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SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Albert Konrad Gemmeker (center) entertertains guests visiting Westerbork for the Christmas holidays.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 01337

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    SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Albert Konrad Gemmeker (center) entertertains guests visiting Westerbork for the Christmas holidays.
    SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Albert Konrad Gemmeker (center) entertertains guests visiting Westerbork for the Christmas holidays.  

Pictured from left to right are: Frau Winkelkaemper (secretary of Ferdinand Hugo Aus der Fuenten), SS-Haupsturmbannfuehrer Ferdinand Hugo Aus der Fuenten (Head of the Central Office of Jewish Emigration in Amsterdam), Elisabeth Helena Hassel-Muellender (Gemmeker's mistress) and Gemmeker.  The three women at right are unidentified.  At the time this photo was taken, Gemmeker had only been commandant of Westerbork since the previous October.  He therefore arranged for a banquet to be held at Westerbork in celebration of both Christmas and his new position.

    Overview

    Caption
    SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Albert Konrad Gemmeker (center) entertertains guests visiting Westerbork for the Christmas holidays.

    Pictured from left to right are: Frau Winkelkaemper (secretary of Ferdinand Hugo Aus der Fuenten), SS-Haupsturmbannfuehrer Ferdinand Hugo Aus der Fuenten (Head of the Central Office of Jewish Emigration in Amsterdam), Elisabeth Helena Hassel-Muellender (Gemmeker's mistress) and Gemmeker. The three women at right are unidentified. At the time this photo was taken, Gemmeker had only been commandant of Westerbork since the previous October. He therefore arranged for a banquet to be held at Westerbork in celebration of both Christmas and his new position.
    Photographer
    Rudolf Werner Breslauer
    Date
    Circa 1942 December 19
    Locale
    Westerbork, [Drenthe] The Netherlands
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Trudi Gidan
    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.]

    https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/westerbork.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Trudi Gidan

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Biography
    Albert Konrad Gemmeker (b. 1907), commandant of the Westerbork internment and transit camp in The Netherlands. Gemmeker was born in Duesseldorf, Germany to a family of modest means. He left school at the age of 14 and found work at an insurance firm, where he was employed until 1920. After Gemmeker became disenchanted with his life as an insurance salesman, he decided to become a police officer and enrolled at the police academy in Bonn, from which he graduated with the rank of sergeant. After the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, Gemmeker saw an opportunity to advance his career and applied for membership in the NSDAP (which he obtained only in 1937). In 1935 Gemmeker secured a position in the Gestapo, and in 1937 he applied for membership in the SS. After finally being accepted in 1940, he was given the rank of Obersturmfuehrer. In August of that year, Gemmeker was assigned to a post in the personnel department of the SIPO and SD leader in The Hague in Holland. There he remained until June 1942 when he was put in charge of an internment camp in southern Holland. The following October, at a time when the deportation of Jews from Western Europe was gaining momentum, Gemmeker was appointed commandant of the Westerbork internment and transit camp. He retained this post from mid-October 1942 until the liberation of the camp by Canadian troops on April 11, 1945. After the war Gemmeker was imprisoned in Holland and finally brought before a Dutch Special Court in 1949. He was found guilty by the court and sentenced to ten years in prison.

    Rudolf Werner Breslauer, was a German Jew from Munich who was given permission to photograph daily life in the Westerbork concentration camp by commandant Albert Gemmeker. Breslauer had attended the Academy of Art and Photography in Munich before fleeing to Holland with his wife Bella and three children in 1938. Settling first in Leiden, Breslauer was employed by the Koningsveld Press. The family moved to Utrecht in 1941, and all were arrested there in February 1942. They were sent to Westerbork, where Breslauer was initially employed taking identification photos. He subsequently requested permission from Gemmeker to document life in Westerbork, and was given a Leica camera to do so. He continued this project until he and his family were deported to Theresienstadt on September 4, 1944. Breslauer was sent on a transport to Auschwitz on October 24, 1944 and was killed immediately. The rest of his family followed two days later. Only his daughter Ursula survived.
    Record last modified:
    2004-04-26 00:00:00
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