitulated on May 14, 1940, Justus und Hetty Marchand went underground. They succeeded in obtaining passports identifying them as non-Jewish citizens of the Netherlands. Using assumed names, they worked in the resistance movement against the German occupation forces. Justus Marchand’s mother died in 1940 when she fell down the stairs, and his father managed to go into hiding and survive the war years in that way.
Justus Marchand was betrayed and arrested by theGestapo; still using a false name, he was deportedto the Herzogenbusch concentration camp. After a fellow prisoner recognized him and exposed him as a Jew, he was deported from there via Westerbork to the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp.
There Justus Marchand was first assigned to the cementdetachment. The Dutch Oberkapo Joop saw to it that he was placed in the payroll clerks’ detachment. He felt that this work detachment was an “elite detachment,” meaning that the prisoners were given enough to eat and real clothing, and were allowed to send letters (censored and written in German) through the mail room.
On January 18, 1945, the SS forced the prisoners of the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp to go on a death march. For Justus Marchand, it ended in the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp. There he developed diarrhea and typhus and fell into a feverish coma, so that he did not consciously experience his liberation.
He was cared for in a U.S. Army military hospital and returned to Amsterdam in the summer of 1945. His wife had spent the entire war as an illegal, working in the resistance. Among other things, she helped Jews who were in hiding to get out of the country by using the passports of other people.
Justus Marchand returned to the Dutch army and worked there. At the urging of his wife, Hetty Marchand, they emigrated in 1947 to Palestine, where Justus Marchand fought in Israel’s War of Independence.
Justus and Hetty Marchand settled down in a small village, Hadar Am, near Netanya. With their two sons, they first supported themselves by raising chickens and running a small orange orchard, and by Julius Marchand’s moonlighting in road construction and in a school. Later he worked for a bank, and then at a plant that produced pharmaceutical substances.
In the meantime, Justus Marchand has become a great-grandfather. Hetty Marchand passed away in the spring of 2007.
Mug shot of a prisoner in the Herzogenbusch "Vught" concentration camp. (1943)
The incident known as the Bunker Tragedy or the Bunker Drama was an atrocitycommitted by the staff at the Herzogenbusch concentration camp (also known as Kamp Vught) in the Netherlands, on January 1944 during World War II.
"Kamp Vught", site of the Bunker Tragedy
When one woman from barrack 23B was locked up in the camp prison (the 'bunker'), other women protested against it. Commander Grünewald, as a punishment, threw as many women as possible into one cell. Eventually, 74 women were pressed together in cell 115, which had a surface of 9ft and hardly any ventilation. After 14 hours on a Sunday morning, the cell door opens. Ten women did not survive the night.
Soon this dramatic event was known outside the camp and written about in all the resistance newspapers. The occupying power was not pleased with the fact that the news had leaked. The commander was degraded down to the rank of soldier and was sent to the Russian front. There, he was killed.
Tineke Wibaut, one of the bunker victims, wrote:
"'When the lights went off, a great panic rose among the women. It was a strange swelling sound, which sometimes would diminish, but soon swell up again. It was caused by praying, screaming and yelling women. Some tried to yell over it to calm the women down, so they could save oxygen. Sometimes it would help a bit, but then it would start again. It would not stop, it continued the whole night. It diminished, though, because the heat was suffocating."
This event is being remembered annually in closed circles.
- January 1944
Scene of Camp at Liberation
One of the rare photo of Vught.
Note: Thanks so much to Kathy Bjegovich and her father Norman Turner, Canadian WW2 veteran and liberator of Vught concentration camp for the informations they kindly sent me concerning the liberation of the camp. This page has been updated on July 27th, 1998.
By Vincent Châtel http://www.jewishgen.org/ForgottenCamps/Camps/VughtEngl.html
Officially, in occupied Holland, only Vught was considered by the Nazis as a concentration camp (Konzentrationslager Herzogenbusch). The first prisoners arrived in Vught on January 13th, 1943. They arrived from Amersfoort and were in a pitiful condition. The first Jewish prisoners arrived on January 16th, 1943. The first commander of the camp was an SS captain named Karl Chmilewski. This SS Officer was well known for the barbaric atrocities he had committed at the camp of Gusen, an sub-camp of Mauthausen. (Mauthausen had a reputation as one of the most brutal Nazi camps). Later, the commanders of the camp were SS officer Grunewald (October 1943) and SS officer Huttig (February 1944).
