Fort Breendonk

Fort Breendonk (Dutch: Fort van Breendonk, French: Fort de Breendonk) is a military fortification situated at Breendonk, near Mechelen, in Belgium which is best known for its role as a Nazi prison camp (Auffanglager) during the German occupation of Belgium during World War II.

Fort Breendonk was originally built for the Belgian army between 1906-13 as part of the second ring of defenses of the National Redoubt protecting the important port-city of Antwerp.[1] It was covered by a five-metre thick layer of soil for defense against bombings, a water-filled moat and measured 656 by 984 feet (200 by 300 m).[2]

During World War II, the fort was requisitioned by the Germans as a prison camp for detaining Belgian political dissidents, captured resistance members and Jews. Although technically a prison rather than a concentration camp, the Fort was infamous for its prisoners' poor living conditions and for the use of torture. Most prisoners who were detained at the camp were later transferred to larger concentration camps in Eastern Europe. Of the 3,590 prisoners known to have been imprisoned at Breendonk, 303 died or were executed within the fort itself but as many as 1,741 died subsequently in other camps before the end of the war.[3]

Today, the site is a national memorial and museum which is open to the public.

Fort Breendonk
SS-Auffanglager Breendonk
Prison camp
View of a fort in the distance with a chain-link fence to the left
A modern view of the camp's entrance
Fort Breendonk is located in Belgium
Fort Breendonk
Location of the camp in Belgium
Coordinates51°03′23″N 4°20′29″E / 51.056389°N 4.341389°ECoordinates: 51°03′23″N 4°20′29″E / 51.056389°N 4.341389°E
Other namesSS-Auffanglager Breendonk
LocationBreendonk (near Willebroek), Belgium
Built byBelgian Army (part of the National Redoubt of Antwerp)
Operated bySS
  • Philipp Schmitt (August 1940–November 1943)
  • Karl Schönwetter (November 1943–August 1944)
First built1906–13
OperationalSeptember 1940–August 1944
InmatesJews, political prisoners, resistance fighters, hostages
Notable inmatesJean Améry, Willy Kruyt, Martial van Schelle, Todor Angelov, Paul Hoornaert

Background and World War I

Belgium was invaded in August 1914 by the German army after refusing its request of unhindered passage to northern France.

The invasion began on 4 August 1914. Eager to reach Paris as soon as possible, the German army concentrated all its efforts towards the south, ignoring Antwerp. Continued Belgian resistance from the north forced German command to attack the city. On 9 September, General Beseler was ordered to attack Antwerp. Heavy siege artillery was sent north, having already been used at the sieges of Namur and Maubeuge in France.

Fort Breendonk was first attacked on 1 October 1914 by howitzers located 5 to 6 km out of range of the fort's own guns. The Germans however soon breached the Belgian line in Lier, allowing them to attack Antwerp without needing to capture Breendonk. On 9 October, the garrison of Fort Breendonk surrendered after the fall of Antwerp.

German prison camp: Breendonk I

The German army invaded and occupied Belgium in May 1940. The fort was the headquarters of the Belgian command during the first weeks following the invasion but was abandoned in the face of German advance.

By 1940, Breendonk was already militarily obsolete and was unnecessary for the German occupiers. Soon after the start of the German occupation, the Nazis transformed it into a prison camp which was controlled by SS and other security agencies of Nazi Germany (SIPO and SD in particular) although Belgium itself was under military (Wehrmacht) jurisdiction and controlled by general Alexander von Falkenhausen.[4]

Administration and inmates

Modern aerial photograph of Fort Breendonk, from the north. The earth which originally covered the Fort's structure was removed by the prisoners under German supervision

On 20 September 1940, the first prisoners arrived. Initially most of the prisoners were petty criminals, people deemed anti-social, or who did not conform to the German race laws. Later on, resistance fighters, political prisoners and ordinary people captured as hostages were detained as well. Another section was used as a transit camp for Jews being sent to death camps in Eastern Europe such as Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The camp was guarded by Flemish as well as German SS units. Of the 300 prisoners that died in the camp itself, 185 were executed; many of the rest died of torture, disease or exposure. Most of those that did survive were transported to concentration camps. The German execution poles and gallows, as well as the torture chamber, are preserved in the current museum on the site.

