Oral History

William (Bill) Lowenberg describes conditions in the Westerbork camp in the Netherlands

As a boy, Bill attended school in Burgsteinfurt, a German town near the Dutch border. After the Nazis came to power in Germany in January 1933, Bill experienced increasing antisemitism and was once attacked on his way to Hebrew school by a boy who threw a knife at him. In 1936, he and his family left Germany for the Netherlands, where they had relatives and thought they would be safe. However, after Germany invaded the Netherlands in May 1940, antisemitic legislation--including the order to wear the Jewish badge--was instituted. Bill, his sister, and his parents were deported to the Westerbork transit camp in the Netherlands. In August 1943, Bill was deported from Westerbork to the Auschwitz camp in German-occupied Poland. He was transported from Auschwitz to Warsaw in late 1943, following the German suppression of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Bill and other prisoners were forced to demolish the remnants of the ghetto. As Soviet forces advanced, Bill was placed on a death march and then transported by train to the Dachau camp in Germany. He was liberated by US forces at the end of April 1945.


They also had, uh, a barracks for young people. It was, uh, it was civilized in comparison to what I saw later. And then they also had cub...cubicles, or rather, uh, two rooms, one room, two rooms, where families could live if you were staying there like we were staying there. Most people came there and stayed maybe one or two days, and then every Tuesday the trains went from Westerbork to Auschwitz or Sobibor. Uh, but, uh, there was a cadre, my father and mother, uh, were able, were assigned to a cadre because you worked in the kitchen. And, uh, so we, we were, what's, what, what you may call at that point, uh, permanent residents, or, whatever the name, it was a different name, but at least we, we didn't worry in the early days that we would go immediately on a transport.


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