Amersfoort concentration camp (Dutch: Kamp Amersfoort, German: Durchgangslager Amersfoort) was a Nazi concentration camp in Amersfoort, Netherlands. The official name was "Polizeiliches Durchgangslager Amersfoort", P.D.A. or Police Transitcamp Amersfoort. During the years of 1941 to 1945, over 35,000 prisoners were kept here. The camp was situated in the southern part of Amersfoort, on the city limit between Amersfoort and Leusden in central Netherlands.
Polizeiliches Durchgangslager Amersfoort
The watchtower of the camp
Location of the camp in the Netherlands
|Other names||Polizeiliches Durchgangslager Amersfoort|
|Operational||18 August 1941|
19 April 1945
|Liberated by||transferred to Red Cross|
Camp Amersfoort in 1939 was still a complex of barracks that supported army artillery exercises on the nearby Leusderheide. From 1941 onwards, it did not merely function as a transit camp, as the name suggests. The terms "penal camp" or "work camp" would also be fitting. During the existence of the camp many prisoners were put to work in kommandos. In total around 37,000 prisoners were registered at Amersfoort.
To get to the camp, prisoners had to walk from the railyard through the city and through residential neighborhoods:
Visible in the windows, above and below, of most residences and behind closed lace curtains, were numerous silhouettes, especially those of children. Usually the silhouettes did not move. Sometimes, feebly and furtively, they waved. Children who waved were very quickly pulled back. It was a farewell from the inhabited world – now a realm of shades.
The history of the camp can be separated into two periods. The first period started on August 18, 1941 and ended in March 1943. In March 1943 all but eight of the surviving first prisoners in Amersfoort were transferred to Kamp Vught. The prisoner transfer to Vught allowed for the completion of an expansion of Kamp Amersfoort. Maintaining the camp, despite Kamp Vught becoming operational in January 1943, still appeared necessary to the Nazis.
The camp held Soviet prisoners of war following the invasion of the USSR in June 1941. These included 101 Uzbek prisoners brought to display to the Dutch for propaganda purposes, all either dying in the winter of 1941 or executed in woods near the camp in April 1942. 865 Soviet prisoners are buried in nearby Rusthof cemetery.
Amersfoort was a transit camp, where prisoners were sent to places like Buchenwald, Mauthausen and Neuengamme concentration camps. It was on July 15, 1942 that the Germans began deporting Dutch Jews from Amersfoort, Vught and Westerbork to concentration camps and death camps such as Auschwitz, Sobibor and Theresienstadt.
The remaining watchtower, as can be seen on the commemorative place, was built around April/May 1943, when the expansion of Kamp Amersfoort was completed and prisoners could be placed there again. In many ways Kamp Amersfoort had changed relative to the first period. The most important changes were the much larger 'housing capacity', and the faster 'turnover'. What stayed the same, were the anarchy, the lack of hygiene, the lack of food, lack of medical attention and the cruelty of the guards. A point of light for the prisoners was the presence of the Dutch Red Cross. The second period ended on April 19, 1945, when control of the camp was transferred to Loes van Overeem of the Red Cross following the sudden flight of the German camp staff. The facility remained in operation under the auspices of the Red Cross until May 7, when Canadian soldiers of the First Canadian Army arrived to officially liberate the camp. Soldiers of I Canadian Corps fighting north from Arnhem were halted about a mile from Amersfoort before the end of the war, and liberation came on the day the German forces laid down their arms in the Netherlands. The camp and surrounding area was administered by the 1st Canadian Division and later transferred to the 3rd Canadian Division, Canadian Army Occupation Force in June 1945.
The fluctuating prisoner population showed an eclectic group of people from all over the Netherlands: Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, prisoners of war from the Soviet Union, members of the resistance, clergy, black marketeers, clandestine butchers and smugglers. From 1941–1943, 8,800 people were imprisoned in the camp, of which 2,200 were deported to Germany. During the period 1943–1945, 26,500 people were imprisoned, of which 18,000 were sent east to places like Buchenwald and Natzweiler concentration camps.
