Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A postcard

this is whats written on this postcard in dutch: "Dear Jo. Now that I am still here I am sending you my greetings. Since 2 days i am in Drenthe, and tomorrow the journey continues. I am in good spirits, and the hope to be able to soon be with my fiance, gives me strength. Jo, I hope that you, [the remainder is on the other side of the card] your fiance, and your dear parents will get through all this in good health. Once more my warm greetings, your loving friend Trude."
just an ordinary postcard a young woman sent to her friend, if you read it without knowing anything else (in dutch it does sound a little less pressing than how i managed to translate it into english). however, it was sent by a woman that the next day, together with some 1000 others, would be placed in a cargo train from detention camp Westerbork in the dutch province of drenthe to a concentration camp in either poland or germany.
we visited this place last week. nowadays, not much is left from it. from the parking lot, it is a 3 km (1.8 miles) walk to the camp. the paved path leads you through a beautiful forest on one side (thats where yesterdays picture was taken), and heath and marshland on the other. with every step i wondered how we could enjoy so much beauty around us, while we were going to such a horrible place. as it was a transit camp, rather than a work or death camp, it was organised very differently from other concentration camps: it was set up like a miniature city, with a café, offices, a registry, a canteen, kindergarten, and hospital; some people even got married there. this deceptive "normalness" explains the tone of the above postcard, but made me even more aware of the atrocities human beings are capable of; almost every tuesday, a cargo train left for concentration camps in germany or poland. of the 107,000 people who passed through this camp between 1942 and 1945, only 5,200 survived.


Tim said...

Although I was already quite conscious of the terrible details of this war, the unbearable sadness that comes over you can not be gleaned from any media.

You can read about all the methods, the horrific, mind-boggling numbers, the incredible efficiency of it all, it will not prepare you for a visit to such a place.

They are currently exhibiting the story about a 9 year old boy who lived in Westerbork for a time. He had his "Saint Nicolaas" party there, during which he received a roll of peppermint. He wrote a letter to thank the Saint in which he expressed his hopes for a new train. He was a normal boy in every regard, including the fact that he was Jewish. I saw some drawings he made of his life before the war. He was murdered at the age of nine, after a strenuous journey to a far-away place. His innocence is as palpable as the disgusting practices that took place, and what I did not know before is that the Nazis also deceived them greatly. They promised that everything would be okay until the very end. Too late did the Jews realize the unthinkable. In faith of a good outcome they boarded the trains like lambs to the slaughter.

biebkriebels said...

This is such a sad place. We came by once, parked the car walked into the visitors centre and felt both so miserable, we couldn't even make the tour through the wood anymore. SC's grandparents have been there and never returned. I think there is an atmosphere of dispair and death hanging there.

Kay said...

It is heartbreaking to hear and understand these stories at the distance we are from the U.S. To be there where it was lived would be terribly painful. I'm ashamed that the U.S. refused to allow entry visas to Jews. The crime of complicity does not fade with history despite the more positive role our military eventually played.