Between 3,500 and 3,600 prisoners were incarcerated in Breendonk during its existence,[5] of whom 1,733 died before liberation.[6] About 400-500 were Jews.[7] Most of the non-Jewish prisoners were left-wing members of the Belgian resistance or were held as hostages by the Germans. In September 1941, the Belgian Communist prisoners held at Breendonk were deported to Neuengamme concentration camp.[8][2]

Jewish prisoners in Breendonk were segregated from other prisoners until 1942. Thereafter, Jews were transferred to the nearby Mechelen transit camp and deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.[7]

Daily life in the camp

View of Breendonk's courtyard where roll-calls were held

Upon arrival at the camp, new inmates were brought to the courtyard where they would have to stand facing the wall until they were processed into the camp. They were forbidden to move and any motion was severely punished. In the camp, punishment consisted of beatings, torture in the old gunpowder magazine,[9] hanging or execution by firing squad. Inmates were forced to watch any executions that took place. The camp commander Lagerkommandant Philipp Schmitt was known to set his German Shepherd dog (called "Lump")[10] loose on the inmates. His wife was also known to wander the camp, ridiculing the inmates and ordering punishments at whim. Severe and arbitrary beating occurred daily. During winter 1942-1943, after the German defeat at Stalingrad, it occurred more than once that inmates, mostly Jewish, were forced by the Flemish SS guards to enter into the extremely cold water of the moat and kept there with a shovel. The victims gradually sank or fell into the mud and most of them, after a struggle that could last for over 15 minutes, finally drowned.[11]

The prison's gallows, built by the Germans, are preserved in the current museum

All the prisoners were subjected to forced labour. The camp authorities wanted the earth that had covered much of the Fort to be removed and shifted to build a high bank around the camp to hide it from outside view. In the few years Fort Breendonk was used by the Nazis, 250,000 cubic metres (8,800,000 cu ft) of soil covering the fort were removed by the prisoners by hand at a gruelling pace.[12] Prisoners only had hand tools to complete this enormous task and the soil had to be transported to the outer wall via hand carts on a narrow gauge railway system. The ground in the camp was often very soggy causing the rails to sink away in the mud. Prisoners were then expected to move by hand the carts filled with dirt, pushing and dragging them back and forth over a distance of more than 300 meters. This regime was imposed for over 12 hours a day, seven days a week, even in the worst of weather conditions. Orders were given only in German, so inmates were forced to learn the basic commands rather quickly or otherwise be punished for failure to obey orders. Prisoners were also forced to salute and stand to attention every time a guard passed.

Accommodation in the fort consisted of the old barracks. Built from thick stone, without windows and with only minimal ventilation, these were extremely cold and damp. Each barrack room only had a small coal burning stove, and providing sufficient heating was nearly impossible. Rooms were originally designed for no more than 38 people, but frequently housed over 50 inmates sleeping in three-tier bunk beds on straw mattresses. The top bunks were highly prized. Inmates only had a single small bucket per room for a toilet during the night, and many of the sick and weakened inmates simply allowed their waste to drop down to the lower levels. This caused much fighting between inmates, which was probably what the guards wanted.

View of the Fort's entrance

Prisoners were allowed to use the toilet in the given order only twice a day. There were two gathering spaces inside the fort, east and west, each one with a small building, made of brick and without doors, equipped with four holes and one urinal. Only in 1944 a greater facility was added. But to go to the toilet was always done under surveillance, in group and in a hurry: an additional opportunity for the guards to intimidate and humiliate the prisoners.[13]

Jewish prisoners were segregated from other inmates and housed in specially constructed wooden barracks. These barracks were poorly insulated and over-crowded. Other prisoners were housed in cells, either in small groups or individually. The aim was to isolate certain prisoners for later interrogation and torture.

