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BREENDONK, KZ in Belgium

Article about: Hello guys, after seeing Ben Evans thread about Dachau, I've dicided to make a thread about KZ Breendonk. The only one of it's kind in my country, Belgium. The fort of the small town of Bree

  1. #1
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    Default BREENDONK, KZ in Belgium

    Hello guys, after seeing Ben Evans thread about Dachau, I've dicided to make a thread about KZ Breendonk. The only one of it's kind in my country, Belgium.
    The fort of the small town of Breendonk is on of the many fortress that made a defense ring around the city of Antwerp. The construction of the forts started in 1906/07 and continued till 1914. The first units that were in Breendonk came in 1913.

    During WW2 it was used by the Germans for temporary imprisonment for members of the resistance and some jews.
    A small garrison of Wehrmacht soldiers were there for security of the camp with also a small unit of Belgian SS men.

    The prisoners stayed there for some short period to be deported afterworths to other camps in Germany and the east.
    During their stay in the fort, they had to do forced labor. In the beginning the fort was totally beneith a layer of sand for dissimulation reasons during the war.
    The sand was completely dug away by the prisoners under the watching eye of their guards.
    The fort was during WW2 a very notorious place that made people shiver when hearing it's name. BREENDONK.

    The fort is still visitable and it's located about 15km south of Antwerp.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Kris.
    Last edited by CARL; 01-01-2013 at 03:34 PM. Reason: Title adjustment

  2. #2

    Default Re: BREENDONK, the only KZ in Belgium

    many thanks.

  3. #3

    Default Re: BREENDONK, the only KZ in Belgium

    Was Fort Breendonk actually designated Konzentrationslager (concentration camp) Breendonk rather than Auffanglager (Reception camp or Detention center) Breendonk? Although conditions for inmates were often similar in both types of camps.

    Thanks for sharing the photos, it looks truly grim today, but must have been so much worse during the period of its operation.
    I collect, therefore I am.

    Nothing in science can explain how consciousness arose from matter.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: BREENDONK, the only KZ in Belgium

    A fine collection of images Kris, thank you for posting.

    Member poelle1968 recently posted a similar thread regarding KL-Breendonk in the After The Battle forum. Together with this thread, it shows yet another of the countless locales of terror, within the former occupied lands. The images of Kommandant Philip Schmidt and his beloved dog Lump above are particularly interesting. Whilst KL-Breendonk is the most well known within Belgium, at Mechelen, located nearby, was a Sammellager (assembly camp), and therefore also considered a concentration camp.

    Regards,

    Carl
    Experienced guide and published author leading detailed study trips to the former KZ sites of Nazi Germany. Contact for further details.

    www.concentrationcamptours.com

    www.concentrationcampmoney.com


    "maka akaŋl oyate maŋi pi ki le, tuweŋi wíyópeya oki hi sni"

  5. #5
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    Default Re: BREENDONK, the only KZ in Belgium

    Yes, indeed. Sammellager or Durchgangslager it was. Some inmates stayed for quit long time there.

    In Mechelen was indeed and stil is the 'Dossin-kazerne' which was also a rendezvous spot to put the people on transport.
    The kazerne today is a Holocaust museum but I've never visited it once.

    Kris.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: BREENDONK, the only KZ in Belgium

    Haunting pictures.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: BREENDONK, KZ in Belgium

    I was just touring at both KL Breendonk and the Dossin-Kazerne in Mechelin during my recent visit to Belgium 2 weeks ago. The Holocaust museum is excellent although I was a bit rushed as it was near closing when I visited with WRF members Frank and Ivan. KL Breendonk was also an excellent museum and the English audio guide was well done. The story of the death of the dwarfish inmate and how he was killed was particularly disturbing. The quarters for the Jews were terrible as one would expect. The conditions in general inhuman. So much misery and pain suffered here at the hands of sadistic guards and the commandant, his staff and even his wife. Very eye opening experience to visit here.

