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Fort Breendonk, Breendonk

#8 of 58 in Historic Sites in Antwerp Province
Must see · History Museum · Military Facility
Fort Breendonk (Dutch: Fort van Breendonk, French: Fort de Breendonk) is a former military installation at Breendonk, near Mechelen, in Belgium which served as a Nazi prison camp (Auffanglager) during the German occupation of Belgium during World War II.

Originally constructed between 1906 and 1913 as part of the second ring of the National Redoubt defending Antwerp, Fort Breendonk was used by the Belgian Army and was covered by a five-metre thick layer of soil for defense against artillery fire, a water-filled moat and measured 656 by 984 feet (200 by 300 m). It was used in both World War I and World War II by which time it had become militarily obsolete.

Fort Breendonk was requisitioned by the Schutzstaffel (SS) shortly after the Belgian surrender on 28 May 1940 and used as a prison camp for the detention of political prisoners, resistance members, and Jews. Although technically a prison rather than a concentration camp, it became infamous for the poor living conditions in which the prisoners were housed and for the torture and executions which were carried out there. Most detainees were subsequently transferred to larger concentration camps in Eastern Europe. 3,590 prisoners are known to have been held at Fort Breendonk during the war of whom 303 died or were executed in the fort itself while 1,741 others subsequently died in other camps before the end of the war. In Belgian historical memory, Breendonk became symbolic of the barbarity of the German occupation.

The camp was evacuated ahead of the Liberation of Belgium by the Western Allies in September 1944. It was briefly repurposed to detain Belgian collaborators. It was declared a "national memorial" in 1947 and has subsequently been open to the public as a museum. Many of the camp's personnel were subsequently tried for their wartime actions in Belgian courts.

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366 reviews
  • My spouse and I actually visited around 2008. I had dreams about this place for weeks after the visit. What impressed us as much as the facility and museum itself were the groups of school...  more »
  • Didn't expect the museum to be so well set-up, because the website looks rather bad. The audio tour is very thorough and it takes a good 2.5 hours to see the whole site, but it's definitely worth it.....  more »
  • The staff were very helpful and even offered to let us keep our motorcycle helmets behind their desks so we did have to carry them, which was very kind. They also give you a audio handset to listen to on the way round. Which I highly recommend using, It adds to the story of place and you find out things you would never have known otherwise. Brilliant museum but a very sobering place to visit.
  • Must see for everyone. Puts you right back down on your feet. Well set up, built around stories of victims of this site.

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