The Prisoners of Breendonk: Personal Histories from a World War II Concentration Camp

The Prisoners of Breendonk: Personal Histories from a World War II Concentration Camp

by James M. Deem


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The Prisoners of Breendonk: Personal Histories from a World War II Concentration Camp by James M. Deem

Fort Breendonk was built in the early 1900s to protect Antwerp, Belgium, from possible German invasion. Damaged at the start of World War I, it fell into disrepair . . . until the Nazis took it over after their invasion of Belgium in 1940. Never designated an official concentration camp by the SS and instead labeled a "reception" camp where prisoners were held until they were either released or transported, Breendonk was no less brutal. About 3,600 prisoners were held there--just over half of them survived. As one prisoner put it, "I would prefer to spend nineteen months at Buchenwald than nineteen days at Breendonk."

With access to the camp and its archives and with rare photos and artwork, James M. Deem pieces together the story of the camp by telling the stories of its victims--Jews, communists, resistance fighters, and common criminals--for the first time in an English-language publication. Leon Nolis's haunting photography of the camp today accompanies the wide range of archival images.

The story of Breendonk is one you will never forget.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544096646
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 08/04/2015
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 861,872
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.01(d)
Lexile: 1100L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

James M. Deem is the author of numerous books for young readers, including 3 NB of Julian Drew, Bodies from the Ice: Melting Glaciers and the Rediscovery of the Past, and Faces From the Past. Mr. Deem lives outside of Phoenix, Arizona.

Table of Contents

Map of Belgium during World War II vi

Definitions of Terms Used in This Book ix

Introduction xii

The First Prisoners: September-December 1940

1 The Arrest of Israel Neumann 8

2 Building Breendonk 15

3 Facing the Wall 24

4 The First Prisoners of Room 1 34

5 The Artist of Room 1 42

6 Watching the Prisoners 47

7 The Zugfuhrer of Room 1 53

8 A Day at Breendonk 59

The First Deaths: January-June 1941

9 Changes 72

10 The First Escape 77

11 Despair 84

12 A Picture-Perfect Camp 91

Camp of the Creeping Death: June 1941-June 1942

13 Operation Solstice 100

14 Prisoner Number 59 105

15 A Substitution 111

16 The Rivals 117

17 The Plant Eaters 124

18 My 24, 1941 133

19 The Hell of Breendonk 139

20 The First Transport 146

21 A Temporary Lull 152

A Second Camp: July-August 1942

22 The Sammellager in Mechelen 162

23 Transport II to Auschwitz-Birkenau 171

Camp of Terror: September 1942-April 1944

24 The Postal Workers of Brussels 188

25 The First Executions 198

26 The Arrestanten 204

27 The Bunker 213

28 January 6,1943 223

29 The Winter of 1942-43 229

30 Transport XX 235

31 The Chaplain of the Executions 242

32 Two Heroes of Breendonk 248

33 The Twelve from Senzeilles 253

The Many Endings of Auffanglager Breendonk: May 1944-May 1945

34 Evacuating Breendonk 261

35 Journey from Mauthausen 267

36 End of the Supermen 273

37 The Final Transport from Neuengamme 280

After the War: 1945-Present

38 The War Crimes Trials 290

39 The Final Death 298

40 Breendonk Today 303

Afterword: What Happened to Some Breendonk Prisoners and Their Families 312


1 Main Deportations from Auffangtager Breendonk 319

2 Deportations from SS-Sammellager Mechelen 320

Quotation Sources 321

Bibliography 327

Acknowledgments 332

Illustration Credits 335

Index 337

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