Fort Breendonk - Willebroek - Belgium

Address: Brandstraat 57, Willebroek (See map)
Telephone: +32 (0)3-8607525

Shop: shop present
Restaurant/refreshments: not available
Size of the museum/site: large
Year of visit: 2004

Description: During WW II, all conquered nations had to suffer the irritating, sickening, fucked-up awful German governance. The stomach-turning manners of the so called "Übermenschen" were ultimately symbolised by the system of detention-, concentration- and deathcamps they managed to set up so quickly (pünktlich as always of course). Fort Breendonk, situated to the south of Antwerp, was part of this system.

Fighting, bombing, killing and hand-to-hand combat are all part of war. Although war is not something to cheer about, all those things can be justified when fighting frontline battles, or man-to-man. It's about killing or being killed. Bravery and self-sacrifice are aspects of war that even go further and demand respect. But the things that took place (and still take place in 'our' time, remember Abu Ghraib!) in nazi- and other prisons/camps, are in no way to be justified. Here sadism raises its ugly head.

During the Nazi occupation of Belgium, Fort Breendonk (which was completed in 1906 as part of the defence belt around Antwerp) served as a SS detention camp. The camp was headed by German SS officers and staffed with all-too willing Flemish SS personnel. Breendonk became synonymous with terror and brutality as the Nazis used it to lock-up and interrogate political prisoners (people of the resistance and generally everyone who the Germans thought of as "reichsfeindlich"). Hundreds of inmates were executed or died of mistreatment, torture and starvation. More than 2000 prisoners were eventually deported to prisons and concentration camps in Germany. The museum Fort Breendonk shows visitors in an intense way, aided by an audio-guide, how life must have been for the prisoners.

The entrance gate to the museum.

"Who goes further will be shot." A clear message.

The massive walls of the pre-WW I fortress are still visible.

Central court-yard where the prisoners were lined-up six times a day for the roll-calls.

One of the central corridors inside the structure. Like every other room the atmosphere is cold, moist and dark. You can imagine how awful it must be to live here day in day out with terror all around.

A typical cell were 42 people had to sleep. Only on extremely cold days it was permitted to turn on the heat.

This unappetizing meal of 'soup' and 'bread' was all the prisoners got to eat. Needless to say it was insufficient for the hard work they had to do.

A large scale photograph showing an average working day in the camp.

Execution area...

An example of the cattle wagons that were used for the transportation of people (up to 100 in one wagon) to the concentration camps.