Food was severely rationed for the prisoners and distributed in different quantities to the various types of inmates. Jews received the least food and water. Prisoners were served three meals a day. Breakfast consisted of two cups of a coffee substitute made of roasted acorns and 125 grams (4.4 oz) of bread. Lunch was usually 1 litre of soup (mostly just hot water). Supper was again 2 cups of a coffee substitute and 100 grams (3.5 oz) of bread.[14] This was far from enough to sustain a human being, especially considering the intense cold or heat, harsh labour and physical punishments the prisoners were subjected to.

View of an interrogation cell

This harsh treatment of prisoners started to leak outside the Fort to such a degree that the head of the administrative staff of the Military Governor of Belgium Eggert Reeder was compelled to order an inspection of the Fort because Von Falkenhausen "did not want the camp to become known to history as the hell of Breendonk". But the respite was short lived also because the SS seized and forwarded to Germany most of the food parcels sent in by the Red Cross.[15]

Conditions in the camp were so cruel and harsh that those who left alive were so weak that their chances of survival at the final destination were severely hampered. Often prisoners were so sick and weak that they were led straight to the gas chambers or simply died within weeks of their arrival. The regime in the camp was at least as harsh as in an actual concentration camp. On 4 September 1944 the SS evacuated the Fort, and all the remaining prisoners were sent to Buchenwald concentration camp.[16] Fewer than 10 percent of the inmates survived the war.

Particular controversy surrounds the Flemish SS guards of the camp, who so openly and cruelly turned against their fellow countrymen in blind support of their Nazi paymasters.

Notable inmates

Famed author, philosopher, and journalist Jean Améry (formerly Hans Mayer) was captured by the Nazis in July 1943 while fighting with Belgian Resistance. He was subsequently sent to Fort Breendonk, where he was severely tortured before being sent to Auschwitz.[17] Améry discussed his experiences in a book he wrote about the dehumanization that occurred between victim and perpetrator during the Holocaust, a work he entitled At the Mind's Limits.[18]

Comics artist Marc Sleen also spent time in Breendonk, together with his brother, because his third brother was a member of the resistance. The Nazis hoped to hear them out about the whereabouts of their brother, but they never betrayed him. As a consequence Sleen, his brother and other prisoners were put in a death cell, where one of them was shot every day. By the time it was Sleen's turn he was lucky that D-Day had occurred, causing a mass panic among the prison guards. They took every prisoner with them to another camp, where Sleen was able to escape. Yet he would suffer post-traumatic nightmares about these experiences for the rest of his life.[19] [20]

The artist Jacques Ochs was interned in Breendonk from 1940 to 1942, when he managed to escape. A few of the drawings he made during his time there had survived. He used them after the war to reconstruct scenes of life in the camp, and in 1947 published those in the book Breendonck – Bagnards et Bourreaux ("Breendonck – Slave Laborers and Hangmen").[21]

Allied prison: Breendonk II

Collaborators Under Escort at Breendonck Art.IWMARTLD4650
Belgian collaborators under guard at Breendonk after the liberation

The officer of the British Army designated to liberate the camp late in 1944 was Charles Arnold-Baker, a German and officer in MI6. Fort Breendonk was briefly repurposed as an internment camp for Belgian collaborators. This period of the Fort's existence is known as "Breendonk II". The internees were moved to Dossin Barracks, Mechelen, on 10 October 1944.

War crimes trials

Trials of the Flemish SS guards, considered Nazi collaborators, were held during 1946 in Mechelen and including some guards and officials at Fort Breendonk.

Of those who were convicted, 18 [22]were sentenced to be executed by firing squad in 1947, two of which appealed their case and had their sentences revised to life imprisonment. Four others were sentenced to life in prison, one to 20 years in prison, and one other was acquitted, and two guards who were sentenced to life were never found. [23]

The Nazi camp commandant, Philipp Schmitt, was tried in Antwerp in 1949; he was sentenced to death and was shot by a firing squad on 9 August 1950. He never showed any remorse and denied all of the atrocities that occurred at Breendonk, claiming he was merely re-educating the inmates as he had been ordered.

