Saturday April 25. 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of C.C. Dachau.

Written by Jack van Ommen on April 26th, 2015

Every year, on the Saturday on or before April 29, this day is commemorated at the National Dachau Monument in Amsterdam. On May 29th., 1945 the Rainbow Division of the 42nd Infantry Brigade of the U.S. 7th Army entered the gates of Dachau. This ended 12 years of Nazi terror in the first SS concentration  camp, “home” to roughly 200,000 prisoners, of which 41,566 lost their lives in Dachau. 550 of the 2,000 Dutch political prisoners died in Dachau. Our mother Rennie de Vries-van Ommen survived as part of a group of 200 Dutch prisoners in the AGFA Commando, a Dachau satellite camp. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AGFA_Commando

The very first time that I had an opportunity to attend the annual commemoration was in 2013, see https://cometosea.us/?m=201304   where I met Willemijn van Gurp-Petroff. She is now 96 years old and the last ambulant survivor of the Dutch political Dachau women prisoners. She gave a moving speech in which she emphasized the lessons she has for all of us. They were forced into survival by becoming a very close unit. In Ravensbrück they slept in bunk rows three high, two women per bunk under one thin blanket. They had to wash together, five naked women shared one water bucket. No privacy, no shame, no intolerance of each other. Willemijn was dragged, with high fever, by two of her friends, into the box cars that brought the 200 women out of the hell of Ravensbrück to Dachau, where, as it turned out, her chance of survival increased ten fold. She told us of how she only began sharing her war experiences in the last five years and how this has set her free. The two high school students who set her name in the project “Names instead of Numbers” http://www.gedaechtnisbuch.de/namen-statt-nummern/english/index-engl.html ,  Job Bruin en Jelle Braaksma, were again with her. Next week, on May 4th, the national annual 2nd WW commemoration, our mother will also be remembered in this same program by a German student, Henriette Schulze. This is one of the main reasons I am in Holland until May 8th. The Dutch king opened the special exhibit on this program in the Dutch National Resistance Museum in Amsterdam on Wednesday. I went to see it yesterday right after a program given by the Dutch Dachau Committee in which Jos Sinnema was honored for his work in bringing the program into the Dutch schools, from where it started in Dachau. Thus far Jos Sinnema is only the third person to receive this distinction, after Dr. Barbara Distel, the former president of the International Dachau Commitee and German chancellor Angela Merkel. The biographies of the individual prisoners are also making a tour through the United States, see above link.

For those who have missed it: The only complete published story of the 200 AGFA Commando prisoners is incorporated in “The Mastmakers’ Daughters”

Jos Sinnema receiving the General-André-Delpech prize from the International Dachau committee. Left Sonja Arendsen-Holz right Dr. Barbara Distel, ex-president of the I.D.C.

Willemijn sticking flower in the monument, with Job Bruin and ex Dachau inmate Wim Velthuizen

Willemijn sticking flower in the monument, with Job Bruin and Dachau survivor Wim Velthuizen

DSC_0160

Mrs. Willemijn van Gurp-Petroff address at Dachau Monument

John Wilcock, U.S. Consul General laying wreath with local elementary school students.

John Wilcock, U.S. Consul General laying wreath with local elementary school students.

 

Leave a Comment