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.