the-netherlands / audiospot
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, the Nazis took over the camp and turned it into a transition camp. Jews arrested in the Netherlands are taken to the camp and put on transport a few days later to what they believe to be labour camps in Germany and Poland. Unbeknownst to many at the time, they will not return.
A total of 95 trains with 107,000 Jews, Sinta, and Roma depart from Westerbork to concentration camps and extermination camps in Germany and Eastern Europe. The transports suddenly stop on 13 September 1944. The more than 600 prisoners who remain in the camp are torn between hope and fear for months. Will they finally be liberated? Can the allies persevere? Or will the SS put them on a transport, or maybe even execute them?
In March 1945, the allied forces launch their offensive and the prisoners in camp Westerbork hear the sound of gunshots in the distance. Using hidden radios in the camp, the prisoners can follow the developments, which merely causes unrest and speculation.
Early 1945, everything happens quickly. More and more members of the SS and their collaborators flee on a daily basis. Rumour has it that the Tommies have reached Zutphen. Thanks to eye witness accounts and diary fragments of council official Aad van As and the 10-year-old Ed van Thijn, we have a clear picture of those turbulent last weeks and days.