The "Konzentrationslager Herzogenbusch", as Camp Vught was called by the German occupying forces, was the only "official" SS concentration camp in the Netherlands. It was directly under the control of the economic directorate of the SS in Berlin, like the concentration camps in Germany. The building of the barracks complex was paid for with plundered Jewish capital. It was completed in January 1943, and at the end of that year a crematorium and a prison ("the Bunker") were in use in the camp. This was the site of the famous "bunker drama", when more than seventy women were squeezed into a single cell; ten of them lost their lives.
Roughly one-third of the prisoners consisted of Jews who had been given a temporary exemption from transport to the east. They had to work for the German army. The rest of the camp population was composed of people who had helped Jews to go into hiding, members of the resistance, Jehovah's Witnesses, distributors of illegal pamphlets, and people who had evaded labour recruitment. Most of them were not arrested on political grounds, however, but were detained for economic crimes: black marketeers, black butchers, and people who had stolen from the Wehrmacht. Vught also held some prisoners who had been detained in retaliation for activities of the resistance. An estimated total of 30,000 people were imprisoned in Vught. Ninety of them managed to escape.
The prisoners were put to work in "Arbeitskommandos", teams that carried out work both inside and outside the camp. Inside the camp itself these teams included the "Philips-kommando", where about 1,200 Jewish and non-Jewish prisoners produced radio equipment and torches, and the "Luftwaffe-Kommando" that had to strip crashed airplanes for the war industry. The activities of the teams that worked outside the camp included construction and repairs on airports. In May 1943 a separate camp was set up in a section of the barracks complex that was fenced off with barbed wire for female detainees, Jewish women, and the wives and children of those who had been detained in retaliation for resistance activities.
In the section of the camp where only Jews were quartered, the "Judendurchgangslager", the Jews were allowed their own administration complete with its own militia. The SS guards interfered very little in internal affairs. The food situation in Vught was bad, but improved from May 1943 on. This was partly the result of the food parcels that were delivered to the camp and which came from private individuals such as Mrs Timmenga and Mrs Van Beuningen, as well as from the Red Cross.
Under pressure of the Allied advance, the camp was hastily evacuated by the occupying forces at the beginning of September 1944. Some 3,500 prisoners were quickly put on a transport to Germany, while the camp command sought a safe refuge. The Canadians entered the camp on 26 October 1944.
Browse through the Camp Vught inventories
© Netherlands Institute for War Documentation