BELGA/VERGULT

First Jews from Belgium deported to the deathcamps 80 years ago

It’s eighty years to the day that a first transport of Jews left Mechelen for the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.  999 Jewish men, women and children were on board the train.  Nine survived the war.

The Nazis, who had occupied Belgium at this time, organised the transports from the Dossin army barracks in Mechelen (Antwerp Province).

“The tragedy of this first transport is the fact that some of the people came forward of their own accord” says Tomas Baum, the director of the Museum, Memorial and Documentation Centre Dossin Barracks.

Initially, during the Second World War, Jews were instructed to attend the Dossin Barracks and told that they would be given work in Germany to support the war economy.

Alfred Israel Rosendahl is the first name on the deportation list.  He was a Jewish and German refugee, who had been living in Antwerp since 1939.  On his arrival at Auschwitz Mr Rosendahl was selected as a worker, but within a fortnight he was dead.

Alfred Israel Rosendahl

999 people were on the first train to leave Mechelen bound for the death camp.  998 people arrived.  “Hanna Karpowitz, a 16-year-old girl, had escaped” explains Tomas Baum.  “She was detained once again and put on the second transport.  We don’t know what happened to her, but half the people on the second transport were immediately gassed”.

Between 1942 and 1944 thousands of Jews and Roma passed through the Dossin Barracks.  In all 25,843 people were deported in 28 different transports. Only one in twenty survived.  

Hanna Karpowitz

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