  8. #8

    Default Re: BREENDONK, KZ in Belgium

    Doug-what is the story of the dwarfish prisoner? I am unable to locate any info on him from anywhere on the net or books. Were there many lives lost in Breendonk? There is only slight info out there on this lesser known camp, so unless you've visited, you really can't find much on it. From what I can see, though, it looks like almost as many Prisoners were executed for crimes there after the war as there were Guards! Clearly an unusual camp! Very interesting thread!
    William

    "Much that once was, is lost. For none now live who remember it."

  9. #9
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    Default Re: BREENDONK, KZ in Belgium

    There were 2 pics of this prisoner, one by himself and another of him at roll call with many other inmates. I cannot recall why he was imprisoned but he was a gentle happy person, jailed for no reason other than his physical attributes I believe. He was a favorite target of the guards. When outside in front of the large photo of him at roll call the audio tells of his abuse and the day he inspired the wrath of one of the more sadistic guards who ended this poor mans life at roll call by picking him up over his head and throwing him down head first to the concrete ground, killing him. His body was left there for the day, and you realize it happened more or less on the spot you were standing listening to the audio.

    While more horrid crimes were committed against many more people including terrible tortures both mental and physical, I couldn't help feeling the most for this poor kind hearted man killed in cold blood for the pure enjoyment of the guard. He never had a chance as so many who perished. Perhaps it was there was a face and personality to the victim. So many others are nameless and faceless who had no hope and no voice.

    I think it was 3500 who died in this camp but I could be mistaken, I'm not feeling that well today and cannot recall. Another member may have this information. According to Wikipedia it was 300 but later in the article it says 3500 were incarcerated and 1733 died.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: BREENDONK, KZ in Belgium

    Kommandant Philip Schmitt and his wife, Ilse Birkholz, were known for their random acts of cruelty at KL-Breendonk. Although not as infamous as Karl and Ilse Koch of KL-Buchenwald, they were nonetheless feared by the prisoners. SS-Sturmbannfuhrer Schmidt's beloved dog, Lump, was another who brought dread with every day. Schmitt was the only German member of the KL-Breendonk staff to be executed after the war, although other, Flemish guards were also duly dealt with. He was found guilty of war crimes and executed. Other notable members of staff include the Belgian SS guards Fernand Wijss, De Bodt and Pellemans, all noted for their cruelty. It was said that Schmitt rarely attacked prisoners personally, unless in one of his drunken rages. Typically, he preferred to mete out punishment through his German Shepherd, Lump, or through his brutal assistant, SS-Untersturmfuhrer Arthur Prauss.

    The story of the Breendonk dwarf is indeed a tragic episode. Another story of personal suffering relates to the young Jewish male, who having worked until near collapse, was randomly beaten by the guards, before eventually being thrown into the moat that surrounds the main structure. The young man was unable to swim. After nearly a quarter of an hour of struggle, he finally drowned. Today, the average depth of the moat at KL-Breendonk is 2.75m.

    As noted earlier, the structure was covered by a thick layer of earth. The prisoners were given the arduous task of removing this by hand, before transporting the vast amount of soil several hundred metres away, to a site where it was used to construct a large earthen wall, erected to hide the camp from view.

    Whilst not on such a scale as other KLs in occupied Europe, the conditions at Fort Breendonk were horrific, and among the worst in the area mentioned.

    After the liberation in September 1944, the site became known as Breendonk II, and was utilised as a holding camp for collaborators.

    Estimates of the number of victims range from 200-1,800, depending on the source.

    Regards,

    Carl
    Last edited by CARL; 09-07-2013 at 01:43 PM.
    Experienced guide and published author leading detailed study trips to the former KZ sites of Nazi Germany. Contact for further details.

    www.concentrationcamptours.com

    www.concentrationcampmoney.com


    "maka akaŋl oyate maŋi pi ki le, tuweŋi wíyópeya oki hi sni"

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