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Colony snobs

Koloniekak – Leven in een gevangenisdorp

De twintigste eeuw in Veenhuizen

Marriët Meester

Stichting Het Drentse Boek

ISBN: 9789065091901

“I had only just moved into the empty rectory when the director of the Prison Museum and the director of the Veenhuizen Penitentiary Institution turned up on my doorstep, asking if I wanted to write a book based on interviews with (former) Veenhuizers. The oral history of the ‘colony village’ Veenhuizen had to be put in writing, they thought. I had my doubts; I had come here with a completely different plan, which was suddenly pushed aside. I really had to change my mind.” Mariët finally agreed and wanted to make an appointment for a first interview, with a 98-year-old woman. “Turned out she had just died,” says Mariët. “That was the moment I realised that recording that oral history was important. Now there are still eyewitnesses who know what it was like to live and work in that isolated prison village of Veenhuizen. It was the time when you couldn’t enter Veenhuizen if you had nothing to do there.”


Mariët interviewed 37 people for her book Koloniekak. The term is a household word among the Veenhuizers interviewed. “That’s what they were called,” explains Mariët. “One former resident aptly put it: ‘we had shoes; in the other villages they had clogs’. Not surprisingly noted. Veenhuizen was a civil service enclave where justice personnel from all over the country worked.”


Koloniekak describes the Veenhuizen of the twentieth century, roughly until the 1980s, when Veenhuizen ‘opened’ and everyone was allowed to live there, even if they were not detainees or employed by the judiciary.


From: Drenthe magazine – Harriet van den Heuvel