Talk:Mechelen transit camp

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Uploaded by the USHMM. See OTRS ticket 2007071910012533 for details.

July 2011 edits[edit]

(First input moved here from a user's talk page)

I have red your expansion of the Dossin casern with interest. I have some remarks tough:

  1. It is, technically speaking, a concentration camp, i.e. a camp where persons (as prisoners of war, political prisoners, or refugees) are detained or confined (per webster). But, I agree, with the Nazis its meaning shifted towards extermination camps. I replaced it with internment camp. Same euphemism but less controversial.
  2. In general, the article lacks of in-line citations. I added the need for citation not because I didn't read the source but because I did. The figures are not consistent with official website. Examples:
  • The US source says that several trains of Roma left Mechelen. Only 351 inmates were Roma but still several trains were used to deport them. Something is not right.
  • The US source says 25,257 Jews while the official web reads 24,908 Jews and 351 gypsies (25,259).
  • "Less than 1200 survived" but the official web gives the figure of 1204 survivors.

Sorry looking like a "kommaneuker" (love this Dutch word!) but I'd rather have "citation needed" tags than no in-line citations at all. --Alberto Fernandez Fernandez (talk) 08:19, 1 August 2011 (UTC)

'Kommaneuker' is indeed Dutch, in fact northern Dutch. In Flanders, one who splits hairs is called a 'muggenzifter' — literally 'sifter of mosquitoes', just try to envision it like a kneeled golddigger gently moving a sieve in his hands. Flemish expression tends to be smoother than Hollandish. The English-language concept occurs as well: 'haarkloven' and 'haarkloverij'. Don't worry, I consider it a most proper attitude for sensitive and serious topics.
  • WP does not allow enforcing in-line references: as long as there is a proper general source mentioned, it's OK. Personally, though perhaps not quite clearly supported by WP guidelines I'm afraid, I think that a questionable statement that just might be supported by some very lengthy general source like a 1,500-page book and/or one that is not readily available for verification (neither likely to be found in public libraries nor on the internet), should allow tagging. Otherwise, in-line references, and certainly tagging their lack, should only occur where the article adds to or otherwise deviates from a general source, or where the latter leaves room for interpretation, or about a matter that most obviously falls far outside the expertise of the source and its verifiable references. In this case, with contradicting sources, it makes no sense to ask for a citation, the only solutions are: to look oneself for an independent third source of top quality, or (still without tagging) to put the matter up on the article's talk page — which is why and where I moved your above comment from my talk page.
I am not really into WP policies. So I can't comment. In sensitive matters like these, I would go for hard coded references. Especially when the initial source do not have a single one. I added reliable sources on that matter.--Alberto Fernandez Fernandez (talk) 14:34, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
Hard coded is an IT-technical term. The references that you call hard coded are in fact handled by wiki software so as to show these elsewhere: You mean the ones that are introduced on the (IT)source line that has the article text (hence inline references), thus show a number there and again in front of the referenced (external) source in the references section (hence alternative name indexed references), are more easily verified than (a list of) general references aka article scope references. I agree with your preferenced style.
▲ SomeHuman 2011-08-04 10:14 (UTC)
  • The phrase I had inserted was "Little more than 1200 survived", matching a figure of 1201 to, say 1225. I'm not going to look it up again, but I thought I had seen 1221 or 1212. Also nicely within the range, is the 1204 on what you consider to be the official site - Btw, what would determine such: proprietorship of the Dossin, management of a museum, representation of... and what would make it the more authoritative? A higher precision is rather overwhelming, making things less clear, like showing the distance to the sun in millimetres. Only if it were a list of names, each —and everyone— would matter. Any source that shows figures like e.g. 24,957 must show exactly how it arrived at that figure (who is counted: detained, put on transport - again after a derailment counted once or twice?, arrived at destination; prove the reliability and accuracy of the administration and of the completeness and scrutinous reading of documents found back...). The sources that I saw never demonstrated all this. It is then much better to show reliable rounded figures, phrased to match all decent sources (that are often slightly different). If the figures are differentiated for who was sent into extermination camps, I would also be interested to see such differentiated numbers of who came out.
