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  1. sniper1946

    sniper1946 Expert

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    Vught was the only official SS concentration camp in occupied Northwest Europe, established in occupied Holland. Construction began in May 1942. The first prisoners arrived at the camp before it was finished at the end of 1942. These prisoners came from the camp in Amersfoort, which the Nazis wanted to give up. The famished and abused prisoners arrived at the railway station in Vught and were marched off along the streets.
    The first commander of the camp was an SS captain named Karl Chmilewski. This SS Officer was well known for the barbaric atrocities he had committed at the camp of Gusen, an sub-camp of Mauthausen. (Mauthausen had a reputation as one of the most brutal Nazi camps). Later, the commanders of the camp were SS officer Grunewald (October 1943) and SS officer Huttig (February 1944).




    Originally, Vught was divided into two sections: the first one (Judendurchgangslager - JDL) was designed to hold the Jewish prisoners before their transit to Germany the transfers were done in two transports: from Vught to Westerbork then from Westerbock to the extermination camps. The pending transfer of Jewish prisoners to Westerbock never created panic: many of the Jews thought that they would stay permanently in Westerbock. They didn't know that Westerbock was just a “waiting room“ before their extermination.
    Conditions in Vught were initially deplorable. Hundreds of prisoners died during the first few months as a result of maltreatment, shortage of clothing, lack of food, polluted water, and various infectious diseases that were rampant in the overcrowded barracks. Many Jewish children were victims of this. After a while conditions improved simply because nearly all the Jews had been deported and so the camp had more space.
    The second section of Vught was designed as a security camp (Schutzhaftlager). This section received all the Dutch and Belgian political prisoners, men and women. The guards were exclusively SS. The food was nearly nonexistent : warm water with some carrots or sauerkraut floating on the surface. The SS guards tortured the prisoners with incredible cruelty beating them to death (several prisoners were brutalized with a club wrapped with barbed wire). The SS often provoked their dogs to attack prisoners and there are several testimonies of horrible wounds, including to genitals. Altogether 749 people lost their lives for various reasons. A large number of them (mostly members of the resistance) were executed in the woods near the camp at the so called “Fusilladeplaats.”


    Two other sections were established in May and August 1943: the “Frauenkonzentrationslager” (FKL) for women and the “Polizeiliches Durchgangslager” (PDL) for prisoners in detention, mostly for a short period.
    Like any other Nazi concentration camp, Vught had its own gallows and crematorium. In September 1943, the gallows was used for the executions of 20 Belgian prisoners. There were several convoy from Vught to the major camps located in Germany and Poland: i.e. in June 1943, hundreds of Jewish children were sent to Sobibor extermination camp. There were also transportation of Jews to death camps in November 1943 and June 1944. In July, as the Allied forces approached, the number of executions increased dramatically.


    More than 30,000 people passed through the gates of the camp in the 18 months efore the allied forces arrived. After D-day, June 6, 1944, the Germans wanted to clear the camp as fast as possible. Most of the women were transported to the concentration camp in Ravensbrück, and the men to Sachsenhausen. On September 5-6, 1944,Vught was practically evacuated. It wasn’t until October 26-27, 1944, that Vught was liberated.
    The 4th Canadian Armor Division, and the 96 Th Battery of the 5th Anti -Tank Division were the first in liberating Vught concentration Camp. The Canadians troops came over the hill right up to the wall fighting the Germans. The Germans were evacuation from the camp and left a rear guard action to fight the allies. They were fighting and running at the same time. As you entered the camp into a courtyard there were 500 bodies laying in a pile that these poor people were just executed that morning. They were just thrown in a pile. There were around 500-600 live prisoners left who had been set up for execution that afternoon, but, the Canadian's arrived instead so they were spared. The people were in the most horrible condition, starving to death, ill, and very badly mistreated. When the Canadian's arrived they were standing around in the courtyard. Not in any barracks just standing around while the fighting was going on.
    Directly after the liberation, the buildings of the camp were used as an “internment camp” to shut away the “bad” Dutch collaborators. There were also 6.000 evacuated Germans forced to stay in the camp until May 1945. The Canadian Army also utilized of the camp. The internment camp existed until 1949. The former camp location is now occupied by a penitentiary.
    In April 1990, the National Monument Camp Vught was opened by H.M. Queen Beatrix. The museum is located at Lunettenlaan 600, Vught, Holland. There is also a permanent exhibition about the “Kamp Vught” in the “Vughts Historish Museum”, Taalstraat 88a, Vught.