Museum and memorial

The Political Prisoner (1947) by Idel Ianchelevici at Breendonk

In 1947 Fort Breendonk was declared to be a national memorial, recognizing the suffering and cruelty that had been inflicted on Belgian prisoners during World War II. The fort is now a well-preserved example of the prison camps operated by Nazi Germany and a national museum. The Fort is open to visitors all year round and is located close to the A12 Brussels-Antwerp motorway.

Pictures of working Nazi internment camps during the war are rare and, for a long time, it was believed that absolutely no pictures of Breendonk during the war existed. But in the early 1970s a batch of photos of the camp was discovered in the possessions of Dutch photographer Otto Spronk. He had collected thousands of pictures and films of the Third Reich as part of his work for the Centre for Historical Research and Documentation on War and Contemporary Society (Cegesoma). The collection consisted of 37 pictures depicting daily life in the camp. They were taken by German Nazi photographer Otto Kropf for propaganda purposes but were never used. All pictures are essentially cliche stills; none of the daily atrocities or horrors of the camp are shown. But they are the only reference material available. Several of the inmates on the pictures managed to survive the war and were able to identify the others on the pictures and the circumstances in which they were taken.

See also


  1. ^ "Breendonk Fort National Memorial". Places of remembrance in Europe. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  2. ^ a b USHMM Encyclopedia.
  3. ^ Deem, James M. (2015). The Prisoners of Breendonk: Personal Histories from a World War II Concentration Camp. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 2. ISBN 9780544096646.
  4. ^ Pahaut & Maerten 2006, p. 10.
  5. ^ Pahaut & Maerten 2006, p. 25.
  6. ^ N. C. (6 December 2007). "Le Mémorial de Breendonk ne change pas de nom". Le Soir (in French): 5.
  7. ^ a b Pahaut & Maerten 2006, p. 19.
  8. ^ Pahaut & Maerten 2006, p. 23.
  9. ^ Pahaut & Maerten 2006, p. 22.
  10. ^ Pahaut & Maerten 2006, p. 15.
  11. ^ Nefors, Patrick (2005). Breendonk. 1940-1945. Bruxelles: Racine. p. 34.
  12. ^ Pahaut & Maerten 2006, p. 12.
  13. ^ Pahaut & Maerten 2006, p. 16.
  14. ^ "The Breendonk torture camp". War crimes committed under the occupation of Belgium, 1940-1945. Liège: Ministry of Justice of Belgium - War crime Commission. 1948. p. 56.
  15. ^ Pahaut & Maerten 2006, p. 14.
  16. ^ Pahaut & Maerten 2006, p. 11.
  17. ^ Susan Derwin, "What Nazi Crimes against Humanity Can Tell Us about Torture Today," in Speaking about Torture, ed. Julie A. Carlson and Elisabeth Weber (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012), 75.
  18. ^ Améry, Jean (2009) [1980]. At the Mind's Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and its Realities. Translated by Sidney and Stella P. Rosenfeld. Bloomington:: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0253211736.
  19. ^ "Marc Sleen".
  20. ^ Smet, Jan, en, Auwera, Fernand, "Marc Sleen", Standaard Uitgeverij, 1985.
  21. ^ Ochs, Jacques (1947). Breendonck. Bagnards et Bourreaux. Brussels: Albert Parmentier. ASIN B00179NLV8. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  22. ^ Martin Gilbert-Second World War
  23. ^ "Nazi War Crimes Trials: Breendonck Trial". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2019-01-15.


