Concentration camps in western europe

concentration camps in western europe were mainly transit camps. These camps were opened in prior immigrants camps or army barracks. Usually speaking these camp had a rather mild regime. The aim was to keep the people uninformed about the future perspective of them. People only stayed in the camp for days or weeks, with exception of the jewish staff. These staff members were responsible for running the camp on the inside and selecting the people for the transports. A second type of camp in the western of Europe were the detention camps. These people contained communists or people from the resistance. These peoples were either released after their sentence, executed or send to nacht-und-nebel camps.


In western europe several concentration camps were established. These camps were mainly transit camps. Transit camps are concentration camps were people were collected before transport to a different camp. In Western Europe many Jews were collected in these camps prior to operation Reinhard, the final solution of the Jews. Every occupied had 1 main camp for the deportations of the Jews. In France it was camp Drancy, In Belgium camp mechelen and in the Netherlands camp Westerbork.

People did not hear their real final destination when deported. They were told they were deported to the east of Europe in order to work in a labour camp. In reality most transports from western Europe were send to the extermination camps Auschwitz and Sobibor.

The conditions in these camps were not very harsh in comparison with the condition in the bigger concentration camps in Germany and eastern Europe. However, for the people the contrast between being free and being in a camp was always a major shock to them.


Drancy was, located in the northern sub-urbs of paris, already a camp prior to the german invasion. The camp was opened to hold militants in France in 1939. In June 1940 it became a temporary POW camp before being used as a transit camp for Jews in June 1942. The camp was placed in a large 5 story high, u shaped, appartmentsbuilding. It was chosen as a suitable site as transit camp because most Jews lived in Paris and the close proximity of 2 train stations. The camp was guarded by SS and normal French police. In total 70.000 people were transported from this camps to camps in the east, mainly Auschwitz.

drancy transit camp map


KZ mechelen, also named dossin, are a set of army barracks build in1756. Since July 1942 it acted as a transit camp for Belgium Jews. The location was chosen because it was close to a trainstation. A second reason was its location: between antwerpen and brussels, were 90% of the Belgium Jews lived. The camp could hold 1700 people crammed together at 1 and the same time. Most people in the camp were transported in a few days or weeks. In total 25.484 people were deported from this camps, of which 24,390 to Auschwitz. Belgium also had a second camp for political prisoners called fort breenkdonk. This camp was located in a fortification and was infamous for its very strict regime. This camp also shortly acted as a concentrationcamp prior to the opening of camp mechelen.

Kazerne Dossin transit camp


Westerbork was opened in 1939 as a refugeecamp prior to the german invasion. The main refugee in this camp were the Jewish refugees from Germany. In total 750 people were already in the camp during the german invasion of the Netherlands. After the war the camp was under control of the dutch police for 2 more years, after which the SS took control in July 1942. After this period wooden barracks were build and Jews from across the Netherlands were transported towards the camps. In the first period of the camp there was not a direct railwayline into the camp and people had to walk 5km to hooghalen trainstation before being deported. The railline into the camp was established at November 1942. The live in the camp was to appear as normal as possible. Therefore, the camp contained child care, schools, a functioning hospital. This was necessary because the Netherlands was heavily populated and they did not want romours to spread about the fate of the Jewish people in the Netherlands. In total 101.000 people were deported from westerbork, mainly towards Auschwitz and sobibor.

kamp westerbork aerial overview photo
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