The work of historians around the deportation of Jews in Belgium is still in progress almost 70 years after the unthinkable. I choose to publish the most up to date figures I could reliably trace. --Alberto Fernandez Fernandez (talk) 14:34, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
  • The lead must neither mention precise figures, nor differentiate ethnicities. That belongs in the detailed text. The lead is supposed to give a good overall idea in as short a text as possible. Furthermore, the much more impressive number of Jews gives an utterly false impression: as if the Nazis were far more out in catching Jews or threat them more harshly than the Roma. The figures however, most likely correspond to their respective part in the populace. The details section still needs to be extended, stating that in the Dossin, the Roma were far worse off than the Jews: Only Roma were systematically held in isolation and, assumedly simply because they were poor and had no free outside relations that cared, did not receive packages of food from outside. I did not see a source clearly stating that only Roma and Jews were put on transport, but saw no figure for others, or even their being mentioned. There were others in Breendonk, and in extermination camps... Until this is cleared out in the article, I find it unjust to discriminate (i.e. note a difference) or be overly specific about by our sources selected (ethnical) characteristics.
You got a point here. I will adjust this as soon as I correct factual inaccuracies in the rest of the article.--Alberto Fernandez Fernandez (talk) 14:34, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I too noticed the illogical multiple number of trainloads for a few hundreds of Roma. One of the sources I encountered, mentioned one train of Roma, with a date. I find it hard to believe that the Germans would have kept the Roma at the Dossin until they could fill a whole train; more likely, as for the Jews, after a group was sent in from anywhere they would be put on the very next train - that saved room and food and was simply efficient and we all know, that mattered a lot to German officers. Perhaps if by then there were more Jews in the camp than the train could carry, the Roma may have been kept waiting; but surely they would be on the first train that could fit them in. Perhaps the several 'trainloads' was in fact the number of the 28 trains that carried also Roma, or is the total number of wagons filled with Roma that were part of an unspecified number of trains. Did the Germans detain prisoners until a wagon of homogenous ethnicity was reached?
Only one train was flagged as being a Roma train. All the rest are speculations waiting for references.--Alberto Fernandez Fernandez (talk) 14:34, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Your remark about 'concentration camp' having obtained a meaning that no longer corresponds to its original usage, is very correct. The Dossin however, was not quite an 'internment camp' either: it did not serve to keep people interned, it merely detained them for a week, or longer as the influx decreased, though apparently never more than three months. (This is not yet clearly stated in the article.) I therefore suggest to use 'detain' and 'detainment'. Though its main function remains 'transit camp', I came across a source that mentioned holding prisoners longer than usual when things still needed to be found out, such as marital status in the case of mixed marriages or nationality (some were not supposed to be deported, but I did not read what happened then: were those few people given proper documents and set free or kept indefinitely in the camp?) Hence, at least for a small number of people, the Dossin functioned as a 'detainment camp' till matters had become clear, the vaste majority merely 'was detained' in the camp till the next train: that made it a 'transit camp'. As the 'detainment camp' function was rare and definitely not what has made the Dossin infamous, it belongs only in the details section. (It is not there yet - work needs to be done!!! I'm not going to: I'm still working at unrelated subjects and soon will not even have the time for those.). For the lead, 'transit camp' (as the article's title specifies) is the only term that fits.
May be the best wording is to use the German one: collection camp. For Mechelen, I used the wording chosen for Drancy internment camp, which was also a collection camp. The Roma were kept for months in horrible conditions. --Alberto Fernandez Fernandez (talk) 14:34, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
It was not a mistake to mention "the Dossin, the oldest casern in Mechelen,..." When the topic is made clear, the colloquial name is Dossin and not Dossin Casern (or the Dutch or French equivalent) like in English on goes to "the grocer's", not to "the grocer's shop".[SHa 1] For many years, the Belgian Army had trainees there, who stayed 3 months at most before being sent to their unit. Male Belgians had military service duty, and from the entire country, including the French-language parts, administrative function trainings occured in the Dossin - thus a very wellknown name. In Belgium, its brief even much more unpleasant function had not been its bestknown one (though nevertheless realized), till CAD trainees went to Peutie Casern and the Jewish Museum was set up.
