Museum 44

Former concentration camp guard arrested in the US could have been responsible for Flemings’ deaths

A former guard at the Nazi concentration camp at Neuengamme, southeast of Hamburg could have been involved in deaths of 63 people that were deported there from Meensel-Kiezegem in Flemish Brabant. Last week 95-year-old Friedrich Karl Berger was arrested in Oak Ridge in the American state of Tennessee. As a young man he worked as a guard at Neuengamme Concentration Camp. 71 people from Meensel-Kiezegem were deported there by the German occupiers during World War II. 63 of them never returned.

Friedrich Karl Berger had lived in in Oak Ridge since 1959. For over 60 years no one had any idea of his involvement in the atrocities committed by the regime in Hilter’s Germany. However, last week he was exposed as a former concentration camp guard and arrested by the police in Tennessee. 

Towards the end of the Second World War Mr Berger worked as a camp guard at Neuengamme. It was there that just prior to the liberation of Belgium 71 inhabitants of Meensel-Kiezegem were taken by the Nazis. Just 8 of them returned alive. The question is now being asked of what if any was the extent of Friedrich Karl Berger's involvement in their deaths.

Mr Berger has since been flown from the United States to Frankfurt in Germany. He has admitted that he as a 19-year-old he started work as a camp guard at Neuengamme. He added that while working there he only followed the orders that he had been given. Mr Berger’s case is being closely followed in Meensel-Kiezegem with many residents are keen to know whether he was involved in the deaths of those that never returned there after the camp was liberated. 

Tom Devos of Museum44, an organisation that studies the history of the war years in Meensel-Kiezegem is also keen to know what Friedrich Karl Berger played in the deaths of the 63 Flemings.  

"We don’t know what this man did specifically. What we do already know is that Berger was in the navy and wasn’t in the SS. Did he want to do it, or did he have to? We of course don’t know this, but we would like to hear his story”. 

Even more than 75 years later what happened in the village during the war is still often a topic for conversion in Meensel-Kiezegem. “What happened back then is still lingers now three or four generations later. It is still talked about. Hopefully we will be able to learn something from Berger’s story so that this kind of thing will never happens again”. 


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