See also: Mechelen – Kazerne Dossin (memorial site)
The museum building is located across the street from the original barracks / camp. The exhibition addresses the subject of anti-Semitism and persecution of Jews, talks about the attitudes of the Belgian population, about the history of the Holocaust of Belgium and presents detailed information on each individual transport. A separate part of the exhibition is devoted to Gypsies in historical times, and later, during the war and in the post-war years. In the part devoted to deportations – the so-called Transport Z2, which took place on January 15, 1944, is addressed separately.
The Kazerne Dossin Memorial Site includes a memorial (a way of commemoration) – located in some barracks buildings (unfortunately during our stay there it was closed to visitors due to renovation), an exhibition which refers not only to history, but also to the realities of the modern world and it is built around three concepts: “mass” (i.e. people as masses), “fear”, “death” – and a project entitled “Give them a face”, whose aim is similar to continuous reading names of the victims of the Westerbork camp in the Netherlands. The project is about the memory that is stronger than the most persistent hatred and attempts to annihilate human beings.
The memorial part, included in the complex of the former Kazerne Dossin camp (the one that we were unable to see), like the exhibition – focuses on three issues. In this instance they are: traces, names and faces. Therefore, in individual rooms the authors of the exhibition present traces – souvenirs of prisoners, names – from deportation lists, and faces – portrait photographs shown on 28 screens with names and transport numbers.
The mission of the Museum is clearly stated at its website: “Considering the Holocaust, Kazerne Dossin is looking for timeless mechanisms of group pressure and collective violence which, under certain circumstances, can lead to mass murders and genocide. (…) The museum wants to show a spiral of growing mass violence, which eventually led to genocide. For this reason, the narrative is presented in chronological order. Faces of 25,836 deportees look at visitors from photographs spread over large walls – on five floors (from -1 to +3). Since 2005, their portrait photos have been systematically scanned in the »Give them a face« project. The identity they are recovering contrasts sharply with the photos of the excited masses that persecuted them and ultimately threatened them with total annihilation. ” (Prof. Herman Van Goethem, Kazerne Dossin curator).
The “Give them a face” Project gives us access to an online database and allows us to view the photographs of all deportees from the Kazerne Dossin Camp, e.g. all the Gypsies deported from the barracks in Mechelen.
Description of commemoration
Information board No. 142. contains a general description of the Roma as a group.
Information board No. 143. concerns the growing stigmatisation of the Gypsies (photographing, Gypsy Passes, taking fingerprints and other measurements).
Information board No. 144. contains information about the registration of the Gypsies and the specification on who a Gypsy really IS.
Other information boards present the fate of individual people and families, including Elizabeth Warsha family, which also included Pulika (Polika), made famous by the Jan Yoors’s book “Gypsies”. Moreover, other exhibits include photographs from the 1930s taken by Jan Yoors.
Yet another information board dedicated to the Gypsies can be found in the part related to transports. This very board is dedicated to Transport Z2, and it includes a photograph of a Gypsy family and a portrait of beautiful Maria Peterbost (Z2, No. 206). The youngest of the deported Gypsies was Jaqueline Vadoche, born in Dossin. On the day of the deportation, she was 35 days old, and she was registered at Auschwitz with the number Z-9 852
Texts in Dutch, French and English
Kazerne Dossin Memorial
Goswin de Stassartstraat 153, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium
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United Holocaust Memorial museum – https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005430