By Imke Roebken -- On the last Sunday of May, IJC organized a visit and tour of the former Kazerne Dossin with its Memorial and Museum in Mechelen. It is from the Kazerne building that 25,490 Jews and 353 Roma were deported on 28 train transports between 1942 and 1944. All transports went to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Those deported were all documented thanks to the Jewish typist Eva Fastag who made the deportation lists which luckily were not destroyed. So we know today who was forced to be on which transport. The Memorial tries to give each name a face and they add new-found pictures every year to the wall in a computer program. It is heartbreaking to see the small numbers of people who survived Auschwitz. It also has a special place for remembrance of which Sarah S. took the picture below.
On our way to lunch we looked at the location by the former city wall where in 1947 Flemish SSers and three “kapos” (prisoner functionary) were executed. They wereconvicted in the 1946 trial in the City Hall of Mechelen.
After a sunny lunch outside near the market square, we went to the Museum which is a new building opposite the Kazerne. Before entering we stopped where some children were hidden during the Nazi occupation. The Museum’s permanent exhibition is quite large and our tour only covered some of its elements. It addresses not only the history of the Kazerne but follows the persecution of the Jews, Roma and Sinti in Belgium and Northern France during the Second World War, as well as covering other human rights issues. This has been discussed controversially in Flanders and Belgium.
I think many of us felt that it is not always easy – or even appropriate - to address all these
human rights issues together. I personally prefer the approach of the Shoah memorial in Paris and in Drancy. But when visiting the permanent exhibition on one’s own and not with a guide, you could easily concentrate on what you are interested in. Many of the IJC group also visited the temporary exhibition on Homosexuals and Lesbians in Nazi Europe which was created in Paris.
All in all it was a long day with a lot of sad but also some hopeful information to digest. We were a pleasant group and enjoyed each other’s company and spending the day together!
For any of those who were unavailable for this visit but are interested to visit Kazerne Dossin another time as an IJC group, please let us - or me - know.
First and last photo courtesy Diana K