Millions of people suffered and died in camps, ghettos, and other sites during the Holocaust. The Nazis and their allies oversaw more than 42,000 camps, ghettos, and other sites of detention, persecution, forced labor, and murder. Among them were the subcamps of Herzogenbusch.
This subcamp, located in the former Police Transit Camp Amersfoort (Polizeiliches Durchgangslager Amersfoort, or PDA), existed only for a very short time, from May to July 1943. Its beginning implied the reopening of the PDA, which had been closed since January 1943. About 70 prisoners from the Jewish transit camp (Judendurchgangslager) and about 600 prisoners from the Durchgangslager Westerbork were put to work here. On behalf of the Luftwaffe, which had an air base close to the PDA, they had to work on the expansion of the shooting range. After about four weeks, the prisoners were sent back to their original camps, and other, non- Jewish, prisoners entered the camp.
Arnheim (Arnhem) was in operation as a subcamp from July to August 1943 and from January to September 1944.
In the first period of this Kommando, Jewish prisoners had to expand rifle ranges for Waffen-SS troops, who were quartered in the neighborhood and who supervised these works. The prisoners stayed in the Coehoornkazerne, a former barracks of the Dutch army.
In the second period, approximately 30 prisoners stayed in the Saxen Weimarkazerne (also a former barracks of the Dutch army). They had to do various works in order to expand the Luftwaffe air base Deelen. A Luftwaffe construction unit (Bauleitung) supervised these works.
In the Eindhoven subcamp, which existed from September 1943 to June 1944, prisoners were put to work for the construction of a new Luftwaffe air base, called Welschap. They worked under the supervision of a Luftwaffe construction unit (Bauleitung).
In Haaren, prisoners were put up in the prison of the German police and in a hostage camp (Geisellager), which was located in the former seminary, between January 1943 and September 1944. Prisoners had to execute various administrative tasks on behalf of the German police system.
Herzogenbusch (Continental Gummiwerke AG)
This subcamp, which existed from December 1943 to September 1944, was unique in two ways: It was the only one consisting of female prisoners, and it was the only Herzogenbusch subcamp in which prisoners had to do industrial labor. It was located in a factory of the German-owned Continental Gummiwerke, where prisoners had to manufacture gas masks.
The Leeuwarden subcamp, which existed only from February to March 1944, was unique in the sense that its population did not consist of Dutch prisoners but of German Kapos who had been convicted of misbehavior in the main camp. They were quartered in a Dutch prison in the city of Leeuwarden, which is located some 250 kilometers (155 miles) from Herzogenbusch. Under the supervision of a Luftwaffe construction unit (Bauleitung), a group of about 40 people had to dismantle unexploded bombs at the local Luftwaffe air base. After a couple of weeks, they were sent back to the main camp.
Moerdijk is the name of a village and an area located between the rivers in the southwestern part of the Netherlands. As such, it was of the utmost strategic significance. The defense of this area would enable the Germans to repel an Allied attack from the south on the city of Rotterdam (with its important port) and the center of the country.
Among the Herzogenbusch external detachments, the one in Moerdijk, which existed from March 1943 to February 1944, was the largest. Initially, some 500 male prisoners from the Jewish transit camp (Judendurchgangslager) were selected and transported to barracks that originally belonged to the Dutch river police and were located a couple of kilometers (about a mile and a half) from the village. Together with some non-Jewish prisoners and under supervision of an Organisation Todt (OT) construction unit (Bauleitung), they mostly had to dig antitank ditches on different, sometimes coastal, locations. These and other defenses were carried out by a Dutch contractor.
At the same time, other Jewish prisoners formed a clothing detachment (Bekleidungskommando) for making clothes for SS members who made up the staff and guard of Moerdijk.
In October 1944, all the Jewish prisoners were brought back to the main camp, from which they were deported to Auschwitz on November 15, 1944. These prisoners were replaced by non-Jewish prisoners, mostly people arrested for helping Jews. In the end, the Moerdijk camp is said to have had about 1,000 prisoners.
The Roosendaal subcamp, located not far from the Belgian border, existed only for a very short time, from February to April 1944. The prisoners, all male Jews, stayed in an agricultural college. Under supervision of an Organisation Todt (OT) construction unit (Bauleitung), they had to work on various kinds of defenses, the construction of which a Dutch contractor carried out. These defenses were part of the Atlantic Wall.
A very small subcamp existed at ’s-Gravenhage from September 1943 to July 1944. Prisoners were deployed for various administrative tasks on behalf of the German police system.
As in the external detachment at Haaren, prisoners in St. Michielsgestel had to execute various administrative tasks on behalf of the German police system. They were quartered in a hostage camp (Geisellager), which was located in the former youth seminary. This camp existed from January 1943 to September 1944.
In the Venlo subcamp, the prisoners (including, for a short period, Jews) had to perform various tasks for the preparation of a new Luftwaffe air base. They stayed in a hangar and worked under the supervision of a Luftwaffe construction unit (Bauleitung). The camp existed from September 1943 to September 1944.
Research to date has revealed no substantial sources that are specific to these subcamps.
Critical Thinking Questions
- To what degree was the local population aware of the main camp and its subcamps, their purpose, and the conditions within? How would you begin to research this question?
- Where were camps located?
- Did the outside world have any knowledge about these camps? If so, what, if any, actions were taken by other governments and their officials?
- What choices do countries have to prevent, mediate, or end the mistreatment of imprisoned civilians in other nations?
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945. Vol 1, Early Camps, Youth Camps, and Concentration Camps and Subcamps under the SS-Business Administration Main Office (WVHA), ed. Geoffrey Megargee. Bloomington: Indiana University Press in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2009.