Not far from Assen in an area of woodland well away from any towns is an area called Westerbork. In the lead up to WW2 when Jews and other ethnic groups were being persecuted by the Nazis, the Netherlands had a large influx of refugees. In 1939, the area of Westerbork was set up, giving refugees land to build a camp on.
In 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands and soon after the Westerbork refugee camp became a ready-made transit facility, complete with residents. Jews and other persecuted groups including Sinti and Roma gypsies were sent to Westerbork and then sent by train to labour camps or the extermination camps. A total of 102,000 people were moved through Westerbork to the vast majority to their deaths, including Anne Frank. Only 5,000 people that passed through the camp survived.
Since the camp was liberated in 1945, it changed uses several times before being left to ruin. Due to its isolated nature, some of the land has been re-purposed for use as a radio telescope observatory. In recent years, the buildings were mostly cleared and it has been turned into a museum and memorial. The largest memorial is a rough outline of the Netherlands, with 102,000 bricks representing all those that passed through Westerbork. Most bricks have a Star of David on them, but a few have a flame for the Sintis and Romanis, and a few are unlabeled ‘other’ political prisoners.
After this strangely peaceful but very somber experience of the transit camp, back to a city…