Originally, Vught was divided into two sections: the first one (Judendurchgangslager - JDL) was designed to hold the Jewish prisoners before their transit to Germany the transfers were done in two transports: from Vught to Westerbock then from Westerbock to the extermination camps. The pending transfer of Jewish prisoners to Westerbock never created panic: many of the Jews thought that they would stay permanently in Westerbock. They didn't know that Westerbock was just a "waiting room" before their extermination.
The second section of Vught was designed as a security camp (Schutzhaftlager). This section received all the Dutch and Belgian political prisoners, men and women. The guards were exclusively SS. The food was nearly nonexistent : warm water with some carrots or sauerkraut floating on the surface. The SS guards tortured the prisoners with incredible cruelty beating them to death (several prisoners were brutalized with a club wrapped with barbed wire). The SS often provoked their dogs to attack prisoners and there are several testimonies of horrible wounds, including to genitals. Hundreds of Dutch and Belgian prisoners were executed by shooting in a place called "De Ijzeren Man", located +-900 meters from the camp.
The gallows. There was another gallows in the bunker.
Two other sections were established in May and Augusts 1943: the "Frauenkonzentrationslager" (FKL) fro women and the "Polizeiliches Durchgangslager" (PDL) for prisoners in detention, mostly for a short period.
Like any other Nazi concentration camp, Vught had its own gallows and crematorium. In September 1943, the gallows was used for the executions of 20 Belgian prisoners. There were several convoy from Vught to the major camps located in Germany and Poland: i.e. in June 1943, hundreds of Jewish children were sent to Sobibor extermination camp. There were also transportation of Jews to death camps in November 1943 and June 1944. In July, as the Allied forces approached, the number of executions increased dramatically.
The 4th Canadian Armor Division, and the 96 Th Battery of the 5th Anti -Tank Division were the first in liberating Vught concentration Camp. The Canadians troops came over the hill right up to the wall fighting the Germans. The Germans were evacuation from the camp and left a rear guard action to fight the allies. They were fighting and running at the same time. As you entered the camp into a courtyard there were 500 bodies laying in a pile that these poor people were just executed that morning.
They were just thrown in a pile. There were around 500-600 live prisoners left who had been set up for execution that afternoon, but, the Canadian's arrived instead so they were spared. The people were in the most horrible condition, starving to death, ill, and very badly mistreated. When the Canadian's arrived they were standing around in the courtyard. Not in any barracks just standing around while the fighting was going on. My father was one of the survivors. He would remain crippled for the rest of his life.
Watch towers in Vught
The former camp location is now occupied by a penitentiary. In April 1990, the National Monument Camp Vught was opened by H.M. Queen Beatrix. I visited the museum in July 1998 and it is a very moving place.
The museum is open from April 1th through October 31th (10am - 17pm Tuesday - Saturday, 12pm - 17pm Sunday - Monday). The museum is located at Lunettenlaan 600, Vught, Holland. The entrance is free. There is also a permanent exhibition about the "Kamp Vught" in the "Vughts Historish Museum", Taalstraat 88a, Vught. The Museum board can be contacted via: National Monument Camp Vught Foundation, Postbus 47, 5260 AA Vught, Holland.
A proclamation was issued by the Vught Kampleiding on 5 June 1943. Two transports were to be sent to "a special children's camp". In accordance with the terms of the proclamation, all children up to the age of 3 were to be accompanied by their mothers and those aged between 3 and 16 by one of their parents.
The "special children's camp" was Sobibor. The first train, containing 1,750 victims, many of them unaccompanied sick children, arrived at Westerbork on 7 June 1943. The second arrived a day later. 1,300 tired, filthy people were transferred, "amid snarling and shouting, beating and pummelling" from the dirty freight cars in which they had arrived to the dirty freight cars that would transport them to Sobibor.
With the exception of two transports which were directed to Auschwitz, all transports from Vught were routed via Westerbork. The first of these transports to Westerbork had left at the end of January 1943, shortly after the transit camp at Vught had been established. The camp's population peaked in May 1943 but steadily declined until 3 June 1944, when the camp was liquidated.
The last group to be transported from Vught, on 3 June 1944, was made up of 517 Philips' employees, the company having failed to save them, but even in Auschwitz this group received preferential treatment, being employed by Telefunken under an agreement made between Telefunken and Philips. Nonetheless, most of the men in this party perished. 160 of the group survived; two-thirds were women and 9 were children.
Concentration Camp Memorial,Vught, World War II, children