Dutch commemorate liberation of Westerbork

12th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

12 April 2005, AMSTERDAM — The liberation by Canadian troops of Westerbork transit camp from the Nazis 60 years ago was commemorated in the Netherlands on Tuesday.

12 April 2005

AMSTERDAM — The liberation by Canadian troops of Westerbork transit camp from the Nazis 60 years ago was commemorated in the Netherlands on Tuesday.

Thousands of people were taking part in an afternoon silent march to the National Monument Westerbork after camp survivors read stories relating to their ordeal in the village of Hooghalen in the north-east of the country.

School children and other members of the public joined 168 camp survivors and three hundred relatives for the commemoration in the Drenthe village, news agency ANP reported.

Former cabinet minister and mayor of Amsterdam Ed van Thijn was to present a 'contemplation' at the camp, having been liberated there at the age of 11.

The commemorative programme at the camp will also include music and poetry, the Kaddish will be recited and the Last Post will be played.

In addition, the Westerbork Camp Memorial Centre was holding a special reunion after the remembrance ceremony for former camp prisoners, descendants and relatives.

Westerbork was a transit camp during World War II and an estimated 107,000 Jews, 245 gypsies and several dozen resistance fighters passed through the camp between 1942-45. They were transported to death camps Sobibor and Auschwitz in Poland. An estimated 102,000 Dutch Jews died in WWII.

Camp residents lived from week to week, from Tuesday to Tuesday, because a train departed almost every week on that day. Goods train carriages carrying about a 1,000 detainees each left for the east on a journey most prisoners never returned from.

One of the survivors, Fred Mouw, was seven when he was taken to the camp and he clearly remembers 'Tuesday angst'. It was the last few months of the war and no more trains departed for the extermination camps, but he said the fear remained, news service 'NOS' reported.

The first trains departed from Westerbork on 15 and 16 July 1942 with 2,030 Jews to an unknown destination in the east of Europe. The trains initially ran without a strict schedule to death and work camps, but from February 1943, Tuesday became 'transport day'.

The last train left for Bergen-Belsen on 13 September 1944. It was carrying 279 people, including 77 children arrested at a safe house.
The selection of those who were to be deported was the responsibility of the camp commandant, who passed this task onto the Jewish Council at the camp. The camp 'elite' lived in separate housing and were later accused of perpetrating 'treason' by selecting which of their co-victims were to be deported.

Anyone put to work in the camp were spared and many Jews volunteered as surgeon, doctor, dentist or nurse in the camp hospital. Teachers were also spared deportation because school continued as normal at the camp.

There was also a need for course and sports instructors and there was a warehouse and a canteen where only 'Westerbork money' could be used. Real money was exchanged for camp money at a special exchange office.

Shortly before the camp was liberated, the remaining 876 detainees could hear canon fire on 10 and 11 April as the Allied troops approached. A day later, Canadian soldiers with white flags entered the camp without resistance. The SS guards had escaped prior to its liberation.

Detainees were forced to remain in the camp until 5 May until the liberation of all of the Netherlands from Nazi troops. That date is the nation's annual Liberation Day, which is preceded by by Remembrance Day on 4 May.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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