Portrait of Dorien Grunbaum taken in the Westerbork transit camp.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 42531
September 1943 - February 1944
- Photo Designation
TRANSIT CAMPS/INTERNMENT CAMPS -- Netherlands -- Westerbork -- WARTIME -- Prisoners/Daily Life/Youth Activity
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Dorien Grunbaum
Portrait of Dorien Grunbaum taken in the Westerbork transit camp.
- 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. http://www.cympm.com/westerbork.html (16 September 2003); Gutman, Israel. "Encyclopedia of the Holocaust." MacMillan, 1990. pp.1645-8.]
- Dorian Grunbaum is the daughter of Manfred and Rita (van Leeuven) Grunbaum. Sbe was born August 28, 1942, in Rotterdam, where her parents ran a grain import/export business before the war. Just prior to the German invasion of Holland, Manfred's parents left for Mexico. He and Rita stayed behind to be with Rita's mother. In October 1941, Manfred was arrested and interrogated, but later released. Thereafter, their lives became increasingly restricted by the imposition of anti-Jewish laws. Fortunately, their situation was ameliorated by the assistance of non-Jewish friends. Dorian was born in August 1942. For the next year the Grunbaums were able to stay in their apartment, though they were in constant fear of being arrested. Their turn came during the final round-up of the Jews of Rotterdam on September 29, 1943. As they left, Manfred leaned on the doorbell of his Dutch neighbor so they would know what had happened. Since Dorien was not on the police list, Manfred and Rita tried to leave her with a Christian woman, but when the baby would not stop crying, they decided to take her with them. The family was sent to Westerbork and remained there for the next several months. Manfred was put to work building roads and taking apart electrical batteries. Rita was exempted from work to care for Dorien. In addition to the regular camp rations, the family regularly received packages from their Dutch friends. While at Westerbork, Manfred's parents in Mexico sent them papers granting them permission to immigrate to Palestine. This exempted the Grunbaums from deportation to Poland, the main source of fear in the camp. However, on February 15, 1944 the family was transferred to Bergen-Belsen to be held for possible exchange for German POWs. Because of their special status, they were kept in the Sternenlager, a separate section of the camp, where the living conditions were more favorable. This situation, however, changed abruptly during the winter of 1944-1945, when Bergen-Belsen was re-designated a concentration camp, and tens of thousands of evacuees from camps in Poland were funneled into it. The amount of available food and the level of sanitation deteriorated dramatically and disease spread throughout the camp. Manfred took sick and could no longer work. Dorien contracted pneumonia and a serious ear infection. On April 9, 1945 the Grunbaums were placed on an evacuation transport headed east, probably to Theresienstadt. They remained on the train for two weeks as it kept changing its route to evade Allied bombs. Finally, on April 23 the German guards disappeared near the town of Tröbitz. By the time of their liberation Rita was extremely sick with typhus. After her recovery a few weeks later, Manfred fell ill with the disease. On June 23 the Red Cross transported the family to Leipzig. From there, they were put on an American ambulance train for Holland, where they arrived on July 1, 1945.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Dorien Grunbaum
Record last modified: 2004-05-27 00:00:00
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