Remembering Camp Vught
The route in and around Vught serves to remind us of many life-changing events during the Second World War. One of the blackest pages in local history was the construction of Camp Vught, an SS concentration camp. Many tens of thousands of Dutch people have been detained here. More than 12,000 Jews were taken from Camp Vught to the extermination camps in the east. The stories, monuments and museums on this route serve to remind us of the darkness of war and the importance of peace and freedom.
The way the waterworks and the roads are laid out still show the original star-shaped pattern of this former Spanish fortress, which was built during the Eighty Years' War on the site of what was once De Reut, a small hamlet. The purpose of the fort was to protect the southern part of the city of 's-Hertogenbosch and to prevent the river Dommel from being used by the enemy. The site later housed a barracks used by the Dutch Cycling Regiment from 1922 to May 1940. After the capitulation, Fort Isabella became a German barracks.
On 12 May 1940, the hamlet of Poeldonk was on fire. Several farms burned down. Dutch soldiers fiercely fought against the advancing Germans at Dungen bridge. An unequal battle with five casualties on the German side and at least three on the Dutch side. Among those killed was the heroic KNIL soldier Major Döbken. His death caused a collapse of morale and the remaining soldiers tried to save themselves by quickly changing their military uniforms for civilian clothing. They fled along the canal.
Monument Silent Wings
This monument reminds the inhabitants of Den Dungen of the more than two thousand gliders ('Silent Wings') that landed in occupied territory during Operation Market Garden in September 1944. It is a tribute to those involved in the deployment of the gliders: pilots, occupants, and helpers on the ground.
I opened the door myself
On 4 May 1942, 460 prominent Dutch citizens were arrested. Politicians, professors, clergymen, musicians, lawyers and writers were taken hostage, in an attempt by the German occupier to get a grip on the Dutch resistance.
The hostages were housed in seminary Grootseminarie in Haaren, and in seminary Beekvliet and boys' boarding school De Ruwenberg in Sint-Michielsgestel. Within the confines of the walls the hostages were relatively free to do whatever they wanted. When the Rotterdam resistance bombed a German army train on 7 August 1942, the Germans were furious. They threatened to execute the hostages..
During the Second World War, seminary Beekvliet housed one of the hostage camps where the story 'I opened the door myself' (point 4 on the map) takes place. Of the hostages who were imprisoned here for a short or long time, entrepreneur Frits Philips, comedian Lou Bandy and the authors Simon Vestdijk and Anton van Duinkerken are the most well-known. Near the seminary, several streets and squares have been named after hostages who were imprisoned here or who had to pay for their internment with their lives.
The Halderse Brug (Halder bridge) was on the old road to Sint-Michielsgestel. This is now a dead end, because the post-war bridge has been demolished. To slow down the Allied advance, the Germans blew up the Halder Bridge in 1944. However, the British infantry managed to establish a bridgehead and new bridges were quickly built. Due to the fierce German attacks, British men were stuck on the bridgehead for a day and a half.
Villa Elsa estate is one of the youngest estates in Vught. Originally, the estate belonged to Maurick Castle and was part of the Vught fields. Villa Elsa is situated on Sint-Michielsgestelseweg road and was owned by the Stibbe family during the war. The Germans requisitioned the villa, which was then inhabited by the married couples Vahle and Baumeester. The estate housed an Arbeitseinsatz office which organised forced labour in Germany.
Air Armada above Vught
Standing on the balcony of Huize Bergen, the villa in Vught where he had his headquarters, on Sunday 17 September 1944, the German colonel general Kurt Student looked at the sky in bewilderment. An impressive fleet of aircraft flew overhead. Clearly, the Allies had embarked on a massive airborne operation...
Huize Bergen Estate
In 1927, Charlotte van Beuningen-Fentener van Vlissingen and her husband Willem van Beuningen moved into the house on the Huize Bergen estate. The couple is remembered in the village of Vught for their many good deeds. In 1943 and 1944 Charlotte, together with girls and women from the village, arranged for sandwiches and food parcels to be made at the estate every morning. These were then taken by horse and cart to the prisoners in Camp Vught. Charlotte received help from all over the country to do this. But one thing led to another. Families of prisoners asked for information and notes to accompany the packages. She couldn't do that.
In November 1941, the Germans requisitioned Villa Roucouleur. They established an office for the Beauftragte of Brabant, the highest German civilian administrator. Just before the liberation of Vught, General Kurt Student had his headquarters here. After the Second World War, various military units were stationed at Villa Roucouleur: Allied troops, Dutch infantry on their way to the Dutch East Indies, and later also Belgian units.
Museum of Vught
The Museum of Vught is located in the former St. Petrus Church. Here, visitors can learn all about the history of Vught, including the hardships of the Second World War. In the DePetrus meeting centre there is also a war memorial commemorating the bunker drama in Camp Vught. 74 women were locked up in one cell. Ten of them died. The memorial is a stained glass window, designed by Marius de Leeuw.
Camp Vught National Memorial
During the Second World War, Camp Vught was the only SS concentration camp outside Nazi Germany. The SS needed space because the transit camps in Amersfoort and Westerbork could no longer cope with the increasing number of prisoners. Camp Vught was modelled after Camp Dachau in Nazi Germany. The camp was under the direct command of the SS headquarters in Berlin.
The Foundation Nationaal Monument Kamp Vught was established in 1986. Thanks to the efforts of the foundation, a remembrance centre could be realised on a small part of the former camp. On 18 April 1990 it was opened to the public by Queen Beatrix. In 2002 Camp Vught NM expanded into a new museum and main building. In 2019, the entire museum and the permanent exhibition were renewed once again.
Nine square meters of revenge
Suze Arts spent her youth at boarding schools in the Netherlands and abroad. After a failed affair she ended up as an unmarried mother in Amsterdam. In the summer of 1943 she accepted the offer to become Aufseherin (female camp guard) in Vught. This also meant a welcome reunion with childhood friend Franz Ettlinger, now an SS officer and the camp commander’s right hand man. As camp guard she was jointly responsible for the bunker drama.