|Historical Name of Location||Breendonk, Belgium|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseFort Breendonk was constructed between 1906 and 1913 to guard one possible path toward the important city of Antwerp, Belgium. It was situated on a parcel of land about 200 meters by 300 meters in size. It was covered under a 5-meter thick layer of soil to protect against shelling, while a moat served to slow attacks by infantry. During WW1, it came under attack by German forces on 1 Oct 1914; its defenders surrendered on 9 Oct after a separate German force took control of Antwerp. During WW2, Breendonk was the headquarters of the Belgian forces in the initial phase of the German invasion. As Belgium came under German occupation, in Sep 1940 Philipp Schmitt was given the task of converting Breendonk into a prison camp. It would eventually hold 3,590 prisoners in this capacity. The first groups of prisoners to have arrived at Breendonk were criminals, but later on the population included a large number of resistance fighters, political prisoners, and civilians kept by the occupation administration as hostages. between 1941 and 1942, a section of Breendonk was also used as a transit camp for Jews en route to concentration camps in Eastern Europe. The fort was guarded by both Flemish and German (SS) personnel. Prisoners were routinely subjected to starvation and various forms of torture; about 120 died as the result of these abuses. 185 prisoners were executed by gunfire or hanging at Breendonk during the German occupation period; many executions were witnessed by the prisoner population. Much of the earth covering the fort was removed, using prisoner labor, to form earthen walls around the fort. In Sep 1940, Karl SchĂ¶nwetter took over as the commandant. Breendonk was evacuated in Sep 1944; all surviving prisoners were transferred to Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Germany, where more than 1,500 of them would die. After the Allies took control of the fort, it was very briefly used as an internment camp for Belgian collaborators; these prisoners would be transferred to Dossin Barracks in Mechelen, Belgium on 10 Oct 1944. In 1946, a trial was held against Flemish collaborators who had worked for the Germans at Breendonk during the occupation period; 16 of them were executed by firing squad, 6 were given life sentences, and 1 was given a 20-year prison sentence. In 1949, former commandant Schmitt was sentenced to death for crimes committed at Breendonk; the setence was carried out on 9 Aug 1950.
ww2dbaseThe fort now serves as a memorial and museum.
Last Major Update: Feb 2018
Fort Breendonk Interactive Map
Fort Breendonk Timeline
|1 Oct 1914||German forces began to attack Fort Breendonk in Belgium.|
|20 Sep 1940||The first group of prisoners arrived at Fort Breendonk in Belgium.|
|4 Sep 1944||German SS guards evacuated Fort Breendonk in Belgium.|
|10 Oct 1944||Belgian collaborators being held in Fort Breendonk were transferred to the Dossin Barracks in Mechelen, Belgium.|
|9 Aug 1950||Former commandant of Fort Breendonk in Belgium, Philipp Schmitt, was executed.|
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