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The terrors of the camps

NOS 75 years of liberation
The closer we get to the end of the war, the more poignant the stories about those who didn’t live to see it. Allied soldiers dying in the field, starving civilians in the cities, Jewish victims murdered in the camps. Even in the closing days of the war, the Nazi killing machine continues to work inexorably.
This week, Russian troops stop a train that haphazardly crossed Germany for the past two weeks. With a degenerate devotion to duty, SS men transported concentration camp prisoners from Bergen-Belsen. “The destruction of the Jews had to continue,” says survivor Micha Gelber from Ede.
Freed prisoners from Bergen-Belsen
Freed prisoners from Bergen-Belsen
In Sachsenhausen, most of the guards have already fled when the Russians liberate the camp. Hardened soldiers are shocked by the terrible conditions in which prisoners were held here. Hundreds of severely weakened men and women still die after the liberation.
For many, liberation comes too late. In an outer camp in Neuengamme, the black resistance fighter Anton de Kom, who had been involved in the communist underground since 1940, succumbs. A group of Jewish children also held in the camp complex are murdered in cold blood, along with their escorts and Russian prisoners of war. It is an attempt by the German doctors to keep their experiments on the children a secret.
In Amersfoort, Red Cross sister Loes van Overeem manages to take charge of the prison camp without bloodshed. The Germans flee with several dozen hostages and put her in charge. An uncertain time has come: the camp is still behind the front line, so the prisoners have been liberated, but are not yet allowed to leave.
The front has almost come to a standstill in the Netherlands. The Canadians have reached the IJsselmeer, Friesland has been largely liberated (to the relief of the evacued Aadje) and, except for the northernmost tip, Groningen is also in Allied hands. Montgomery chooses not to advance further to the west of the Netherlands: that would immediately lead to heavy fighting and disastrous destruction by the cornered Germans. He hopes Seyss-Inquart will conclude himself that capitulation is his only option. In any case, he warns his men not to fraternize with the defeated enemy.
Because the advance is sometimes erratic, citizens are warned time and again not to start flying with the Dutch tricolor too early. Frustrated Nazi’s regularly take revenge on civilians who started the liberation festivities too early. Even if the enemy has been definitively defeated, a party can still get out of hand: in Urk two people are killed by an unfortunate shot.
In a liberated area, people are already cautiously returning to normal life, so they can return to the circus. The reconstruction has also already started, with the construction of emergency homes. Eindhoven will have a university for the first time with the establishment of the emergency university.
War reports
Other news messages this week
Hitler received a VW model from Ferdinand Porsche in 1938 on his 49th birthday
Hitler received a VW model from Ferdinand Porsche in 1938 on his 49th birthday
Corona does not end liberation journals
A new series of Liberation Journals will start on Monday. Despite all the restrictions surrounding the coronavirus, we have been able to record the episodes in recent weeks. Our reporters were even able to move more freely than before the corona crisis: it was quiet on the street, little traffic and few cars. That makes a huge difference if you want to run on the Dam in Amsterdam, on the quays in Zutphen or in the center of Arnhem, places that are normally very busy.
Filming on a deserted Dam
Filming on a deserted Dam
There were no problems in the studio either. We had plastic partitions in the studio between colleagues, so they could still sit next to each other in the cramped space.
A screen between director Koen van Mourik and editor-in-chief Paul Vloon A screen between director Koen van Mourik and editor-in-chief Paul Vloon
A screen between director Koen van Mourik and editor-in-chief Paul Vloon A screen between director Koen van Mourik and editor-in-chief Paul Vloon
Another major advantage is that we do not have to interview anyone on location. For WWII documentaries, the NOS often speaks with elderly witnesses, who are especially vulnerable. For the liberation news, however, we could follow the news from home and abroad as usual with correspondents, reporters and of course the interpretation of military historian Christ Klep in the studio with Herman van der Zandt.
The Liberation News about the end of World War II in Europe can be seen from April 27 to May 9, immediately after the NOS 20 o'clock News, and of course also on nos.nl/75jaarbevrijding.
Books about WO II
Two books that have recently been released may more or less be seen as a pendant of each other: The faces of Margraten and In the service of the Nazi’s. The first book is about the Americans who did not return from the war, the second about Dutch people who often violently helped the occupying forces.
“A monument on paper” the published calls The faces of Margraten. The approximately 200 life stories recorded in it reflect the 10,023 casualties buried in the American cemetary. Like Charles L. Summers, the first American to die in Europe when his plane was shot down over the North Sea on April 1, 1942. Or Dorothy Jane Burdge, a Red Cross nurse who died on 1 May 1945 in a pleasure flight in a captured aircraft. A book in which too many young faces stare back at you on every page, unsuspecting of the fate that would befall them.
Paul van de Water delved into eleven lives of often violent collaborators. Sometimes fervent Nazi’s, otherwise naive profiteers or perhaps opportunistic sadists. Two Dutch teenage girls who ended up as guards in Auschwitz; an SD executioner so unscrupulous that his colleagues considered killing him; a Jewish woman who relentlessly brought in fellow sufferers. Van de Water reconstructs how they got on the wrong side of history and how they dealt with their past after the war. From lives that slowly derailed, to people who blindly chose evil.
75 years later: WO II and liberation news from 2020
For the project World War II in one hundred photos, the organizers asked well-known Dutch to explain a photo that has special significance to them. Erik Scherder chose a harrowing photo from the hunger winter, Dieuwertje Blok describes a sunny day on a beach forbidden for Jews, Job Cohen speaks about the place where his parents got married on June 14, 1945.
Former NOS colleague Pauline Broekema chose a photo of the liberation of Groningen. “A moment in a life that could just be over.”
The second World War in 100 photos | Pauline Broekema
The second World War in 100 photos | Pauline Broekema
The victims of the Holocaust have been commemorated in Israel. Six survivors of the genocide lit torches. Their stories were told, and President Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu made speeches.
And explosives from the Second World War were found in two places this week: a grenade and mortar bombs were brought into a thrift store in Enschede and a cutter from Den Helder fished for a sea mine.
Preview
The Germans will negotiate food aid to the starving west next week. In addition, Mussolini is killed in Italy and Wilhelmina returns permanently to the Netherlands.
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