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Camp Westerbork finally liberated

HolocaustLiberationMemoryVictory and defeat




In order to receive Jewish refugees from Germany, the Dutch government built a refugee camp on the bare heathlands of Westerbork in 1939. Dozens of barracks are erected on an area of just 500 by 500 metres.

In July 1942, Nazis took over the camp and turned it into a transition camp. Jews arrested in the Netherlands were taken to the camp and put on transport a few days later to what they believed to be labour camps in Germany and Poland. However, unbeknownst to many at the time, they did not return.

A total of 95 trains with 107,000 Jews, Sinta, and Roma departed from Westerbork to concentration camps and extermination camps in Germany and Eastern Europe. The transports stopped suddenly on 13 September 1944. The more than 600 prisoners who remained in the camp were torn between hope and fear for months. Would they finally be liberated? Could the allies persevere? Or would the SS put them on a transport, or maybe even execute them?

In March 1945, the allied forces launched their offensive and the prisoners in camp Westerbork heard the sound of gunshots in the distance. Using hidden radios in the camp, the prisoners followed the developments, which caused unrest and speculation.

In early 1945, everything happened quickly. More and more members of the SS and their collaborators fled on a daily basis. Rumours said that the British troops had reached Zutphen. Thanks to eye witness accounts and diary fragments of council official Aad van As, and 10-year-old Ed van Thijn, we have a clear picture of those turbulent last weeks and days.