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.
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.
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.