A visit to Westerbork, a Nazi transit camp in the northeast province of Drenthe in the Netherlands, is a moving experience. It is heart-rending to see the reality of this camp. Lionel and Tania took me to the location of this notorious transit camp, originally built in 1939 to house refugees. After the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1942, the occupying forces used it to house foreign and stateless Jews before transporting them by train to Auschwitz and other extermination camps.
The museum gives one a broad picture of life in the camp. Besides wall mountings, the unique displays feature different objects, photos, clothes, letters, and more stacked in old suitcases and cupboards throughout the building. Ironically, the camp housed a church, a theater, a school, an orchestra, a hairdresser, and a toy-making workshop.
These activities gave the people false hope for survival and a new life and minimized problems when the time came for embarkation on the trains.
One can take a bus to see the 119 square acre terrain where the buildings and grounds used to be. There are even live videos at different points of interest.
The camp commander’s house, enclosed by an enormous glass case, has been preserved. There were 200 interconnected cottages housing Jewish families while single persons stayed in barracks.
There is a memorial to the inmates, consisting of 102,000 stones, each representing a person who was deported from Westerbork only to perish in another camp. Visitors have added some photos of the victims and a few flowers.
The last train departed from Westerbork for Auschwitz on 3 September, 1944. Canadian forces liberated the last 876 inmates on 12 April, 1945. The entire experience certainly makes one ponder the ‘inhumanity of man against man.’