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‘Unimaginable suffering’: Museum opens at infamous Nazi camp in heart of Holland

47,000 people were imprisoned at Camp Amersfoort, including hundreds of Jews who were later sent to death camps in Poland

Students explore Camp Amersfoort in the Netherlands, April 19, 2021. (Mike Bink/National Monument Kamp Amersfoort, via JTA)
Students explore Camp Amersfoort in the Netherlands, April 19, 2021. (Mike Bink/National Monument Kamp Amersfoort, via JTA)

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte inaugurated a museum on the former grounds of one of The Netherlands’ most infamous Nazi camps 80 years after its construction.

National Monument Camp Amersfoort is a large, underground, dark space dominated by the portraits and personal stories of about 47,000 people who were imprisoned at the facility in the center of the Netherlands. Touch screens allow visitors to look up former prisoners and read more about their stories.

At least 850 of the prisoners at Camp Amersfoort were Jews, according to Nazi documents, though the real number is probably much higher, the museum’s website states.

The Jewish prisoners were imprisoned briefly along with communists, dissidents, homosexuals and those who tried to evade forced labor. But Jewish prisoners were shipped within a few weeks at most to Westerbork, a facility in the eastern Netherlands where mostly Jews were imprisoned, and from there to death camps in Poland.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (Bart Maat / ANP / AFP)

“We are confronted here by the unimaginable suffering that happened in the place,” Rutte said at the opening, which only had a handful of guests due to COVID-19 restrictions. “We let the stories sink in and we learn from the lessons they offer to us today.”

An annual commemoration takes place at the former grounds of the camp, which was built in 1941. At the 2019 event, Jewish and non-Jewish relatives of victims sang the lullaby “Durme Durme” (“Sleep Sleep”) in Ladino while holding up pictures of their murdered loved ones.

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