Advanced Search

Learn About The Holocaust

Special Collections

My Saved Research




Skip to main content

Jewish refugees doing construction work at the Westerbork camp before the German occupation of the Netherlands.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 19272

Search this record's additional resources, such as finding aids, documents, or transcripts.

No results match this search term.
Check spelling and try again.

results are loading

0 results found for “keyward

    Jewish refugees doing construction work at the Westerbork camp before the German occupation of the Netherlands.
    Jewish refugees doing construction work at the Westerbork camp before the German occupation of the Netherlands.


    Jewish refugees doing construction work at the Westerbork camp before the German occupation of the Netherlands.
    1939 - 1940
    Westerbork, [Drenthe] The Netherlands
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Sharon Fahrer
    Event History
    Westerbork was a transit camp for Jews who were being deported from the Netherlands during World War II to killing centers in Poland. The camp was initially established in October 1939 by the Dutch government to house Jewish refugees who had entered the country illegally. It was constructed on a tract of heath and marshland on the outskirts of the village of Westerbork in the province of Drenthe. Initially 50 barracks were erected to house 1800 refugees. When the Germans invaded Holland on May 10, 1940, 750 refugees were still living there. They were temporarily moved to Leeuwarden during the initial weeks of the occupation before being returned to Westerbork. On July 16 Captain Jacques Schol of the demobilized Dutch Army Reserves was appointed director of the camp. He organized the refugees into work groups and service branches and appointed Jewish internees to head them. Kurt Schlesinger was appointed chief of the service branches, Dr. Fritz Spanier, chief medical officer, and Arthur Pisk, head of the Ordnungsdienst, which evolved from being a fire brigade to an internal Jewish police force. Over time, refugees from other camps were moved into Westerbork, and by 1941 the camp had a population of 1,100. During the first two years of Nazi occupation the refugees were not yet treated as prisoners, and they could leave the camp if they obtained travel permits. However, on July 1, 1942, Westerbork came under the jurisdiction of the German SD (security police) and officially became a transit camp for Jews and Roma slated for deportation to Poland. The camp was headed by a series of commandants: SS Sturmbannfuehrer Erich Deppner (July-September 1942), SS Obersturmbannfuehrer Josef Hugo Dischner (September-October 1942) SS Obersturmbannfuehrer Albert Konrad Gemmeker (October 1942-April 1945). The systematic transfer to Westerbork of Jews from all parts of the Netherlands was launched on July 14, 1942, and deportations to Poland began the following day. The commandants left in the hands of the Jewish camp leadership the responsibility of compiling the lists of those to be deported. The leadership, however, was not allowed to include camp residents who had been given an official exemption. These included Jews of foreign nationality and, in particular, the veteran inmates, numbering 2,000, who had been given special status about two weeks before the deportations commenced. Thus Westerbork led a dual existence: inmates in the permanent camp remained in place for a long time, lived a relatively comfortable existence, enjoyed a wide range of cultural activities (including concerts, operas, and cabaret performances) and largely ran their own affairs, while the majority of prisoners remained only a week or two before being dispatched to Poland. An estimated 102,000 Jews and a few hundred Roma were processed through Westerbork. Roughly 55% were sent to Auschwitz, 35% to Sobibor, and 5% each to Theresienstadt and Bergen-Belsen. After the last transport had departed on September 13, 1944, approximately 600 Jews remained behind. Westerbork was liberated by the South Saskatchewan Regiment of the Canadian army on April 12, 1945.

    [Source: The Holocaust: Lest we Forget. "Refugee Camp Westerbork circa 1939." 23 April 2003. (16 September 2003); Gutman, Israel. "Encyclopedia of the Holocaust." MacMillan, 1990. pp.1645-8.]

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Sharon Fahrer
    Source Record ID: Collections: 1997.96

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Kurt Majerowicz was the son of a Jewish father, Arthur Majerowicz, and a Christian mother, Marie (Keubis) Majerowicz. He was born in Berlin on November 22, 1918, where his father was a draftsman. Kurt had two sisters Irma (b. 1920) and Ruth (b. 1929). Following the Nazi takeover of power, Kurt's father, Arthur, had to settle for any work available, including driving buses. He tried to escape to Holland but was turned back at the border and had to return home. Arthur only narrowly escaped deportation after jumping from a train. He spent the rest of the war in hiding. Kurt's mother, Marie, was permitted to remain in her apartment in Berlin throughout the war. Shortly after the November 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom, Kurt fled to Holland on foot, arriving in Amsterdam on December 1, 1938. From December 23, 1938 to August 29, 1939 he lived in the Reuver refugee camp in Beesel. He then was transferred to a refugee camp in Hoek van Holland where he remained until his resettlement to the Westerbork camp on November 23, 1939. A few weeks later, his sister Irma visited him there. She was en route to England after having received a visa to work there as a domestic. (At about the same time, Ruth left on a Kindertransport to England.) This was the last time the Irma and Kurt saw one another. Kurt remained in Westerbork, where he met Rita Schlachet, a refugee from Vienna who had come to Amsterdam on February 27, 1940. The couple gave birth to a daughter Marie on December 12, 1942, and were formally married the following April. The young family was deported from Westerbork on one of the final transports. They were sent to Theresienstadt on September 6, 1944 and from there, to Auschwitz, on September 29, 1944. From Auschwitz Kurt was transferred to Gross Rosen and Buchenwald, where he perished on February 23, 1945. After the war Irma immigrated to New York with her American husband Irving. Her sister Ruth later joined them, followed by their parents Arthur and Marie who survived in Berlin. Irma's daughter, Sharon Fahrer is the donor of the collection.
    Record last modified:
    2004-04-27 00:00:00
    This page:

    Download & Licensing

    In-Person Research

    Contact Us