Herzogenbusch concentration camp
A view along the fences of the camp, 1945
|Known for||1943 – present|
|Built by||Nazi Germany|
26 October 1944
|Inmates||Jews, Gypsies political prisoners, resistance fighters, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, homeless people, black market traders, criminals, hostages|
|Liberated by||4th Canadian Armored Division|
96th Battery of the 5th Anti-Tank Division
|Notable inmates||Anton Constandse, Helga Deen, David Koker|
|Notable books||Diary of David Koker|
Guide Camp Vught National Memorial: Final destination or transit station
Herzogenbusch concentration camp (Dutch: Kamp Vught, pronounced [kɑmp ˈfɵxt], German: Konzentrationslager Herzogenbusch [kɔntsɛntʁaˈtsi̯oːnsˌlaːɡɐ hɛʁtsoːɡənˈbʊʃ]) was a Nazi concentration camp located in Vught near the city of 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands. Herzogenbusch was, with Natzweiler-Struthof in occupied France, the only concentration camp run directly by the SS in western Europe outside 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 and Dutch collaborators. Today there is a visitors' center with exhibitions and a national monument "Nationaal Monument Kamp Vught" remembering the camp and its victims. The camp is now a museum.
During World War II, Nazi Germany occupied Netherlands (1940–1945). In 1942 the Nazis transported Jewish and other prisoners from the Netherlands via the transit camps Amersfoort and Westerbork to the Auschwitz concentration camp, except for 850 prisoners sent to Mauthausen concentration camp. When Amersfoort and Westerbork appeared to be too small to handle the large number 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 the 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, with women inmates being transferred to Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, and the men to Sachsenhausen concentration camp by 4–5 September 1944. On 26 October 1944, Scottish troops of the 7th Black Watch and Canadian troops of the 96th Battery, 5th Anti-tank Regiment liberated the camp after fighting a rear guard of SS guards left to defend the nearly evacuated camp. There were around 500-600 live prisoners left, who had been set up for execution that afternoon, whose lives were spared by the arrival of the liberating forces. About 500 inmates were also discovered dead in piles near the gates, who had been executed the very morning of the day that the camp was liberated.
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.
Diary of David Koker
A Jewish student, David Koker (1921-1945), lived with his family in Amsterdam until he was captured on the night of 11 February 1943 and transported to Vught camp. During his internment, he wrote a diary, which was smuggled out of the camp in parts; it is now complete and conserved. It records events from 11 February 1943 until 8 February 1944. David wrote poems in his diary and taught Jewish children in the camp.
On 2 June 1944, he and his family were transported by train to Auschwitz-Birkenau. David got the chance to throw a letter from the train. The family was later transported to the Groß-Rosen camp (Langenbielau).
: Lieve vrienden, 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 now close to the border. It is disappointing, but we were prepared and full of faith. I think a lot about you. ... I have all my dearest possessions with me: my letters and photos. When will we see each other again? That will take a long time. But we shall survive. ... Lots of love everyone, thanks for everything. Goodbye.
Diary of Helga Deen
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 the Herzogenbusch concentration camp in Vught, where she was taken during World War II at the age of 18.
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. Chmielewski was ultimately tried and sentenced for his brutality towards the prisoners. He was removed in 1943 for stealing from the camp on a large scale. In 1961 Chmielewski was sentenced to life imprisonment for his homicidal brutality towards the prisoners.
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 the Bunker 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 action in 1945.
The last commander of Herzogenbusch was the 50-year-old Hans Hüttig. He joined the SS in 1932 as an unpaid volunteer, and the Nazi party soon thereafter. In 1944 Huttig oversaw the evacuation and closure of the camp.
List of subcamps
The execution site near the camp is now a national monument, with a wall bearing the names of all those who died there. The wall has suffered numerous acts of vandalism: Black smears were drawn on the wall, using tar, which has seeped into the stone and is impossible to remove.
The camp was partially demolished after the war. The grounds now house an educational museum known as Nationaal Monument Kamp Vught, the Van Brederodekazerne military base, a neighborhood for Indonesian refugees from Maluku, and the Nieuw Vosseveld high security prison. Still, parts of the old camp remain. Central to the prison, the bunker where the Bunker Tragedy occurred still stands. Large parts of the southern camp buildings are now used by the Dutch military, including the former SS barracks that have a cross-shaped ground plan.
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Media related to Kamp Vught at Wikimedia Commons