- Mechelen transit camp
Mechelen transit camp Concentration camp
The main entrance to the Dossin Casern
Coordinates Coordinates: Other names SS-Sammellager Mecheln Known for deportations by trains Location Mechelen, Belgium Operated by the Nazi German Sicherheitspolizei (Sipo-SD), a branch of the SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt Original use Hof van Habsburg,[Note 1]
then Belgian Army barracks
First built 1756 Operational July 1942 – September 1944 Inmates mainly Jews and Roma Number of inmates Jews: 24,916
Killed about 300 Liberated by Allied Forces, 4 September 1944 Notable inmates Felix Nussbaum, Abraham Bueno de Mesquita Website kazernedossin.be/en
The Mechelen transit camp, or officially SS-Sammellager Mecheln in German, was a detention and deportation camp established in the Dossin, the oldest casern at Mechelen, by the Nazi German occupier of Belgium. The transit camp was run by the SiPo-SD, a branch of the SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt in order to collect and deport Jews and other minorities such as Roma mainly out of Belgium towards the labor camp of Heydebreck-Cosel and the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.
During the Second World War, between 4 August 1942 and 31 July 1944, 28 trains left from this Belgian casern and deported over 25,000 Jews and Romas, most of whom arrived at the extermination camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau. At the end of war, 1240 of them had survived.
Since 1996 a Holocaust museum at the Dossin Casern reminds of its infamous period.
In the summer of 1942, the Nazis made preparations to deport the Jews of the occupier's concept of Belgium, of which about 90 percent lived in the north near Antwerp or centrally at Brussels. Halfway these cities is Mechelen, a city with a major railway hub that ensured easy transport, also for eastern destinations. A track that connected a local freight dock ran along the River Dijle bypass at the inner city's ring road, where the rails passed the iron-barred small windows in military barracks of the Lt. Gen. Baron Dossin de Saint-Georges Casern.[Note 2] The Germans found this location with minor adaptions required ideal for a transit camp in their Endlösung programme.
The three-storey block that completely surrounded a large square yard, became fitted with barbed wire. The camp staff was mostly German, assisted by Belgian auxiliaries of the Algemeene-SS Vlaanderen (General SS Flanders). It was officially under the command of Phillip Schmitt, commandant of the Breendonk prison and transit camp. The acting commandant at Mechelen was SS officer Rudolph Steckmann.
The first group of people arrived in the camp from Antwerp on 27 July 1942. Between August and December 1942, two transports with about 1,000 Jews each left the camp every week for Auschwitz-Birkenau. Between the 4 August 1942 and 31 July 1944, a total of 28 trains left Mechelen for Poland, carrying 24,916 Jews and 351 Roma; most of them went to Auschwitz-Birkenau. This figure represented more than half of the Belgian Jews murdered during the Holocaust. In line with the Nazi horror policy that much later became named the Porajmos (or Samudaripen), 351 Roma were sent to Auschwitz early 1944.
Transports from Mechelen to Auschwitz-Birkenau
Deported people per age (above and below 15 years old) and gender. All were Jewish people, with the exception of Transport Z in 1943.
