In spite of all the hopes that were being raised camp Westerbork remained a
deportation machine. Eventually the deportations came to dominate daily life.
Almost every week people were faced with the agonizing thought of who was
going to be on it this time. On 15 July, 1942 the first deportation train
left from the station at Hooghalen (from early November onwards from the camp
itself). That day and the next day 2,030 people were transported, including
| By 12 October, 1942 twenty-four trains had left and 23,700 Jews had
been deported. They had all stayed in Westerbork for a short period of time,
some of them only to be registered. From early February 1943 it became a
regular pattern: every Tuesday a train left with on average one thousand
persons on board. Most of the time cattle trucks were used for this.
The deportations from Westerbork were for the most part coordinated from
Germany. Decisions as to date, destination and size of the transports were
taken by the IVB4 department (under Adolf Eichmann) of the
Reichssicherheitshauptamt at Berlin. They were then passed on to the Dutch
department in the Hague, which would then send a telex to Gemmeker with the
relevant instructions. Although the commander was responsible, he left the
compiling of the deportation lists mostly to the Jewish camp organisation. To
prevent any unnecessary upheaval the decision on who would and would not be
deported was only taken a few hours before departure. The definite
deportation lists were compiled in great haste in the night from Monday to
Tuesday. These were divided according to barracks. The head of the barracks
was charged with calling out the names.
|`When the head of the barracks had called out the last names and had
told the deportees that they should all go and get ready for the journey, the
camp was in turmoil. Everyone was preparing himself for the coming departure
in his own way. Some were stoically packing their things, others were crying
because their child had not been put on the list and would have to stay
behind all by itself'.
(J. Schelvis, Binnen de poorten)
The camp police took the deportees with their modest belongings to the
train which was waiting along the Boulevard des Miseres. They also blocked
the roads and formed a cordon around the platform. Those who remained in the
camp were not allowed to leave their barracks.
`When the waggons are filled up and the required number of deportees
are put on the train, the waggon doors are set ajar. The commander gives the
signal for departure: a wave of the hand, the wistle shrieks, usually around
eleven o'clock, it makes everyone in the camp shudder, and then the scabious
snake shuffles away, its belly filled to the brim. Schlesinger and his men
jump on the footboard: they ride along for a while, for convenience's sake,
otherwise they have to walk back the whole way which, of course, would wear
|soles. The commander strolls away contentedly; Doctor Spanier walks
back to his consultation room, hands on his back, head bent in worried
reflection. When he tries to say something about the deportation everyone in
the camp makes vomiting sounds. Three thousand and fifty persons were
deported today. Ghastly feelings in the camp. Last night there was a shortage
of three hundred people. They were taken from the industries and offices'.
(Ph. Mechanicus, In Dépôt)
Men and women, young and old, healthy and sick, were packed together with
children in one and the same waggon. All on the bare floor, seated between
and on their luggage. In a corner there was a small barrel which they had to
use as a toilet, for all to see. In another corner there was a barrel with
drinking-water. There were not provided with any food en route. Their
destination was Auschwitz or, for a few months in 1943, Sobibor. In a few
cases Theresienstadt or Bergen Belsen. Those destined for these camps felt
privileged, which in fact they were, because they turned out to have a better
chance of survival than those deported to the extermination camps in Poland.
On 13 September, 1944 the last train left. On it were, among others, 77
children who had gone into hiding and had been caught. All in all more than
one hundred thousand people were deported by 93 trains from camp Westerbork,
245 gypsies among them. When the camp was liberated on 12 April, 1945 876
prisoners were left. Thanks to a combination of luck, their privileged
position and the the way the war had gone they had escaped deportation.