Nine women escape from death march 1945

GETUIGENVERHALEN.NL

 

Realisation project:

Ange Wieberdink Producties (©)

 

Timeframe: April 1945
Location: Buchenwald
Number of interviews: 2 (7 videos)

 

Thematic collection: Erfgoed van de Oorlog

DANS: https://doi.org/10.17026/dans-xh3-89sw

 

Interviews can be seen via:

 

As part of this oral history project, interviews were held with women who managed to escape from the ‘death march’ from the Buchenwald concentration camp. Two Dutch women were interviewed extensively: Madelon Verstijnen in The Hague and Christine Bénedite in Paris. Both ended up in one of Buchenwald’s many sub-camps via Ravensbrück, the concentration camp for women. Most of the women were put to work in the nearby Hasag arms and ammunition factory.

 

On the night of 14 April 1945, the 5,000 or so women from the camp were herded onto the road in a column escorted by armed SS men. The Germans intended that as many people as possible would not survive the death march. Nine women managed to escape: two Dutch, six French and one Spanish woman. Their position is precarious. They are wearing the distinctive clothes of the concentration camp and are in enemy territory.  The Red Army approached from the east, the Allies advanced from the west bombing railway lines and bridges. The nine young women (between 19 and 25 years of age) decide to stay together no matter what, and to look for the American front.

 

The women talk about their wanderings and about their survival strategies: perseverance, solidarity, social intelligence, humour and a striking lack of cynicism. Their experiences provide a nuanced view of the Germans who shelter and feed the women. A night in a country house where Dutch NSB children were staying almost ended fatally.

The documentary ´Ontsnapt´ tells the moving story of the nine women by means of diary fragments and the account of Madelon Verstijnen and Christine Bénedite. 

Dutch ex-prisoners of Buchenwald camp

GETUIGENVERHALEN.NL

 

Realisation project:

NIOD Instituut voor Oorlogs-, Holocaust- en Genocidestudie

 

Timeframe: 1941-1945
Location: Buchenwald, Duitsland, Nederland
Number of interviews: 38

 

Thematic collection: Erfgoed van de Oorlog

DANS: https://doi.org/10.17026/dans-278-xu5v

 

Some interviews can be seen via:

 

On the Ettersberg, a large wooded hill eight kilometres north of Weimar in Germany, the Nazis established the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1937. It quickly became one of the largest concentration camps of the Third Reich. Of the estimated 240,000 people imprisoned at the camp, 34,000 officially died. Nowadays, however, the death rate is estimated to be much higher, at 50,000.

 

After the Netherlands was conquered by Germany in May 1940, Dutch people were also quickly transported after Buchenwald; an estimated 3,300 people. These included hostages, Jews, resistance fighters, Jehovah’s Witnesses and those who refused to work. How they fared in Buchenwald can no longer always be traced. What is certain is that 497 Dutch people died in Buchenwald, and that when the camp was liberated there were still 384 Dutch people there.

 

In the period 2000-2001, the former Association of Former Buchenwald Prisoners interviewed 38 Dutch former prisoners. The interviews were made possible financially by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport within the framework of the project ‘World War II Relics’. With this interview project the Vereniging Oud-Buchenwalders seized one of the last opportunities to record the experiences of these eyewitnesses. In 2001, the Association was dissolved and replaced by the Buchenwald Memorial Committee, which primarily focuses on the progress of the commemorations.

In 2002, the filmed interviews of Dutch former prisoners of Buchenwald camp were transferred to the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The NIOD has made the interviews digitally accessible and searchable. This was financially made possible by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport within the framework of the project ‘War Heritage’ (2007-2009). Commissioned by the NIOD, filmmaker Emiel Bakker made, based on the interviews, the documentary ‘Vooral niet opvallen. Nederlanders in Buchenwald’ (2008).

On behalf of the NIOD, filmmaker Emiel Bakker made, on the basis of the interviews, the documentary ‘Vooral niet opvallen. Dutch in Buchenwald’ (2008). The documentary premiered in November 2008 during the 21st “International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam” (IDFA) and was broadcast on TV by the NPS on 4 May 2009.