Transports Date Men Boys Women Girls Total Transport 1 4 August 1942 544 28 403 23 998 Transport 2 11 August 1942 459 25 489 26 999 Transport 3 15 June 1942 380 48 522 50 1000 Transport 4 18 August 1942 339 133 415 112 999 Transport 5 25 August 1942 397 88 429 81 995 Transport 6 29 August 1942 355 60 531 54 1000 Transport 7 1 September 1942 282 163 401 154 1000 Transport 8 10 September 1942 388 111 403 98 1000 Transport 9 12 September 1942 408 91 401 100 1000 Transport 10 15 September 1942 405 132 414 97 1048 Transport 11 26 September 1942 562 231 713 236 1742 Transport 12 10 October 1942 310 135 423 131 999 Transport 13 10 October 1942 228 89 259 99 675 Transport 14 24 October 1942 324 112 438 121 995 Transport 15 24 October 1942 314 30 93 39 476 Transport 16 31 October 1942 686 16 94 27 823 Transport 17 31 October 1942 629 45 169 32 875 Transport 18 15 January 1943 353 105 424 65 947 Transport 19 15 January 1943 239 51 270 52 612 Transport 20 19 April 1943 463 115 699 127 1404 Transport 21 31 July 1943 672 103 707 71 1553 Transport 22a 20 September 1943 291 39 265 36 631 Transport 22b 20 September 1943 305 74 351 64 794 Transport 23 15 January 1944 307 33 293 22 655 Transport Z[Note 3] 15 January 1944 85 91 101 74 351 transport 24 4 April 1944 303 29 275 18 625 transport 25 19 May 1944 237 20 230 21 508 transport 26 31 July 1944 280 15 251 17 563 Total August 1942 – July 1944 10,545 2,212 10,463 2,047 25,267
The Belgian Jewish underground, assisted by the Belgian resistance, derailed several trains carrying Jews from the camp to Auschwitz during 1942–1943. Though most of these people were soon put on the next transports, about 500 Jewish prisoners did manage to escape. At an attempted escape on 19 April 1943, resistance fighters stopped the 20th transport near the train station of Boortmeerbeek, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) south-east of Mechelen. 231 prisoners managed to flee although 90 were eventually recaptured and 26 were shot by train escort guards.
The last transport left on 31 July 1944 but Allied forces could stop it before its destination was reached. When the Allies approached Mechelen by 3 September 1944, the Germans fled the Dossin camp, leaving the 527 remaining prisoners behind. Some remaining prisoners escaped that night and the others were freed on the 4th, though soon replaced with suspected collaborators. From 1948 until it was abandoned in 1975, the casern again lodged Belgian military, mainly trainees.
Memorial and Museum
The Dossin Casern, apart from a wing renovated in the 1980s for civil housing, became the site of the Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance by 1996. In 2001, the Flemish Government decided to expand the institution by a new complex opposite the old barracks; the latter closed in July 2011, and will be a memorial monument. The Kazerne Dossin – Memorial, Museum and Documentation Centre on Holocaust and Human Rights is expected to reopen its doors in Autumn 2012 and its website (in July 2011) already carries this broader name.
- ^ The Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresia of Austria, last of the House of Habsburg, ordered the building of the so-called Hof van Habsburg for an infantry regiment in 1756. Later it became the Belgian Army casern that the Nazis found. A most cynical historical coincidence: apart from the Empress and the Führer sharing their country of birth, the Empress was noted as an anti-Semitic monarch. Also under her reign, a law was passed to take Roma children away from their parents to have them raised in a Catholic family. (Sources: Juden, Austria-Forum. Retrieved 31 July 2011. – Sociology and Ethnology, Rombase. University of Graz. Retrieved 31 July 2011. – See also: section in the WP article on her.)
- ^ In the First World War, the division led by General Emile Dossin had put up a brave defense near the River Yser, including at a place named St.-Georges. In recognition, the general received the title Baron de Saint-Georges. At his death in 1936 a lieutenant-general, the old casern at Mechelen was renamed after him and became colloquially referred to as the Dossin (Casern).
- ^ Z stands for Zigeuner, Roma in German
- ^ a b c d Schram 2006, De raciale deportatie van België naar Auschwitz vanuit Mechelen
- ^ "Kazerne Dossin – History – Dossin barracks: 1942–44". Cicb.be. http://www.cicb.be/en/content/dossin-barracks-1942-44. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
- ^ Mikhman, Gutman & Bender 2005, pp. xxx
- ^ Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. "The Fate of the Jews – Across Europe Murder of the Jews of Western Europe". http://www1.yadvashem.org/yv/en/holocaust/about/09/europe.asp. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
- ^ a b c d Schram 2008, Instigators and Perpetrators
- ^ Schram 2006, De tewerkstelling van degenen die aan de onmiddellijke uitroeiing ontsnappen
- ^ a b "Kazerne Dossin – History – The Transports". Cicb.be. http://www.cicb.be/en/content/transports. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
- ^ "Dossinkazerne (voormalige) (ID: 3617)". De Inventaris van het Bouwkundig Erfgoed. Vlaams Instituut voor het Onroerend Erfgoed (VIOE). http://inventaris.vioe.be/dibe/relict/3617. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
- ^ Mikhman 1998, p. 212
- ^ Steinberg 1979, pp. 53–56
- ^ "Kazerne Dossin (main page of August 2011)" (in Dutch). http://www.kazernedossin.be/. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
- Mikhman, Dan (1998). Belgium and the Holocaust: Jews, Belgians, Germans. Berghahn Books. ISBN 9789653080683.