After the re-opening in 1943, 70 Jews from Kamp Vught and 600 Jews from Kamp Westerbork of British, American and Hungarian nationality were briefly sent to Kamp Amersfoort. They were joined by contract breakers of the German Arbeitseinsatz (forced labour program), deserting Waffen SS soldiers, deserting German truck drivers of the Nationalsozialistische Kraftfahr-Korps, and lawbreaking members of the NSB (the Dutch National Socialist Movement).
This medley of prisoners was not the only feature that determined the character of Kamp Amersfoort. The extreme cruelty of the camp command made life miserable for thousands of prisoners. Despite their relatively short stay, many prisoners died from deprivations and violence at a camp where "rumour has it that one can hear the screams of people being beaten up there for miles over the heath. It is more than a rumour." Jewish prisoners in particular were treated horribly, not only from guards, but fellow prisoners.
Edith and Rosa Stein, two ethnic Jewish Catholics arrested by the SS, described what it was like arriving at Amersfoort at 3:00 in the morning on August 3, 1942:
When the vans reached the camp, they emptied their passengers who were taken over by the S.S. guards. These began to drive them, cursing and swearing, beating them on their backs with their truncheons, into a hut where they were to pass the night without having had a meal.
The hut was divided into two sections, one for men, one for women. It was separated from the main lager by a barbed-wire fence. Altogether, the lager held at that moment, about three hundred men, women and children.
The beds were iron frames arranged in a double tier, without mattresses of any kind. Our prisoners threw themselves on the bare springs trying to snatch a few minutes sleep; but few slept that night, if only because the guards kept switching the lights off and on, from time to time, as a precaution against attempts to escape, which was next to impossible in any case. Their cold harsh voices filled the prisoners with anxiety about the future and, in these circumstances, it is anxiety which can turn a prison into a hell on earth.
Violence from the guards was not the only thing that prisoners had to worry about. Weakened physical conditions from overwork, very little food and poor hygiene in camp made illness and disease another frightening and lonely way to die. Yehudit Harris, a young boy in Amersfoort remembers screaming from the pain as his mother washed him with snow in the winter to rid them of lice and to protect against illness. Even the mattresses that prisoners slept on were often infested with lice, diphtheria, dysentery or T.B.
Amersfoort was a brutal place to be a prisoner and is summed up by Elie Cohen, who said that "transfer from Amersfoort to Westerbork was like going from hell to heaven".
Highest responsible authority went to the Lagerkommandant (camp commander). Below him was the Lagerführer (camp leader), who actually ran the camp. His assistants were the Blockführer (barrack leaders). Virtually all prisoners were divided into workgroups or Kommandos. These kommandos were led by an Arbeitsführer. The lowest leadership level were the Ältesten (Elders), also called "prominents" or "foremen". These were prisoners, who in exchange for taking care of minor issues, usually theft among prisoners, received special privileges.
Wachbataillon Nord-West (6 companies, around 1200 men total) was commanded by SS-Hauptsturmführer Paul Anton Helle.
The first of these six companies was in charge of Kamp Amersfoort, under the command of SS-Obersturmführer Walter Heinrich. This company was split into Kamp-SS (20 men selected by Heinrich) and Guard-SS (100 men).
The first camp leader was SS-Schutzhaftlagerführer I Johann Friedrich Stöver. From January 1, 1943, the camp leader was SS-Schutzhaftlagerführer II Karl Peter Berg. Berg was a very cruel man, who was described as a "predator who derived great pleasure from the agony of others". During roll call he loved to sneak about unnoticed behind the rows of men and catch someone in some violation, such as talking or not following orders properly. With a big grin, he would torment his victim." 
Another camp leader was SS-UnterSchutzhaftlagerführer Josef Johann Kotälla, a notorious sadist who often replaced Stöver during his absence. This former sales representative and repeat psychiatric patient was one of the most infamous SS guards in Amersfoort. B.W. Stomps, a Resistance fighter sent to Amersfoort recalled Kotälla's actions in the Christmas season of 1944:
On 23 December, Kotälla announced a ban on parcels for three weeks, which meant no Red Cross presents for Christmas or New Year. He further cancelled breakfast, lunch and dinner on Christmas Day itself, using the discovery of a smuggled letter as a pretext. And as an extra punishment on Christmas morning he kept the men standing on the parade ground, which was covered with thick snow, from their roll-call at seven till half past midday. A few days before, the geese for the guards' Christmas dinner had been on show, hanging on the barbed wire.