Further reading

  • Vander Velpen, Jos (2005). Breendonk: Chronique d'un camp (1940-1944). Brussels: Editions Aden. ISBN 9782930402079.
  • Wijngaert, Mark Van den (2010). Beulen van Breendonk. Schuld en boete (1st ed.). Antwerp: Standaard Uitgeverij. ISBN 9789002239564.
  • Nefors, Patrick (2005). Breendonk: 1940-1944. Brussels: Ed. Racine. ISBN 9782873864200.
  • Wynen, André (2007). Le fort de Breendonk le camp de la terreur nazie en Belgique pendand la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Democratie ou barbarie (3rd ed.). Brussels: Ed. Racine. ISBN 9782873864606.

External links

Arbeit macht frei

Arbeit macht frei ([ˈaɐ̯baɪt ˈmaxt ˈfʁaɪ] (listen)) is a German phrase meaning "work sets you free". The slogan is known for appearing on the entrance of Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps.

Attack on the twentieth convoy

The Twentieth Convoy (French: Vingtième convoi; Dutch: Twintigste treinkonvooi), also known as the Twentieth Train, was a Holocaust train and prisoner transport in Belgium organized by Nazi Germany during World War II.

On 19 April 1943, members of the Belgian Resistance stopped the train and freed a number of Jewish and Roma civilians who were being transported to Auschwitz concentration camp from Mechelen transit camp in Belgium. In the aftermath of the attack, a number of others were able to jump from the train too. In all, 233 people managed to escape, of whom 118 ultimately survived. The remainder were either killed during the escape or were recaptured soon afterwards. The attack was unusual as an attempt by the resistance to free Jewish deportees and marks the only "mass breakout" by deportees on a Holocaust train.

Belgian Resistance

The Belgian Resistance (French: Résistance belge, Dutch: Belgisch verzet) collectively refers to the resistance movements opposed to the German occupation of Belgium during World War II. Within Belgium, resistance was fragmented between a large number of separate organizations, divided by region and political stances. The resistance included both men and women from both Walloon and Flemish parts of the country. Aside from sabotage of military infrastructure in the country and assassinations of collaborators, these groups also published large numbers of underground newspapers, gathered intelligence and maintained various escape networks that helped Allied airmen trapped behind enemy lines escape from German-occupied Europe.

During the war, it is estimated that approximately five percent of the national population were involved in some form of resistance activity, while some estimates put the number of resistance members killed at over 19,000; roughly 25 percent of its "active" members.


Breendonk is a small town in the province of Antwerp, Belgium, with a population 3,000, halfway between Brussels and Antwerp.

Capital punishment in Belgium

Capital punishment in Belgium was formally abolished on August 1, 1996 for all crimes, in both peacetime and wartime. The last execution for crimes committed in peacetime took place in July 1863, when in Ypres a farmer was executed for murder. The last execution for an ordinary crime took place on 26 March 1918 at Veurne Prison when Emile Ferfaille, a military officer found guilty of killing his pregnant girlfriend, was guillotined. This was the first execution to be carried out since 1863. The guillotine that was used had to be imported from France.

Between November 1944 and August 1950 around 242 people were executed by firing squad for crimes committed during the Second World War. 241 of them had been convicted as collaborators. A total of 2940 persons were sentenced to death in this period, but only 242 executions were carried out. The last person ever to be executed in Belgium was the German war criminal Philipp Schmitt on 8 August 1950, the camp commander of the concentration camp Fort Breendonk. Although the Belgian Penal Code stipulated that the death penalty had to be carried out by decapitation, because the 242 persons executed following the Second World War were tried by a military court they were executed by firing squad.

On 1 January 1999, the Sixth Protocol to the European Convention of Human Rights, forbidding the death penalty in all circumstances, came into force and Belgium has also signed the second optional protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. On 2 February 2005, the prohibition of the death penalty was included in the Belgian Constitution by inserting an Article 14bis.

Jacques Grippa

Jacques Grippa (Grivegnée, 30 March 1913– Vorst, August 30, 1990) was a Belgian politician, member of the resistance during World War II and communist.

Jacques Ochs

Jacques Ochs (18 February 1883 – 3 April 1971), was a Jewish Belgian artist and Olympic épée (champion), saber, and foil fencer.

