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Living with war experiences

Smolinski Foundation
Time period: 1940-1945
Number of interviews: 192
Accessibility: restricted public
Period of interviews: 2019-present

Herman Teerhöfer managed to interview a large number of survivors, starting from their life stories, about their personal experience and perception of the events and circumstances before, during and after World War II.

The poignant stories have been recorded in people’s homes, in image and sound. All interviewees also give a message for future generations in the interview.


Central questions in the interviews are:

  • How were they able to survive and what did they draw strength from?
  • Where did they draw mental support from? What was their footing?

  • How did they make sense of their lives after the war despite many experiences of loss and trauma?

  • How did they experience anti-Semitism prior to and after World War II?

  • What message do they have for future generations regarding tolerance and forbearance?



From the testimonies and stories goes the warning “Never again war” and at the same time they call for cherishing and celebrating the freedom we now enjoy.


Wide-ranging interviews
Over the years, a large collection of interviews has been produced. The topics cover a wide range of aspects of World War II, due to the diverse background and environment the interviewees were in.


Smolinski Foundation aims to unlock a large collection of interviews in a way suitable for use during lessons in schools and presentations for cultural and civil society organisations. Digital, interactive teaching materials are also being developed. Interview fragments can also be used in museum presentations.


Overview of available interviews

  • 84 life stories of Auschwitz survivors:
    • 20 interviewees were deported from Camp Vught to Auschwitz
    • 28 interviewees were deported to Auschwitz from Camp Westerbork
    • 36 interviewees were deported to Auschwitz from other camps and ghettos outside the Netherlands
  • 25 life stories of Jewish people who managed to survive in hiding during World War II
  • 11 life stories of people who participated in the Jewish resistance during World War II
  • 8 life stories of survivors of Westerbork and Bergen-Belsen
  • 3 life stories of survivors of Westerbork only
  • 1 life story of a survivor of e.g. Camp Amersfoort
  • 10 life stories of survivors of Japanese camps in the former Dutch East Indies
  • 2 life stories of people who were children of NSB parents during World War II
  • 8 life stories of resistance fighters and former political prisoners from Camp Vught
  • 20 life stories of people who survived the Second World War and who, for example, witnessed a bombing (Nijmegen, Tilburg or Rotterdam), or experienced the hunger winter, or joined the Allies at liberation, or other testimonies of the Second World War in the Netherlands
  • 10 life stories of people who witnessed the persecution of Jews in, for example, Amsterdam, Leiden and Tilburg, people who witnessed prisoners being put to work outside the camp in Camp Amersfoort or Camp Vught during World War II. These people lived in the immediate vicinity of Camp Amersfoort or Camp Vught at the time of the war.
  • 10 life stories of people who experienced Anne Frank before and/or during the war in Amsterdam and/or in Westerbork, Auschwitz-Birkenau and/or Bergen-Belsen. They were classmates or close friends of Anne Frank in Amsterdam, or they were fellow prisoners in Westerbork, Auschwitz-Birkenau and/or Bergen-Belsen.

Women’s concentration camp

Working for Philips (in Kamp Vught)

Collection former Stichting Film en Wetenschap
Time period: 1940-1945
Number of interviews: 7
Accessibility: Limited
Transcripts: Not available
Period of interviews: 1982

Medium: 6 audiotapes + 2 cassettes

The interviews with Tineke Wibaut (1922-1996, daughter-in-law of the well-known Amsterdam alderman Wibaut) and Ms Wijnalda focus on their experiences in the resistance movement during World War II and their subsequent internment in camp Vught and then in the Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp. They talk about the work they did for Philips in Vught and for the German electronics company Telefunken in Ravensbrück.


Interviewee(s): Mrs. V.E. Wibaut-Guilonard (4x), Mrs. Wijnalda (3x)

Subject: Second World War, resistance, camp Vught, Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp


Collection former Stichting Film en Wetenschap
Time period: 1940-1945
Number of interviews: 6
Accessibility: For research
Transcripts: 4 of 6 are transcribed
Period of interviews: 1971 - 1973

Dr. E.J.W. Verwey, curator of the RUU, took the initiative to research the Philips commando in the Vught concentration camp after a reunion of people who had been involved. 
Verwey himself had also been in the camp. Via Prof. von der Dunk, student W. Velema was found willing to carry out the research and write a doctoral thesis on the subject.
Braakman, Laman Trip, Peeters and De Wit were interviewed together. At the time, they were involved in the leadership of the Command and thus had to deal with the daily practice of ‘Vught’. A more general discussion is also held with Philips and Rathenau about the Philips group in the period 1940-45. F. Philips, at the time of the interview president of the Board of Directors of NV Philips, was director of the Philips factories in Eindhoven. Rathenau was involved with the Jewish (SOBU) workshop of Philips, among other things. At the time of the interview, he was Professor of Mathematics and Physics at the Municipal University of Amsterdam.


