Breendonk does not share the infamy of such Nazi concentration camps as Buchenwald or Dachau, but in this insightful and revealing history, Deem rescues this Belgian prison from near obscurity and tells the stories of some of the thousands who suffered and died there.
Fort Breendonk was built at the beginning of the 20th century along the Antwerp-Brussels highway, one in a chain of fortresses constructed to defend Belgium against a German invasion. Damaged at the start of World War I, it fell into disrepair. In August 1940, a few months after occupying Belgium, the Germans turned the fortress into a detention camp. Although it was never officially designated as a concentration camp by the SS, the treatment its prisoners endured was no less brutal. Deem draws heavily upon prisoners’ accounts to tell the story of the camp and its victims, but the information is sometimes sketchy and the narrative, choppy. Nolis’ photographs of the camp as it is now establish mood and setting; they are complemented by black-and-white archival photographs and reproductions of remarkable sketches by Jacques Ochs, a prisoner assigned by the commandant to create portraits of prisoners and depictions of camp life.
This well-researched history is best suited for readers who already have solid background knowledge of the Holocaust and an interest in delving further into the subject. (photos, maps, source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 14 & up)