Amongst the hundreds of thousands who were imprisoned in Concentration camp Dachau,
there were more than two thousand Dutchmen. They were mostly resistance fighters,
who fought for the liberation of their country from the German oppressor.
Most Dutchmen had already experienced a long journey before they arrived in Dachau.
The Nazi's moved their prisoners constantly. They were “put on transport”, as they
called it. Normally resistance fighters were housed in a prison or concentration
camp in Holland, like Amersfoort or Vught. While there, they were interrogated, and
during these interrogations, in many cases, they were tortured.
Although one could question if it was possible to get a fair trial by the Germans,
in many cases there were trials, especially if large groups of resistance fighters
were involved. In those cases punishment was meted out and it became abundantly clear
that the German judges were extremely fond of the death penalty. How many resistance
fighters, most of them very young men, were hanged or shot to death?
After all the judicial shenanigans were through, the prisoners were moved to a Concentration
camp. But in many cases that was not immediately Dachau. For reasons that cannot
be determined in retrospect, prisoners were constantly moved from one camp to another.
There are Dutchmen who have seen the inside of more than ten camps or prisons.
Until May of 1944 there were no more than 200 Dutchmen. That number grew drastically
when 650 prisoners were moved there from Vught. A few months later, in September,
the Concentration camps of Natzweiler and Elzace were totally evacuated to Dachau.
This meant an instant increase of 7000 men in the already overpopulated camp, amongst
whom were several hundred Dutchmen. You could say that Dachau was kind of a final
destination. Because of the invasion of the allied forces in the west, and the Russians
in the east, more and more camps had to be evacuated. Dachau was centrally located
and many transports wound up there. The increase in population in a camp that was
already bursting at the seams, caused chaotic situations. It was necessary to alleviate
the excess as soon as possible.
Every day large transports went to other nearby camps or to subcamps.
Because of the overpopulation, the malnourishment and the bad hygienic conditions,
a large epidemic of typhus broke out during the last months. Most of the Dutchmen
were infected with this horrible disease, for many of them it was the final straw.
Weakened as they were, they could not fight and succumbed to the disease.
In the sick barracks there were two Dutch Physicians, Drs. Drost and Van Dommelen.
They did what they could, but they were fighting an insurmountable foe with limited
means at their disposal. The only medicine they had was the blood of patients who
had gotten well, because of the antibodies in that blood.
Amongst the two thousand clerics in the so-called Priest barracks were 24 Dutch protestant
preachers and 39 Roman Catholic priests. Seventeen of them died.
Quite a few Dutchmen were subjected to the medical experiments of the SS Physicians
Rascher and Schilling.
There is a difference of opinion about the number of Dutchmen that were imprisoned
in Dachau. A list exists with the names of the people who were there in April 1945.
There are 497 names on that list, but it is not complete. According to the camp administration,
there were 836 Dutchmen present.
Recent research into the archives of the Dachau memorial center showed the there
were 2068 Dutchmen in Dachau. 405 were transported to other camps. 132 were released
over the years, although it is unclear if they were allowed to go home.
Up until the liberation on 29 April, 1945, 477 Dutchmen lost their lives in the camp.
A number of prisoners died as a result of their stay in the concentration camp in
the years after the war.
30 April, 1945. Yesterday the camp was liberated, today the Dutch flag flies in the
courtyard of Dachau and the Dutchmen are singing the “Wilhelmus” (Dutch National
This ceremony was especially poignant because it is the 36th birthday of Princess
Juliana, who would later become our Queen.
This picture was made by Lee Miller, an American journalist who followed the American
invasion into Germany and was one of the first people who set foot in the camp.