- Mikhman, Dan; Gutman, Israel; Bender, Sara (2005). The encyclopedia of the Righteous among the Nations: rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust. Belgium. Yad Vashem.
- Steinberg, Maxime (1999). "Malines, antichambre de la mort" (in French). Un pays occupé et ses juifs Belgique entre France et Pays-Bas. Gerpinnes: Quorum. ISBN 9782873990145. http://www.npdoc.be/Steinberg-Maxime/Pays-occupe/Pays-occupe.htm. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
- Schram, Laurence (2006). "De cijfers van de deportatie uit Mechelen naar Auschwitz. Perspectieven en denkpistes" (in Dutch). De Belgische tentoonstelling in Auschwitz. Het boek – L'exposition belge à Auschwitz. Le Livre. Het Joods Museum voor Deportatie en Verzet. ISBN 9789076109039. http://www.npdoc.be/Schram-Laurence/Schram-Laurence.htm. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
- Schram, Laurence (21 February 2008). "The Transit Camp for Jews in Mechelen: The Antechamber of Death". Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence. ISSN 1961-9898. http://www.massviolence.org/The-Transit-Camp-for-Jews-in-Mechelen-The-Antechamber-of. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
- Steinberg, Maxime (1979) (in French). Extermination, sauvetage et résistance des juifs de Belgique. Brussels: Comité d'hommage des Juifs de Belgique à leurs héros et sauveurs.
- Steinberg, Maxime; Ward, Adriaens; Schram, Laurence; Ramet, Patricia; Hautermann, Eric; Marquenie, Ilse (2009). Mecheln-Auschwitz, 1942–1944 – The destruction of the Jews and Gypsies from Belgium. Vol. I-IV. Brussels: VUBPress. ISBN 978-90-548-7537-6.
- Steinberg, Maxime (1981) (in Dutch). 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. Brussel: Steuncomité bij de burgerlijke partij proces tegen SS-Officieren Ehlers, Asche, Canris voor wegvoering der joden van België.
- Steinberg, Maxime; Schram, Laurence (2008) (in French). Transport XX : Malines-Auschwitz. Brussels: Éditions du Musée juif de la déportation et de la Resistance. ISBN 9789054874775.
- Steinberg, Maxime (2004) (in French). La persécution des Juifs en Belgique (1940–1945). Bruxelles: Complexe. ISBN 9782804800260. http://books.google.com/books?id=AbK_QsZLMV0C&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- Van Doorslaer, Rudi (2007) (in French). La Belgique docile : les autorités belges et la persécution des Juifs en Belgique. Brussels: Luc Pire. ISBN 9782874158483.
- Baes, Ruben. "‘La Belgique docile’. Les autorités belges et la persécution des Juifs [The obedient Belgium – The Belgian authorities and the persecution of the Jews]". Centre for Historical Research and Documentation on War And Contemporary Society (CEGES-SOMA). http://www.cegesoma.be/cms/rech_encours_en.php?article=679. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
- The Kazerne Dossin – Memorial, Museum and Documentation Centre on Holocaust and Human Rights web site. (Accessed 31 July 2011)
- This article incorporates text from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and has been released under the GFDL: Mechelen. Holocaust Encyclopedia. (Accessed 31 July 2011).
- "Transport XX Dossin – Boortmeerbeek – Auschwitz 19 – 04 – 1943". http://users.telenet.be/holocaust.bmb/. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
- Laub, Michel (2 March 2011). "Le projet Kazerne Dossin" (in French). Centre Communautaire Laïc Juif. http://www.cclj.be/article/3/1799. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- Related articles by country: Belarus
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