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  2. sonofacameron

    sonofacameron Member

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    "The 4th Canadian Armor Division, and the 96 Th Battery of the 5th Anti -Tank Division were the first in liberating Vught concentration Camp. The Canadians troops came over the hill right up to the wall fighting the Germans. The Germans were evacuation from the camp and left a rear guard action to fight the allies. They were fighting and running at the same time. As you entered the camp into a courtyard there were 500 bodies laying in a pile that these poor people were just executed that morning. They were just thrown in a pile. There were around 500-600 live prisoners left who had been set up for execution that afternoon, but, the Canadian's arrived instead so they were spared. The people were in the most horrible condition, starving to death, ill, and very badly mistreated. When the Canadian's arrived they were standing around in the courtyard. Not in any barracks just standing around while the fighting was going on".

    Where did you get this information? It is totally wrong, there were no Canadians in Vught until November 1944, the first Canadians being a Medical unit. Kamp Vught was first entered by 5th battalion Queens Own Cameron Highlanders, 51st Highland Division. My Father being one of the first soldiers through the fence.
    51st Highland Division was fighting under command of the Canadian army at the time. The town of Vught was liberated by 7th Black Watch, 154th brigade, 51st Highland Division. Operations for that area of Holland began 23rd October 1944, Operation Colin, the liberation of Vught being part of operation Pheasant, a sub-operation of Colin.
     

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  3. sniper1946

    sniper1946 Expert

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  4. sonofacameron

    sonofacameron Member

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    I have been trying for some time to get those sites corrected. I have been to Kamp Vught and the Fusilaadeplaats several times, I accompany a Cameron Vet (He also remembers the finding of and entering the camp) every year to lay a wreath on 4th May at the silent commemoration service there. There is no Hill there, there was no wall in 1944, that was built when when it was turned into a high security prison. I am pretty sure that the Canadians were at Westerbork or Amersfoort.
    Not surprising that there are so many errors in History books when things/statements are taken at face value then repeated.
     
  5. sniper1946

    sniper1946 Expert

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    Westerbork may have been a point of confusion? but that was not liberated by the canadians until april 45? 6 mths apart..
     
  6. PizzaDevil

    PizzaDevil Member

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    I've been there too, there was only a hill at the fusiladeplaats, but no where else .. shame they've build a pirson there bytheway.. The guard towers are also lowered because of that..
     
  7. sonofacameron

    sonofacameron Member

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    4th Armoured div at the time was engaged in fighting to clear the Scheldt, walcheren, Beveland areas.
     
  8. sniper1946

    sniper1946 Expert

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    having written to the holocaust museum, regarding the confusion of vught camp, here is the brief response...

    Hi Ray,

    According to the "Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos," Vught (as the Dutch called it) or Herzogenbusch (as the Germans called it) was not actually liberated by either army. It was evacuated before the arrival of any Allied troops. I have attached the section on Herzogenbusch/Vught from the Encyclopedia. If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to contact me directly.