    • ^ For linguists: In Dutch one may go naar Sint-Rombouts, as in English to Saint Rumbols's without specifying the cathedral or its tower. But when there is no genitive -s, the definite article is absolutely necessary naar de Dossin, to the Dossin. Otherwise one visits the general's grave or his relative. The definite article is also required in French though it may be implied e.g. au Dossin.
    • Kind regards,
      ▲ SomeHuman 2011-08-01 15:24-17:54 (UTC)
    Would be nice to add more information about the Dossin prior to WWII and post WWII. Any idea where to look for?--Alberto Fernandez Fernandez (talk) 14:34, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
    Only suitable for a separate article "Dossin Casern" (the redirects for its longer names should then point to that instead of now to the "Mechelen transit camp"), and the new article's (short) section about WWII would start with Main article: Mechelen transit camp. Did you spot the "Note" about who had the place built in 1756 (with its own references)? Army archives (assumedly only in in French and/or Dutch), but I'm not familiar with such.
    ▲ SomeHuman 2011-08-04 07:44 (UTC)
    In the lead, I noticed you changed the destination from 'concentration camps' to 'extermination camps'. That is not admissable: It makes the many Jews who voluntarily gave themselves up, as required by published German orders, to imbeciles. They were sent away, thought to become relocated. The first rumours in Belgium about gas chambers showed up in a French-language underground newspaper at Charleroi and assumedly spread quickly amongst the ones immeditately concerned, in 1943 — when the vaste majority had already been deported (two trains a week in the earliest months). I don't even know whether or when the SS staff (or who of them) in Mechelen became aware of what they were doing - for most of the time they were probably following orders to sent the Jews out of the areas where they were considered undesired, put on a train towards 'concentration camps'; at the time, that term did not yet have today's connotation, but it is accurate and with today's knowledge does not hide anything from the readers. The term 'extermination camp' must not appear before "Auschwitz-Birgenau" is mentioned as the place where the Jews and Roma arrived, I assume best in the phrase saying how many survived.
    ▲ SomeHuman 2011-08-01 18:54-19:04 (UTC)
    I tweaked the lead to account for your remarks. But I disagree with you on the use of the extermination camp. The plan of the Nazis was to exterminate them not to relocate them and this from the 1942 Wannsee conference. The Dossin was a part of the master plan, like Drancy and many other were. It is an hard fact that has to appear on the lead. How locals lived with that, what were the SS feelings, if any, about what they were doing have little to do with the real purpose of Dossin. The discussion about the attitude of the Belgian Jews should be discussed IMHO here: History of the Jews in Belgium
    Comments are welcome --Alberto Fernandez Fernandez (talk) 14:34, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
    The Wannsee master plan was at Wannsee, not at Mechelen: The article is about an element of that plan at Mechelen, but does not show when or by whom at that location the Wannsee Conference's intention became known. The article talks about people (officers, guards, prisoners) at Mechelen at a specific time. What was then a secret to them must not be presented as if it were the at the time one-and-only thruth that everyone by far involved knew all about. In case we know little about the perception times in the Dossin, then that ignorance needs to be mentioned in the same phrase as that 'extermination' purpose.
    ▲ SomeHuman 2011-08-04 07:08-08:21 (UTC)
    If I understand your point of view, you suggest to take out all historic perspective to the description. It should, in your opinion, describe what happens at this specific time.The final goal was made clear in the 1943 Posen speeches of Himmler. But at that specific time at Mechelen, you may argue nobody knew because we have no hard proof/evidence that they (ever?) knew. I hope to get my hands on Steinberg's "Dossier Brussel-Auschwitz, De SS-politie en de uitroeiing van de Joden, gevolg door gerechtelijke documenten van de rechtzaak Ehlers, Canaris en Asche bij het Assisenhof te Kiel, 1980 Steuncomité bij de burgerlijke partij proces tegen SS-Officieren Ehlers, Asche, Canris voor wegvoering der joden van België, Brussel, 1981" to clarify this.
    Removing the historical perspective and any post-war analysis in the article lead is hardly understandable. However, adding a section discussing the perception of the local population and people working at the SNCB/NMBS about what was going in Dossin would be very interesting. Sticking to the usual "I didn't know or I followed blindly and/or forcefully orders or I was just doing my job" may explain why it took over 60 years to come up with an official statement of Belgian government on that matter, why statistics about what happened to the people who where "inexplicably collected" in Mechelen took so long to gather. I do agree, however, that the article should propose the two points of view because the right balance bewteen them will lead to a better article.--Alberto Fernandez Fernandez (talk) 10:30, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
