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Gys Weverink

Those who do not remember history…

This past spring I was fortunate enough to spend two weeks in my birth nation, the Netherlands. During these two weeks, the weather gods favoured that little country, as the sun was plentiful, the temperatures pleasant, and rain a rarity—something not traditionally associated with Dutch springs if my childhood memories serve me correctly. I was fortunate enough to be able to take in Queens Day in Amsterdam; the lovely canals, squares and architecture of the country’s old cities; bicycling past the governmental and juridical commotion of The Hague to the breezy, commercial seaside town of Scheveningen, only minutes away—as most things in the Netherlands are—among other things. However, the day that will remain with me the longest was one of the last days of my trip. The Thursday prior to my return to Canada, I visited the site of former World War II durchgangslager (transit camp) Westerbork, in the Northeast province of Drenthe. From within the barbed wire fences of Westerbork, 107,000 Jews forcibly boarded cattle wagons heading further east into Europe, to the extermination camps of Sobibor, Mauthausen, Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz and Theresienstadt. Walking through the peaceful forests surrounding the camp it is nearly impossible to fathom that this area was the site of so much human despair nearly seven decades ago. As we exited the peaceful calm of the tall forests surrounding the camp, however, the grim reality of the atrocities of the Holocaust are immediately within sight. A monument, entitled “Signs of Westerbork,” consists of five concrete coffins bearing the names of Sobibor, Mauthausen, Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz and Theresienstadt, as well as the number of deported and murdered Jews, Roma and political prisoners.  These camps proved to be a final destination for many of Westerbork’s inhabitants.  Of the 107,000 prisoners deported from Westerbork, 102,000 were murdered. This sobering monument was the initiative of… Read More