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Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Jews who paid for their own WWII prison

Westerbork, Holland, Lighting of Hanukkah candles in the camp.A Jewish inmate, Rudolf Werner Breslauer, who enjoyed good relations with camp commandant Gemmeker, prepared this album, probably in early 1943.Belongs to collection:Yad Vashem Photo Archive.

Radio Netherlands:The Jews who paid for their own WWII prison.(AD). What was daily life in Westerbork concentration camp like? To find this out archaeologists are excavating the rubbish dump of the WWII Nazi detention and transit camp for Jews in the north east of the Netherlands.
Micha Schliesser is one of the Jews who survived the camp. Seeing all the recovered personal belongings brings back memories. I can't imagine my mother without her perfume bottle. She would have taken that with her. At first I thought it was an insane and stupid idea, but now I think there should be a permanent collection. Micha Schliesser was a baby only one and a half years old when his parents were moved to Westerbork concentration camp. He was one of the first Jews to live there.Number 128. My father was number 127, so I must have been 128. Both he and his parents survived the holocaust.The excavation of the personal belongings of the people in the camp brings back many memories - especially the display case with round spectacles and combs.It almost makes me cry. The people who left these things behind were alive. Four days later they were most likely dead.


Schliesser visits schools to teach the new generation about the holocaust. The excavated personal possessions bring to life what it was like in Camp Westerbork. Not much has survived of the transit camp, where 107,000 Jews stayed before being transported to German extermination camps.
In 1939, before the Second World War broke out in the Netherlands, Micha Schliesser and his parents came to the country as refugees. They were on their way to the United States. Although their visa was almost complete, they were picked up at the Dutch border and sent to barracks in Amsterdam. Schliesser's father was asked whether he and his family would 'voluntarily' go to Westerbork to help build the Jewish refugee camp.

Queen Wilhelmina

The Dutch government built the Westerbork refugee camp in 1939 in the north east of the Netherlands. The original location on the Veluwe in the eastern province of Gelderland was too close to the home of the Dutch royal family. Queen Wilhelmina refused to have a camp 15 kilometres from Palace 't Loo.The government didn't want to put any money towards the refugee camp. Therefore the Jewish community was asked to pay. So we paid for our own prison, sighs Schliesser.
After 70 years we're back to where we started, according to Schliesser. He can get very angry about the current Dutch government deporting people who came here as a young child.I would like those politicians to experience being stateless and not having a passport for protection for a year. What would they feel like then? Following the German invasion in May 1940, an attempt was made to evacuate the Jewish refugees to England. They didn't get very far. After deliberation with the Jewish community, the Dutch government decided the refugees should return to Camp Westerbork. Schliesser's father didn't want to flee, go into hiding or remain in Amsterdam illegally. In that respect my father was typically German. So the family returned to Westerbork. They didn't have much choice, says Schliesser:If you asked a farmer in the neighbourhood for help, he would pretend to help, but then return you to the camp the next day. He would receive two and a half guilders for doing so.Hmmmm...........“For how would a man benefit to gain the whole world but destroy his soul or lose it?”~ Luke 9:25.Read the full story here.

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