    Jonathan Hartnett, Library
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW
    Washington DC 20024-2126
     
  9. sonofacameron

    sonofacameron Member

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    The camp, to all intents and purposes, was abandoned by the Germans in September 1944. 5th Camerons (my Father included) were pursuing the Germans through the woods when they came across the camp. They chased the Germans through the camp, killing some. The camp still had a few unfortunates residing there, as they had nowhere else to go. One area of the camp was used for recycling metals etc. from salvaged crashed aircraft, sorted into different metals, electrics and controls etc. obviously by the inmates.
    I have met, on several occasions, a ex inmate, a Belgian resistance fighter who was interred there. When he first met My Father, in about 2003, His first words were, you the scotsmen who came here in 1944.

    I am, and have been in contact with Jeroen van den Eijnde, he is responsible for and runs 'Kamp Vught'. He always makes myself (my Father when he was alive) and veteran Richard Massey welcome at the commemoration service at the camp every year. I have some video of the camp and the fusilaade plaats on my website videopage
     
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  10. sniper1946

    sniper1946 Expert

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    may 45 when camp was actually liberated, according to the the above, in the pdf he sent to me...
     
  11. sniper1946

    sniper1946 Expert

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    Hey Ray,

    I sent an email to the Nationaal Monument Kamp Vught. I will let you know what they say. You may also want to look into part of Operation Market Garden known as Operation Pheasant. This may help you find out who were the first to enter the camp.

    Jonathan Hartnett, Library
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW
    Washington DC 20024-2126
     
  12. sonofacameron

    sonofacameron Member

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    Operation Pheasant was a smaller operation within "Operation Colin". Operation Colin began 23rd October, and would last until 1st November 1944. Operation Colin was to clear the Brabant area of Holland. In 1994 & 2004, in Vught, for the 50th & 60th anniversaries, 51st HD Veterans were all presented, by the burgermeester of Vught, with a Tie and commemorative medal depicting a map of Colin one side and a Pheasant on the other. Attached pics of medal. The above presentations are covered on my website at;Queens Own cameron Highlanders, Keep 'em Moving page23
     

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  13. sniper1946

    sniper1946 Expert

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    thanks for adding, lets wait to see what comes back...
     
  14. sonofacameron

    sonofacameron Member

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    I do not need to, as I have spoken to several vets, especially my late Father but also the first officer to enter, Eric Mainwaring MC. who lives in Canada. I have a letter from him somewhere, describing what he found there after being called forward after the duty boys had entered.
     
  15. sniper1946

    sniper1946 Expert

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    I wasn't questioning your answer, I was just saying! lets see what they say....
     
  16. Kurgan

    Kurgan Member

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    Hi there, I came across this thread and it caught my interest (I live near Vught, that's why :))...

    It seems that the information on the Dutch camp archives site (an initiative of the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD)) has it wrong as well than: Camp Vught - Kamparchieven

    At the end it says:
    "Under pressure of the Allied advance, the camp was hastily evacuated by the occupying forces at the beginning of September 1944. Some 3,500 prisoners were quickly put on a transport to Germany, while the camp command sought a safe refuge. The Canadians entered the camp on 26 October 1944."

    And there's also no mentioning of people who staid in the camp (although I can imagine that some had no place to go to so chose to stay).

    I did find this article (unfortunately in Dutch) about one of the hostages that remained in the camp after the evacuation, September 5th and how lucky they were to be released (September 17th 1944) and not transported (back) to Germany:

    http://files.archieven.nl/298/f/250g/VGH-250G-956.pdf

    If you're interested I can translate it to English.

    My respect goes to your father Sonofacameron for having helped in liberating my country from the nazis!

    And it seems some adjustments need to be made to different sites about this event (who arrived in camp Vught first).

