The more I read about the Holocaust, the less I know. There are piles of books in my library, fiction and non—they all point me to the forgotten moments, the unseen suffering, the unnamed heroes. And so it goes with the book THE PRISONERS OF BREENDONK: a passionate book thoroughly researched, strongly written.
I feel hidden from the world. My grandfather, my heritage, comes from Belgium, yet I have never heard of this concentration camp just north of Brussels, guarding the south borders of Antwerp. Here, though not considered by the SS as a concentration camp, 303 of the 3,590 known prisoner died under abuse, starvation, or execution. There were no gas champers here: it was death by brutality. 1,741 of those prisoners were later transported to other camps, to their eventual deaths.
The combination of written word, paired with pictures throughout, offers a staggering perspective. I’ve learned so many stories, how Belgians, both citizens and those retreating from other countries, both Jew and even non-Jew jailed from previously hating the German regime—all suffered. The book builds in narrative, highlighting personal stories, group travesty, and the overall history of Breendonk. The author, James M Deem, begins with the story of Israel Neumann, who once came through Ellis Island, residing in America, returned to Belgium, to his personal hell. The story concludes with the eventual liberation and the current standing of Breendonk today.
This is not the story you’ve heard or seen about other concentration camps, but it is equally as powerful. The conversations and events have been carefully reconstructed through written documents, family history, court cases, and the author’s many trips to Breendonk itself. If you are at all interested in learning more: this book will stick with you for a long, long time.
You can find more about this book, including a preview, on Amazon, here: The Prisoners of Breendonk: Personal Histories from a World War II Concentration Camp
Enjoy your reading!!