I had the opportunity to visit the memorialized transit camp, Kamp Westerbork, on March 22nd. It is located n Hooghalen, Netherlands which is about 45km from Groningen. There were four of us that went – my mentor Hedwig, the other international student she mentors who is from Germany, and a girl from Sweden. We took a train to the city Assen, from there we rented bikes and cycled the remaining 10km to the camp. The Netherlands is known for being windy, hence the windmills, and that day was no exception. It was very windy while we were cycling which made it quite the workout. Then the weather took a turn and it started pouring down rain, we toughed it out for a minute until the hail started coming down so we ran for shelter under a tree.
I got a kick out of this, all part of the adventure right?
Once the hail subsided we conquered the remainder of our trek to the camp. We went into the museum and enjoyed their café with some warm drinks while we dried off. I had the best hot cocoa I’ve had in a long time in that cute little café. The museum itself is rather small, but very well done. There’s still a lot to see and more to learn. Kamp Westerbork was a transit camp, meaning that’s where people were sent before the actual concentration or labor camps. Anne Frank and her family were sent here after they were captured in Amsterdam, before she was sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where she sadly perished. Much to my surprise, Westerbork was made to be rather pleasant. They had a school, a hospital, people were able to get married and have children. A manipulation tactic as I see it, since most of the people who were sent here didn’t know they were soon going to be sent to death camps. The museum gives you the opportunity to see letters and postcards prisoners had written to their loved ones inviting them to the “work camps” they would soon be going to. Not knowing the true state of those camps. There were a lot of very interesting exhibits in the museum…
The exhibits are all done in Dutch, but most them offer these drawers you can pull out to read about them in English
What prisoners were able to bring with them
This gives you an idea of what the barracks looked like
Map of Hitler’s reign
Where prisoners were sent from Westerbork
Map of Kamp Westerbork
To give you an idea of what the Warsaw Ghetto looked like after destruction
2km outside of the museum is where the actual transit camp was. We rode our bikes to the site and noticed along the road signs which informed you how many people were deported from Westerbork to Auschwitz on a given day. Some days there were 500-700, other days there were over 2,000. To my understanding, everything was demolished from the camp after the war, as the land was used for other things afterwards. But you can still walk around and see where the barracks were, what each barracks was for, and part of the railroad tracks leading in to the camp.
Neat monument for the prisoners, each stone is for a person who was sent to a concentration camp
As I’ve said before, I have such a passion to learn about this period of time. Kamp Westerbork was the first real Holocaust memorial I have had the opportunity to see, so it was a really great experience for me. It was especially great to be accompanied by people with such knowledge about the Holocaust. I was honestly surprised to hear that in Germany it is mandatory to learn about The Holocaust in school, as well as to visit concentration camps. I had been under the impression it was a taboo subject, but was definitely proven wrong.
Thank you, Michael, for informing me about this place; I probably wouldn’t have known about it otherwise!
“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.” -Hilaire Belloc