Jean Améry

Jean Améry (31 October 1912 – 17 October 1978), born Hanns Chaim Mayer, was an Austria-born essayist whose work was often informed by his experiences during World War II. His most celebrated work, At the Mind's Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities (1966), suggests that torture was "the essence" of the Third Reich. Other notable works included On Aging (1968) and On Suicide: A Discourse on Voluntary Death (1976). He first adopted the pseudonym Jean Améry in 1955. Améry took his own life in 1978.

Formerly a philosophy and literature student in Vienna, Améry's participation in organized resistance against the Nazi occupation of Belgium resulted in his detainment and torture by the German Gestapo at Fort Breendonk, and several years of imprisonment in concentration camps. Améry survived internments in Auschwitz and Buchenwald, and was finally liberated at Bergen-Belsen in 1945. After the war he settled in Belgium.

Julien Lehouck

Julien Lehouck (14 August 1896 – 25 February 1944) was a Belgian sprinter. He competed in the men's 100 metres at the 1920 Summer Olympics. He was part of the Belgian Resistance and was executed in Fort Breendonk during World War II.

Martial van Schelle

Martial Van Schelle (sometimes shown as Martial van Schelle, 6 July 1899 – 15 March 1943) was a Belgian bobsledder, swimmer, aviator, and businessman who competed in both the Summer and Winter Olympics for Belgium from the early 1920s to the late 1930s. He was captured by the Nazis during World War II and executed in a concentration camp.

Mechelen transit camp

The Mechelen transit camp, officially SS-Sammellager Mecheln in German, was a detention and deportation camp established in a former army barracks at Mechelen in German-occupied Belgium. It was managed by the Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo-SD), a branch of the SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt, in order to collect and deport Jews and Romani mainly out of Belgium towards the labor camp of Heydebreck-Cosel and the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau in German occupied Poland.

During the Second World War, between 4 August 1942 and 31 July 1944, 28 trains left from this Belgian casern and deported over 25,000 Jews and Roma, most of whom arrived at the extermination camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau. At the end of war, 1240 of them had survived.Since 1996, a Holocaust museum has been open near the site of the camp: the Kazerne Dossin – Memorial.

National Redoubt (Belgium)

The National Redoubt (French: Réduit national, Dutch: Nationaal Reduit) was a strategic defensive belt of fortifications built in Belgium. The National redoubt was the infrastructural cornerstone of Belgian defensive strategy from 1890–1940. The following fortifications and defensive constructions were an integral part of the National redoubt:

the Fortified Position of Liège (Luik) with a number of forts

the Fortified Position of Namur (Namen) with a number of forts

the fortification at Eben Emael

the KW line: a "canal" to defend against tank incursions from Koningshooikt to Wavre

the Kempens anti-tank canal

the coastal defenses as a retreat position against invasion troopsThe most important part of the national redoubt was a double ring of defensive forts around the city and port of Antwerp.

The National Redoubt was a 95 km (59 mi)-long belt of fortifications built from 1859 to 1914, as the strongest defensive position of Belgium in case of invasion.

Paul Hoornaert

Paul Hoornaert (5 November 1888 – 2 February 1944) was a Belgian far right political activist. Although a pioneer of fascism in the country he was an opponent of German Nazism and, after joining the Belgian Resistance during the German occupation, died in Nazi custody.

Paul M. G. Lévy

Paul Michel Gabriel, Baron Lévy (27 November 1910 – 16 August 2002) was a Belgian journalist and professor. He was born in Brussels and was a Holocaust survivor. He worked for many years as Director of Information at the Council of Europe, helping to create the Flag of Europe in the 1950s in collaboration with Arsène Heitz.