    Regards,

    Kurgan
     
  17. Kurgan

    Kurgan Member

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    Ok, I got a little bit carried away I guess, but I liked to share this with you:

    http://files.archieven.nl/298/f/250g/VGH-250G-956.pdf

    The relation between Market Garden and the release of the remaining hostages and prisoners from Vught. Here's the translation (I had some trouble with some Dutch expressions but hopefully it's understandable ;)) :

    One year ago…
    17 september 1944 in the camp of Vught
    Release came as a surprise (from a reporter)

    Yesterday we have remembered the great airborne operation at Arnhem from one year ago. The offer of the First Airborn Division meant the first big strike at the liberation of Holland above the rivers. But for a group of prisoners and hostages in infamous camp Vught who were waiting for transport via equally infamous Amersfoort to Germany these skyknights brought the gift of a sudden release from the hold of their stunned jailers.
    Vught was in main point already evacuated. When we, the hostages from “Beekvliet” en “Den Ruwenberg” in Sint-Michielsgestel, the 6th of September 1944 arrived, we just saw the tail of the last great prison-transport to Germany being loaded in horsecarts. We waited ten days for things to come. The “Beekvlieters” were successively released, the “Ruwenbergers”, they were the so-called “Dutch Indies hostages”, even though many of them never had seen the Dutch Indies, remained behind. We would be “exchanged”. But we had heard that fairy tale already for years.
    On Saturday September the 16th orders came from The Hague. On transport to Amersfoort, by train. In those days the Spitfires shot everything on wheels off the road and off the tracks. And even the Dutch SS men, who had to accompany us, didn’t feel like a bit for it. Nonetheless. Befehl ist Befehl! And in the afternoon at 4 o’clock we had to fall in with our small suitcases on the big sandplate of camp Vught. At nine o’clock that evening we still stood there…
    Contra-orders. Dismissed, to the barracks, but not to bed, because we would be transported at night in two horsecarts for our 200 men. We were in for something. As herrings in a soldered cask. Not pleasant if the boys from the RAF would notice that little train. If they only would come here. With 200 paratroopers they would be able to free the camp in no time. No such luck!
    Half past eleven. In the south lies a faint red glow in the nightsky. There’s fighting over there. Where? Belgium, Brabant? How close, how far away? We don’t know. But we hope, so enormously, that water gets in the mouth. There is not much time to lose. Soon they take us away north and than our chances are gone.
    A quarter to twelve. Choo-choo. Through the night rides a small train. Our train. Game over. We wait, but nothing happens. Congratulations, every hour delay is gain.
    One o'clock! Again the train moves, but the sound becomes weaker. It disappears. Without us. Are we lucky! Afterwards it seems that the greed of the SS saved us. There were still some things to pillage in Vught, the electric kitcheninstallations, sanitary fittings from the bathrooms, and the storages from the kitchencellars. First those things and than the people. Never did we bless rapacity that much.
    The night passes with only a rocketbomb strike in the area. But what’s that of use for us? A sunny Sundaymorning arrives and finds us hung over and unshaved between our suitcases. We walk behind the barb wire from here to there in the cold. As caged icebears. How further?
    Ten o’clock. New orders. This afternoon at 4 o’clock with busses to Den Bosch, and this night via train to Amersfoort. In the south it has become quiet. Where were the English, why didn’t they hurry a bit more? Low spirited we hang around. In the air it’s busy. English fighters circle above the camp. But we are used to that. Here and there they shoot at some rolling material. There is still a chance for us. What if the trainstation of Den Bosch was bombed to kingdom come? One is selfish under these circumstances…
    Afternoon. Porridge for lunch. But we aren’t very hungry. One o’clock. The orders are repeated. At 4 o’clock start. It’s silent now in the air. Sunday afternoon siesta, even for the RAF. Damn them!
    Two o’clock. In the West something can be heard. Bombers. But that is nothing special. They fly over every day on their way to Germany. There they go. Easy does it, low flying, beautiful in formation. Passed. Over there another formation can be seen. And yet another one. That’s gonna be heavy weather for Moffrika [Mof=Dutch derogatory term for a German]. We’re looking. Routine work. It won’t help us, at least not directly. And that’s what it is all about at the moment. But what is that? Do you see that, is it…do you see…but those are gliders, you can see the cables with which they are being towed, gliders, gliders! But that means a landing, that means they’re coming to get us, that they come to liberate us. A cry echoes throughout the camp and tears appear in our eyes. Hello boys, here, here we are, good old RAF. Quick, for Gods sake, you’re just in time, in the nick of time.
    From the main building far away, shots are fired. At us, because we are waving like madmen. But nobody notices. Stately, majestically almost, the magnificent airarmada flies over us. We can see the pilots in their planes. And behind the forestridge, in the direction of Den Bosch they disappear, they descend, at least, that’s what we think. For us, because of us! Something else we cannot grasp!
    Three o’clock. The last squadron has passed over. We tremble in excitement. From the main building the German commander runs in our direction. He is pale like a corpse. Line up in the barracks. Instructions from The Hague. "Die Herren – that’s us, we’ve suddenly been promoted to gentlemen! – Die Herren sind entlassen. Und jetzt weg, schnell weg, wir müssen auch weg. Sofort." [translates: The gentlemen are released. And now leave, leave quickly, we have to leave as well. Immediately.] No papers. No time. Schnell.
    He doesn’t have to say that twice. What if they got second thoughts? The hostage community of four years shared sorrow bursts apart. Dissolved, the nomadic prison that went from Buchenwald to Haren, from Haren to Beekvliet, from Beekvliet to the Ruwenberg, from the Ruwenberg to Vught and almost from Vught to Amersfoort and from Amersfoort back to the cursed Third Reich.
    Away, away. Farewell buddy. Until we see each other on the barricades.
    Away, to freedom with new hope in our heart and a sob of gratitude for the First Airborn Division who would sanctify our ground in Arnhem with her blood…
     
