In one day we visited the Amersfoort cemetery in Leusden and camp Amersfoort.
Both locations, the camp and the cemetery, lie only 5 kilometres apart.
Right beside the car park, just before the documentation centre, stands a lonely watchtower.
Originally there were eight of these towers placed around the camp. One on each corner and one watchtower at the middle of each side.
In 1939 the Dutch Government commissioned the construction of an army compound, complete with barracks and training grounds. The intention was to house a Dutch artillery unit.
From 18 August 1941 on, after the occupation of the Netherlands, the camp was used by the German police. They transformed it to a ” Polizeiliches Durchgangslager “; a political transit camp for the unwanted.
At the start of the camp, on 18th of August 1941, they received 200 prisoners. A group of communists, transferred from camp Schoorl, another camp in Holland. The camp was under the command of SS-Obersturmführer Walter Heinrich. He was a policeman who had little or no experience with the leadership in a camp. Two experienced executioners from the notorious camp Dachau stood at his diposal.
Camp Amersfoort was, because of the latter two, a notorious camp on its own. In addition to the SS butcher Kötalla they used “kapo’s” in the camp. Kapo are prisoners which worked for the Germans, they took charge of a section of prisoners. In return they were offered a better treatment or more food. Unfortunately they didn’t shy cruelties on their fellow inmates.
|Remnants of the prison cell in the bunker|
The daily jobs of the prisoner were exhausting. The “Forrest-crew” had to attend hard labour in the woods, such as the grubbing-up of trees and chop them into pieces. The nutrition provided to do this kind of work failed causing malnutrition, disease and even death.
|The Firing Range|
|The stone man at the end of the firing range|
In total, there are around 35,000 registered prisoners in the camp archives. 14,000 of them were put on transport to labour camps in Germany, 5,000 to other type of camps. More than 15,000 have been released, fled or were executed or killed. 650 prisoners are killed by violence alone in camp Amersfoort.
|The old cemetery behind the firing range|
The 320-metre-long firing range was manually excavated by the prisoners. This location was also used by the camp guards as an executing site. Directly after the war a mass grave was discovered at the end of the firing range containing 49 bodies. The statue of the “Stone man” stands on the exact spot these days
|The house of corpses|
|The house of corpses|
In the cottage next to the shooting range are the foundations of a house were they brought the dead.
In this house they were overthrown with quicklime. After the war, another mass grave near the house was discovered. Most of the remains from the victims were lost, long gone due to the use of this quicklime.
|Foundation of a Guard tower|
|The guard tower in front of the documentation centre.|
Behind the camp they found another, a third, mass grave, with 77 Russian victims. The group is murdered in 1945 at this precise location. From the original 101 member of the Russian unit, 24 of them died to the hardships of the camp. The 77 surviving prisoners were murdered on 9 April 1942. The Koedriest, or Russian monument is a silent reminder of this sad day.
|The Koedriest monument|
Camp Amersfoort offers a small documentation centre and some remains of the original camp itself. It will keep you busy for an hour or 2. Many of the objects are outdoors and reachable through forest paths.
You can check the current opening hours online.