Herzogenbusch Concentration Camp

Vught, Netherlands

During World War II, Nazi Germany occupied the Netherlands (1940–1945). The Nazis transported Jewish and other prisoners from the Netherlands via the transit camps Amersfoort and Westerbork to concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. When Amersfoort and Westerbork appeared to be too small to handle the large amount 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 an 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. When the camp was liberated in September 1944, by the 4th Canadian Armored Division and the 96th Battery of the 5th Anti-Tank Division, the camp was almost deserted.

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.

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: Swastikas 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 about the camp, a Dutch military base called Van Brederodekazerne, a neighbourhood of Maluku refugees, and a high security prison called Nieuw Vosseveld. Still, parts of the old camp remain. Central to the prison, the Bunker Tragedy bunker still stands. Large parts of the southern camp buildings are now used by the Dutch military, including the former SS Barracks that is shaped like a German cross.

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