Also notorious were Blockführer Franzka, SS-Arbeitsdienstführer Max Ritter, SS-er Hugo Hermann Wolf, among many others.
In 1948 the camp commandant and guards of Amersfoort were tried and convicted for their crimes. Karl Peter Berg was sentenced to death and was executed in 1949. Josef Johann Kotälla was also sentenced to death but it was later commuted to life in prison. Along with three other prisoners he became involved in what was known as the "Breda Four", a group of prisoners whose possible release stirred up very strong feelings amongst Dutchmen. Kotälla was never released and died in prison.
The NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies has many resources concerning the guards of Amersfoort and their trials. The NIOD has dossiers on the following Amersfoort guards and personnel: Berg, Brahm, Dohmen, Fernau, Helle, Kotalla, May, van der Neut, Oberle, Stover, Voight, Westerveld and Wolf. Newspaper clippings are available for Berg, Fernau, Stover and Helle.
Court records for the trial of these guards are also available, the following being a sampling of what is available:
was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1942nd year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 942nd year of the 2nd millennium, the 42nd year of the 20th century, and the 3rd year of the 1940s decade.Alexander Katan
Alexander Katan (1899-1943) was a Dutch Jewish physically disabled accountant, translator, and teacher, who was murdered by the Nazis in The Holocaust, after which time his photographs were notoriously on display in various museums.Amersfoort (disambiguation)
Amersfoort may refer to:
Amersfoort, a city in the Netherlands
Amersfoort, Mpumalanga, a town in South Africa
the Amersfoort concentration camp
New Amersfoort, a town in New NetherlandAmsterdams Lyceum
The Amsterdams Lyceum is a Dutch secondary school combining gymnasium and atheneum. Both school types prepare students to go to university. It was established in 1917. The Amsterdams Lyceum has around 1100 students, most of whom are from Amsterdam, but small numbers from outer municipalities such as Amstelveen and Badhoevedorp also find their way to this school.Annie Nicolette Zadoks Josephus Jitta
Annie Nicolette Zadoks Josephus Jitta (December 1904 – 31 May 2000) was a Dutch numismatist.Arie Bijl
Arie Bijl (Maassluis, 23 December 1908 – Hamburg-Neuengamme, 2 January 1945) was a Dutch theoretical physicist and resistance man.
Arie Bijl was the youngest child of Simon Bijl (1869-1951), owner of a milk factory, and Willemijntje van der Lelij (1873-1944). Because in the Bijl family there was an eye for the extraordinary gift of Arie and his older brother Jaap (who became a pedagogue), not only the parents, but also the other children in the family contributed financially to the study of the two brothers. Arie Bijl studied mathematics and physics at Leiden University and obtained his PhD there on 28 April 1938 from Hendrik Kramers on the thesis Discontinuities in the energy and specific heat .After his PhD, he remained affiliated with Leiden University and conducted research on liquid helium, among other things. A publication by him in 1940 led to a wave function developed by him now known as the Bijl-Dingle-Jastrow wave function that is still used. Also the Bijl-Feynman spectrum and the Bijl-Jastrow factor are named after him.
In the crisis years Arie Bijl was a member of a group of scientists around the future Nobel laureate Jan Tinbergen. The reason was that Tinbergen wanted to apply physical principles to economic problems. Bijl corresponded about economics with Albert Einstein and wrote the book Werkgelegenheidspolitiek: ordening in een vrije economie (Employment politics: order in a free economy) that was posthumously published by De Arbeiderspers in 1953 with a foreword by Tinbergen.
In the Second World War he kept persecuted fellow physicists from Eastern Europe, including the Polish Jew Julius Podolanski, hidden in his windmill "De Kameraad" in Nederhorst den Berg. This mill burned down due to carelessness by one of the people in hiding.
