Photograph of Jewish prisoners leaving for labor at the Breendonk camp. Described on the back in French: "Es prisoners juifs communistes sont soumis aux travaux forcés à Brandonk" - "Jewish communist prisoners leaving for forced labor at Breendonk", January 1941.
During the German occupation of Belgium in World War II, Breendonk served as an internment camp where Jews from the Belgian community were also imprisoned. On September 20, 1940, the first prisoners arrived at the fortress. In the first year of the camp's existence, Jews made up half the population of prisoners and were held separately from other prisoners. Among others, Rabbi Solomon Ulman, chief rabbi of the Belgian Jewish community, and heads of the Belgian Jewish union were imprisoned there. Prisoners spent an average of three months in the fortress before being sent to concentration camps in Germany, Austria and Poland. Prisoners suffered from harsh conditions, starvation, denial of medical care and cruel treatment by camp staff, and were subjected to forced labor; the Germans also conducted interrogations, torture and hangings at the fortress. Various "political" prisoners were tortured under interrogation. In August 1944, as the Allied armies approached Belgium, the Germans began evacuating Breendonk fortress. In those months, executions in the camp increased by shooting, hanging and other means. Many prisoners were executed immediately upon arrival at the camp before even being given prisoner clothing, as can be seen in the photo before us. At the same time, the Germans evacuated the fortress and transferred the remaining prisoners to Mechelen camp or to camps in the Netherlands, Germany and Poland. The first German commander of the fortress, Philip Schmitt, was tried in Belgium in 1949, convicted, sentenced to death and executed in 1950.
13x9. Divided back for use as a postcard. Good condition.