Philipp Schmitt

Philipp Johann Adolf Schmitt (20 November 1902 – 8 August 1950) was a German officer of the Schutzstaffel (SS) who served as commandant of Fort Breendonk, a Nazi prison camp in German-occupied Belgium during World War II. For a year, he was also in charge of Mechelen transit camp but was dismissed for corruption and black marketeering. He later served in occupied Denmark and the Netherlands. After the war, he was convicted of war crimes and was executed in 1950. Schmitt was the last person executed in Belgium.


Puurs (Dutch pronunciation: [pyːrs]) is a former municipality located in the Belgian province of Antwerp. It is located in the Flemish Region. The municipality comprises the towns of Breendonk, Liezele, Kalfort, Ruisbroek (old spelling: Ruysbroeck) and Puurs proper. There is also the hamlet of Kalfort. On January 1, 2006, Puurs had a total population of 16,029. The total area is 33.41 km2 (13 sq mi) which gives a population density of 480 inhabitants per km².

Puurs sits about 5 meters above mean sea level. Its geography shows only minor elevation differences (so it's basically flat).

Puurs is mainly rural, with some low intensity industry development in the North alongside the N16 motorway. However, because of its proximity to the cities of Antwerp and Brussels (both within a 25 km (16 mi) radius) and its excellent accessibility, Puurs is developing increasingly into a residential town.

Effective 1 January 2019, Puurs and Sint-Amands were merged into the new municipality of Puurs-Sint-Amands.

Todor Angelov

Todor Angelov Dzekov (Bulgarian: Тодор Ангелов Дзеков, French: Théodore Angheloff) Kyustendil, Principality of Bulgaria 12 January 1900 – Fort Breendonk, Belgium 30 November 1943 was a Bulgarian anarcho-communist revolutionary who lived and was active for a long time in Western Europe. During World War II, he headed a Brussels-based group of the Belgian Resistance against Nazi Germany; he was captured and sentenced to death by the Nazis.

Willy Kruyt

John William (Willy) Kruyt (1877–1943) was a Dutch Protestant minister and Christian socialist, later Communist, politician.

Yvonne Jospa

Yvonne Jospa (née Have Groisman, February 3, 1910 in Poputi, Bessarabia – January 20, 2000 in Brussels) was a cofounder and leading organizer of the Comité de Défense des Juifs in September 1942 with her husband Hertz Jospa, which saved over 3,000 Jewish children from deportation and death. Yvonne Jaspar was her pseudonym in the Belgian Resistance.

Born in a well-to-do Bessarabian Jewish family, Groisman attended the Jewish gymnasium in Chişinău (present-day Moldova), coming to Belgium with the intention to study at the University of Liège, in the Philosophy and Letters section. However, she changed direction, studying to become a social worker. In 1933 she married Hertz Jospa, and they both became activists, first in the Belgian Communist Party, then in 1936 in the anti-racism organisation Ligue contre le racisme et l'antisémitisme, the Belgian section of the Ligue internationale contre l'antisémitime. She took part in hosting child refugees from the Spanish Civil War and in arranging secret passage through Belgium of volunteers for the International Brigades.Jospa's husband Herz Jospa was arrested in June 1943, detained in Fort Breendonk, then deported to Buchenwald concentration camp in May 1944. She thought he had died there, but he came back on May 8, 1945, after the camp was liberated by American troops.In 1964 Jospa co-founded the Union des Anciens Résistants Juifs de Belgique (Union of former Jewish resistance members of Belgium), of which she remained honorary chairperson until her death in 2000. She was also a cofounder, with her husband and others, of the Belgian chapter of the communist-led Mouvement contre le racisme, l'antisémitisme et pour la paix (M.R.A.P., "Movement against racism and antisemitism, and for peace") founded in Paris in 1949. The Belgian branch was renamed in 1966 to Mouvement contre le racisme, l'antisémitisme et la xénophobie (M.R.A.X., "Movement against racism, antisemitism and xenophobia"). She was a staunch communist but at the same time refused to endorse anti-zionist stances after 1947. She was made an honorary member of the L'Enfant Caché association ("The hidden child").In January 2003 Jospa's name was given to a road in Brussels, rue Yvonne Jospa.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.