On January 7, 1944, he married in Oegstgeest with Agnes Beket. In the same year, the Germans discovered him because a member of the resistance had a list of names with him during a check. Arie Bijl was transferred via Scheveningen to Amersfoort concentration camp and from there to the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg where he arrived on 14 October 1944. Due to the extremely poor conditions in the camp, he died after just over two months, according to the camp administration to a gastrointestinal catarrh.Dick Dreux
Dirk Johannes Hendrik (Dick) Dreux (27 May 1913-1978) was a Dutch writer of historical literature.Geertruida Middendorp
Geertruida Elisabeth Middendorp (November 21, 1911 – July 13, 2007) the lady that wore the Jewish star; was a member of the LO (Landelijke Organisatie voor Hulp aan Onderduikers Dutch Resistance. The LO made counterfeit coupons; it also obtained authentic coupons from loyal Netherlands citizens in the employ of the Dutch Nazis. Other groups conducted raids and robberies to steal authentic coupons from government agencies. And some Dutch civilians gave up their own coupons to the LO during the second world war.
She married Hendrik Middendorp (October 2, 1911 – July 13, 1989) in 1934Henk Sneevliet
Hendricus Josephus Franciscus Marie (Henk) Sneevliet, known as Henk Sneevliet or by the pseudonym "Maring" (1883 - 1942), was a Dutch Communist, who was active in both the Netherlands and the Dutch East-Indies. As a functionary of the Communist International, Sneevliet guided the formation of the Communist Party of China in 1921. In his native country, he was the founder, chairman and only Representative for the Revolutionary Socialist (Workers') Party, RSP/RSAP. He took part in the Communist resistance against the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II, for which he was executed by the Germans in April 1942.Islam in the Netherlands
Islam is the second largest religion in the Netherlands, practiced by 4% of the population according to 2010–11 estimates. The majority of Muslims in the Netherlands belong to the Sunni denomination. Most reside in the nation's four major cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.
The early history of Islam in the Netherlands can be traced to the 16th century, when a small number of Ottoman traders began settling in the nation's port cities. As a result, improvised Mosques were first created in Amsterdam in the early 17th century. In the ensuing centuries, the Netherlands experienced sporadic Muslim immigration from the Dutch East Indies, during their long history as part of the Dutch overseas possessions. From the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War until the independence of Indonesia, the Dutch East Indies contained the world's largest Muslim population. However, the number of Muslims in the European territory of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was very low, accounting for less than 0.1% of the population.
The Netherlands' economic resurgence in the years between 1960 and 1973 motivated the Dutch government to recruit migrant labor, chiefly from Turkey and Morocco. Later waves of immigrants arrived through family reunification and asylum seeking. A notable portion of Muslim immigrants also arrived from now-independent colonies, primarily Indonesia and Suriname.Karl Friedrich Titho
Karl Friedrich Titho (14 May 1911 – 18 June 2001) was a Germany military officer (ranked SS-Untersturmführer), who as commander of the Fossoli di Carpi and Bolzano Transit Camps oversaw the Cibeno Massacre in 1944. Titho was jailed in the Netherlands after World War II for other war crimes committed there, released in 1953, and then deported to Germany. Despite an arrest warrant in Italy in 1954 Titho was never extradited to stand trial for his actions in Italy, and died in Germany in 2001, confessing and repenting his role in the atrocities just days before his death.Louk Hulsman
Lodewijk Henri Christian Hulsman, known as Louk Hulsman (8 March 1923 in Kerkrade – 28 January 2009 in Dordrecht) was a Dutch legal scientist and criminologist.Piet Jongeling
Pieter "Piet" Jongeling (31 March 1909 in Broeksterwâld - 26 August 1985 in Amersfoort), also known by the pen name Piet Prins, was a Dutch politician and author of children's books. He was a member of the Reformed Political League (GPV) and of the House of Representatives of the Netherlands.Putten raid
The Putten raid (Dutch: Razzia van Putten) was a civilian raid conducted by Nazi Germany in occupied Netherlands during the Second World War. On 1 October 1944, a total of 602 men – almost the entire male population of the village – were taken from Putten, in the central Netherlands, and deported to various concentration camps inside Germany. Only 48 returned at the end of the war. The raid was carried out as a reprisal for a Dutch resistance attack on a vehicle carrying personnel from the Wehrmacht.