    I agree that it makes the article better, though I may not quite see it as if there are different points of view:
    There is no historical perspective or any post-war analysis removed from the lead: it is less obvious in the first sentence but very clearly explained in the next sentences of the lead. Only in this way, the lead shows how deceptive the whole process was: It does not only matter what was at Mechelen at a certain time perhaps known by a few officers (I too like to find out which and from what time onwards), but also that the historical Final Solution perspective was certainly unknown to people who as requested had reported 'voluntarily' or were captured, as well as to most or all who ran them through the process of transportation to Mechelen, detention, deportation out of the camp, and as you said, to the populace of Mechelen and surroundings. That deception is also of historical importance: despite the long-time openly anti-Jewish propaganda and discrimination, the extermination was a covert operation and thus by the war criminals realized to be far more shameful. It all the more justifies their condemnation and rebukes negationist excuses or insinuations about the victorious 'always' kicking the already beaten-down and/or writing history.
    Before there had been any rumours about the exterminations, one can hardly blame anyone for 'doing his job as ordered', good people still do that anywhere in the world: construction workers blindly trust their employer and the architect to have taken the right decisions, until something would unexpectedly appear totally wrong - and one would still be most careful to make sure before making a complaint or refusing to do the work; even in this time of peace in a relatively prosperous civilian environment. That is not the same as ducking one's personal responsibilty after signs of wrong-doing become immanent. Hence, awareness and its moment in time are of true importance.
    Today, I made a few minor changes to the lead, see also edit comments: A hidden link target used to go by a redirect; reading 'casern' twice in a short part of a sentence, tended to halt my reading a moment, by its distraction taking attention away from what really matters; the camp was a deportation camp for most, but not more than a detention camp for those who could not be deported by the German orders. I suspect that those few remained till the liberation, or were they released or imprisoned elsewhere after establishing their nationality or marital status?
    Unlike the king (causing much more than a stir after the war), the Belgian Government that after the war was seen as the only 'proper' one, was in exile in England during the war. Governments do not usually make an official statement for something done by a meanwhile defeated and clearly despised enemy. And when they do so after decades, there will be contemporary reasons only. [Btw, specifically for our topic, criticism about locals was never (needed) against Mechlinians, but was about the Antverpian police force zealously capturing the Jews — the raids were not managed by the Dossin to which the Jews were sent. That is why 'Mechelen transit camp' is a proper article name.]
    I never heard of any post-war Belgian or Mechlinian obstruction against gathering information or hesitation about distributing statistics. Without such obstruction, in case the government did not properly expedite all the work, than one could just as well blame the entire world for not having come to do it either. Perhaps I am a little more naive than I realize, because I am bewildered by your "inexplicably collected" people quotation: Where does that come from? Who used that expression (related to our topic) and when, according to what source?
    ▲ SomeHuman 2011-08-13 14:17 [+ INSERT 17:40] (UTC)

    No way was the Dossin "technically" a concentration camp. Like Drancy it was a "Sammellager", which is not at all the same thing as a "Konzentrationslager". The only train carrying gypsies (Roma) to leave the Dossin Barracks was Transport Z, which left on 15 January 1944. I refer you to the brochures (in English) published in 1996 and thereafter by the Joodse Museum voor Deportatie en Verzet. Everybody got to be somewhere! (talk) 00:50, 27 January 2012 (UTC)


    In Dutch the building is known as the Dossinkazerne. It was a former infantry barracks. The use of the term casern is incorrect. Casern has a specific meaning in English. Dossinkazerne should be translated as the Dossin Barracks. Even the most casual visitor to the building (now converted into flats) can see this for herself. Everybody got to be somewhere! (talk) 00:22, 27 January 2012 (UTC)

    I intend to replace all incidences of casern in this article by barracks Everybody got to be somewhere! (talk) 21:31, 27 January 2012 (UTC)