Immediately after Hitler's seizure of power in 1933, the Nazi regime began to set up a system of concentration camps in which opponents of the regime were imprisoned, exploited and mishandled. SS units were responsible for the supervision of the camps, as well as of the later extermination camps, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka and Sobibor, where Jews in particular were killed.
The German occupying forces started to set up prison camps in the Netherlands too in 1941, and those camps were the scene of the forced labour, provocation and mistreatment of prisoners as well as of executions. There were no camps with gas chambers in the Netherlands, however, like the ones used in the German extermination camps.
The first camp in the Netherlands was near Schoorl, where mainly Jews, Communists and political prisoners of an anti-revolutionary persuasion [an influential Dutch politico-religious movement claiming the government didn't derive its authority from the people but from God’s souvereignity] were imprisoned from February 1941 on. The regime was mild compared with that of the other camps in the Netherlands: the prisoners were not compelled to carry out heavy work, and there was enough food. Because the camp proved to be too small and there was hardly any room to expand it, it was already closed down at the end of October.
The Germans looked for a larger barracks complex and found one on Leusderheide. This is where the Amersfoort transit camp was taken into use and expanded to form a meeting point for a large number of different categories of prisoners who were to be transported to camps in Germany. It was followed in the summer of 1942 by camps near Ommen (the later camp Erica), where those sentenced for economic crimes were detained; near Vught, the only concentration camp in the Netherlands; and near Westerbork, which was mainly filled with Jews waiting to be transported to the east.
More about Camp Amersfoort
More about Camp Ommen
More about Camp Schoorl
More about Camp Vught
More about Camp Westerbork
© Netherlands Institute for War Documentation