Fort of Breendonk, Brussels, Belgium
A badly planned day tour from Brussels resulted in my missing the visit to Fort of Breendonk. It was a good opportunity for me to see the concentration camp of the Germans.Breendonk was a “waiting” camp designed to receive Jews and political prisoners before their transfer to Germany. The first prisoners arrived on September 20th, 1940. Initially the conditions of life were very difficult but still tolerable. But after the German troops invaded Russia (June 1941), the German guards were reinforced by Belgian guards and the treatment was inhuman. The lack of food became so severe that several prisoners tried to eat grass. Executions by hanging or shooting were common.
From what I read, the prisoners had to live in bunkers built of concrete which were always very cold and damp. They were provided only two sanitary tubs for over twenty prisoners. Medical care was deficient. The regime was worse than in most other Nazi camps because the number of prisoners to keep watch on and to harass was small. Tortures, beltings, hangings and shootings were common in Breendonk. It is unsure how many prisoners died or were killed in Breendonk but recent research estimates their number at about 300.
The fort is open throughout the year except on two days, Jan 1st and Dec 25th. Since my daughters had covered World War lessons in their History subjects, I thought it a great opportunity to show them the concentration camp. Later seeing the pics of torture rooms in sites I felt it was okay to miss it. We reached the fort and to our disappointment then, found it closed. None the sites we referred mentioned its closure. As we stood at the closed gate the official there came out to inform us that it has been closed for maintenance for three days. “You could have called up once before coming”, he said. He sounded a little surprised when he came to know we were tourists from India.
When I saw the Thursday Challenge theme: DISTANT (Things Photographed from Far Away), I was reminded how I got the photograph of this fort from far away!