Fort van Breendonk (Nazi Concentration Camp)
Willebroek Travel Blog› entry 16 of 17 › view all entries
July 10th, 2009 – by: lamadude
The fort was originally built at the start of the 20th century part of an impressive series of forts all around Antwerp, as part of a general plan of the Belgian government at the time to fortify antwerp so that it could be used as a stronghold in case the capital Brussels was ever captured by an enemy army. This was the case in the first world war, but wasn't very succesful since the german army managed to attack Antwerp directly and avoid taking on the strongest forts untill after the capture of the city.
In the second world war, military forts like Breendonk had become useless from a military point of view (due to advances in air-combat). When the fort was captured by the Germans in WWII it became a concentration camp. Various opponents of the nazi regime in Belgium were imprisoned here: resistance fighters, communists, jews, even mailmen that refused to censor letters. It wasn't a death camp like Auschwitz but still many people died due to execution, starvation or extreme torture. To honour these people the fort became a monument soon after the end of the war, because of that the fort is one of the best preserved concentration camps and it looks pretty much the way it looked in 1944.
A visit to the fort costs 6 euros (or less due to various reductions) and includes an audio guide that really helps to explain every aspect about the different rooms, people and events in the camp.
I noticed that most of the vistors in the fort were foreign, and I had never really considered going there untill my American friend asked me if we could go there, she had learned about Breendonk in her university courses in berkeley. One of the reasons for its relative obscurity in Flanders might be that it is a place that also makes us question ourselves.
If you live in or near Belgium I strongly suggest you go visit it, it is an experience you won't easily forget, I could talk a lot more about what happened in the camp but it's better to go there yourself and experience it there.
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