Return trip to Sachsenhausen

Time period: 1940-1945



Realisation project:

Stichting Nationaal Monument Kamp Vught


Timeframe: 1940-1945
Location: Vught, Sachsenhausen
Number of interviews: 11


Thematic collection: Erfgoed van de Oorlog



Interviews can be seen sevia:


Although prisoners were deported from Vught concentration camp to Sachsenhausen concentration camp throughout the occupation period, the trains that left on 5 and 6 September 1944 are the most notorious. About three thousand men were deported, only half of them returned.


In 2008, interviews were held with a number of survivors of these transports about their wartime experiences. The interviewees discuss the differences between the Dutch and the German concentration camps, the forced labour they were forced to perform, their survival strategies and the consequences of the camp past for their lives after the war.


The interviews with the camp survivors are part of a project set up by the municipality of Vught, the Vughts Historical Museum and Camp Vught National Monument. As part of this project, the documentary “Return ticket Sachsenhausen” was made, in which former prisoner Jan van den Ende (interview 04) makes the journey by train again, accompanied by schoolgirl Danni Reches, who asks him questions about his imprisonment.

German civilians in Camp Vught

Time period: 1944-1945



Realisation project:

Stichting Nationaal Monument Kamp Vught


Time frame: september 1944 – juni 1945
Location: Selfkant Germany, Vught
Number of interviews: 9


Thematic collection: Erfgoed van de Oorlog



In September 1944, the SS concentration camp in Vught was evacuated. After the arrival of the Allies, the site was almost immediately given a new purpose. The Allied army took over parts of the complex and moreover, thousands of Dutch people suspected of collaboration with the German occupier were interned in the camp. What is less well known is that these internees were soon joined by thousands of evacuated German civilians.


As part of this interview project, nine interviews were conducted with German citizens who had been forcibly interned at the former Vught concentration camp between November 1944 and May 1945. Their experiences shed light on a still unknown aspect of the camp’s post-war history. In particular, the interviews reveal much about the treatment of the prisoners by Canadian troops. The relationship between the Dutch collaborators and the interned German civilians is also discussed. How did the German civilian prisoners experience being locked up in one camp with the Dutch collaborators? How did contact between the two groups develop? The statements by the German civilians also show how, immediately after the war in the Netherlands, concepts such as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ were dealt with.

The German civilians in Vught came from the Selfkantgebiet east of Sittard. In September 1944, this area was frontline territory and the approximately 6,000 residents had to be transferred to camp Vught two months later by order of the British army command. Those who stayed behind and were discovered would be shot. The German civilians were taken to Vught, where thousands of Dutch collaborators were also interned and where Canadian troops were also stationed.

Civilian workers in camp Vught

Time period: 1942-1944



Realisation project:


Stichting Nationaal Monument Kamp Vught


Tiime frame: autumn 1942 – september 1944
Location: Selfkant Duitsland, Vught, Cromvoirt
Number of interviews: 10

(restricted public)


Thematic collection: Erfgoed van de Oorlog



During the Second World War, Camp Vught was the only SS concentration camp west of the German border. From the first work to build the camp, in mid-1942, to its evacuation in September 1944, various groups of workers were involved. In addition, from one moment to the next, local residents were confronted with an instrument of persecution and terror. Many were moved by the fate of the prisoners, tried to help, but eventually ended up behind the barbed wire themselves. The stories of those who lived in the vicinity have made their way into history only to a very limited extent. Nor has sufficient attention been paid to the ‘voluntary’ work of the civilian labourers.


As part of this oral history project, eight testimonies of Dutch civilian workers and local residents have been recorded. Paying attention to these almost forgotten groups also means an interesting insight into the behaviour and dilemmas they faced, the choices they made and their consequences. These groups of ‘bystanders’ are given a sharper profile through the interviews.


In 1942, work started on the construction of Konzentrationslager Herzogenbusch, as Camp Vught was officially called. When the first starving and exhausted prisoners arrived from Amersfoort in January 1943, Vught was not yet ready. The prisoners had to finish the camp themselves. The miserable conditions cost the lives of several hundred people in the first few months. Between January 1943 and September 1944, a total of more than 31,000 people were locked up in the camp for short or long periods of time. Besides 12,000 Jews, Vught also held political prisoners, resistance fighters, Jehovah’s Witnesses, students, black marketeers and illegal slaughterers, criminals and hostages. Of these, more than 750 children, women and men died in the camp due to hunger, disease and mistreatment.

Jewish children in camp Vught

Huffener, M.C.C.
Time period: 1938-1946
Number of interviews: 8
Accessibility: restricted public



Huffener, kand. M.C.C. (2003): Thematische collectie: Kindertransporten ‘Joodse kinderen in kamp Vught’ – Interviews (2003) en documentaires (2007). 

One of the most tragic events in the history of World War II in the Netherlands. On 6 and 7 June 1943, two trains with Jewish children left camp Vught. All children under 16 had to leave, their mothers were allowed to go with them. They were told they would be going to a special children’s camp nearby. But the trains went to the Westerbork transit camp. And then to Sobibor in Poland. The almost 1,300 Jewish children were killed here almost immediately upon arrival.