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  18. Kurgan

    Kurgan Member

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    Oh, and one last thing...this site has it correct: Concentration Camp Vught
    It also explains that there were still some people left (caretakers)!

    Last lines:

    The liberation of the province of Brabant, and consequently also of the town of Vught, was included in operation "Market Garden". That particular action was code-named "Operation Pheasant". In her booklet Kamp Vught, de laatste maanden - 6 juni - 26 oktober 1944 - Camp Vught, the last months - 6 June - 26 October 1944, author Winanda de Vroe details how the Allied forces came upon the vacated camp.

    On page 32 she writes "Late in the evening of the 26th of October, the English had broken through to the deserted concentration camp of Vught. The grim watch-towers, barbed wire enclosures and in particular the view of the crematorium and gallows, made an ominous and deterrent influence on the liberators. Concentration camp Vught was liberated, but only a few people were present to really enjoy their freedom. Waiting for the liberators was a small contingent of caretakers, made up of a group of men from the town of Vught who had been detailed there since the 22nd of September. The group fell under the leadership of nurse Hulsman, who made it clear that she represented the Red Cross, and Jan van de Mortel (reference, the book Vught in de Tweede Wereldoorlog - Vught in the Second World War). Konzentrationslager Herzogenbusch - Concentration camp Vught had officially ceased to exist as of the 14th of September 1944.
     
  19. sonofacameron

    sonofacameron Member

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    Good post Kurgan.
    The Beekvliet hostages were being held in the "German Building" at Beekvliet. My Father received his medal from Montgomery in another part of the buildings. It was originally a seminar for trainee Monks. The attached aerial photo shows the "German Building" which was a Prison/ Interrogation centre for suspected Political, resistance and any other undesirable, it is the dark building added by the Germans, (I think it was 1942/43) to top right corner of the Photograph. The building to top left with long light roof was where Montgomery held the Investiture. The other photo was taken at the front of the building, where the circle is, in 2005, my Father and Richard Massey.
     

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  20. Kurgan

    Kurgan Member

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    Thanks for the extra information and the photographs, sonofacameron!
    All these little details get me more interested in the region where I live and what happened during WW2.

    Still, I like to hear what sniper1946 gets for an answer about Vught (at least: we know what it should be)!
     

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