Statement made by Franz Fischer on Breendonk Concentration Camp, Breendonk, Belgium
Translated from French
I have been asked to write a detailed report on the living conditions and the treatment of prisoners interned in the concentration camp of Breendonk, during the German occupation of Belgium. Obviously, in this modest account, a complete picture cannot be given, nor is it even possible to give approximately correct figures of the numerous victims of the barbaric measures that were incarcerated in this prison; of those who succumbed as a result of the harsh and difficult slave work that was inflicted on them; or the brutalities, beatings and tortures they had to suffer; of the systematic malnutrition that made them perish, and particularly of the purely physical tortures that caused so many deaths among them. Nor am I counting those who were shot or hanged, often without any trial whatever. But the number of victims of this hard and horrifying imprisonment that lasted for more than four years is surely in the thousands, and the number of those who perished at Breendonk or after having left it is in the hundreds.
It is possible, and in any case highly desirable that the Belgian government should be able to make an inquiry into this question. Meanwhile, it was morally necessary that the authoritative voice of those were able to reconstruct the memory of their stay at Breendonk should be heard. Already a large quantity of literature of authentic documentary statements is in the course of production and the author of this account will publish, the course of the next few days, a volume of memories of his captivity in that prison. (The Hell of Breendonk and Scenes relived. Labor Edition, at Brussels). This is therefore less of a complete and detailed report than the relating of a few episodes that happened in captivity and quoted here more as examples with which I would like to make known to those in Great Britain, who wish to take an interest in these painful and tragic facts dealing with the reign of cruelty and terror that the NAZI denomination imposed on the Belgian people.
What was the prison of Breendonk ?
An ancient, abandoned fort on the first military defenses of Antwerp. Situated alongside the Brussels-Antwerp autostrade, about a kilometer from the large industrial district of Willebroeck. This military building had been abandoned owing to its strategical uselessness and its unhealthiness, for the antique casements were cold and damp and allowed water to penetrate.
It had first been decided, at the beginning of the German occupation to make it into a concentration amp for the Jews whom the Gestapo were tracking down everywhere and with whom they had filled to overflowing the Belgian prisons. But very soon hostages were also brought there, political prisoners and Belgian personalities who were considered undesirable. And then when Germany declared war on the Soviet Republic, Communists or anyone with any kind of Communist sympathies were sent there. Among this number were some who had no Communist sympathies whatever, but who had been denounced as such to the NAZIS, mostly anonymously.
For my part, I was incarcerated in Breendonk for more than two months, after which I was transferred for eight weeks to the cellular prison of St Gilles, near Brussels, without having been tried or even questioned. For this was the custom in these imprisonments. The majority of those miserable beings who were there were in complete ignorance as to why they were held. There were some who remained there months and years. Hundreds of others after a fairly long stay were set to camps in Germany. And very many came out of that hell in coffins; they had not been able to withstand the horrible treatment, the wounds and illnesses not cared for, or they had just simply been killed.
It would be hard to name all the personalities who underwent this hard and cruel detention at Breendonk. I only want to remember certain names among them, those that I met during my own captivity. These were :
- M. M. Bouchery ex Minister of Transport and first Vice-President of the House of Representatives of Belgium
- Van Kersheek, Councillor at Malines and ex Member of Parliament
- the Advocate General and the Chief of the Malines Police Force
- the Communist Senator Eyndels and Bottermans the Member of Parliament
- Fromont the M. P. and burgomaster of Willebroek
- the President of the Polish Club of Belgium
- the famous artist Jacques Ochs, director of the Academy of Fine Arts at Liège
- a Belgian Officer whom I am told was General Langlier
- the Reverend Father Gouchert, Director of the Catholic Institute (Arts et Métiers) at Lille
- M. LEVY the most popular of all broadcasters in Belgium
All these personalities had to undergo the very same regime as all the other prisoners, had to do the hardest of all forced labor, had the same under-nourishment and suffered the same bad treatment. M. Bouchery is still ill as a result of his ill-treatment and sufferings (Note : he has died since this statement was written) and his colleagues from Malines, M. Van Kersheek died sometime after his liberation, worn out by the privations and physical sufferings as well as the mental ones.
The Hunger Diet
Everything was organized to bring about that slow death caused by utter exhaustion. Here is a list of the food that we were given : for a whole day two pieces of dry bread, one at five in the morning, the other at five in the afternoon. This represented all told a weight of about one hundred grammes; in addition at two o’clock, a bowl of soup. And that was all. During a short time the prisoners had been authorized to have sent to them, from outside, parcels of food of six kilos a fortnight, but when I arrived at the camp this ‘favour’ had been abolished, the excuse being given that Communist literature could have been hidden inside these parcels. In this way the prisoners could naturally be seen losing weight, but those who were caught eating grass, like sheep do, to satisfy their hunger, were put into solitary confinement, I being among that number.
All prisoners, regardless of who and what they were, from six in the morning, in shifts of two hours, had to accomplish, without interruption, without stopping for a single second and without lifting their heads, the most difficult labor. They had to level off banks with shovels, push trucks laden with earth or do the same work with wheel-barrows, they had to carry large stones extracted from the bank, and finally, a job reserved for the very oldest and most infirm, the breaking of bricks into small pieces. All this punctuated by beatings with whips and sticks, meted out by the supervisors and soldiers when the work was not progressing quickly enough. For hours on end one could only hear the brutal yells that were supposed to stimulate this force labor, one could also hear the dull thuds of the sticks connecting with the bodies, and the painful moaning of the victims. Late on, another torture was reserved for those who were too weak to carry out the work. Cells still to be seen at Breendonk a little larger than telephone cabins were built for them, and they were obliged to remain standing for twelve consecutive hours and if they weakened they would be beaten.
At times, particularly when we were undergoing a collective punishment, in which the camp’s three hundred prisoners had to continue their work after their eight hours, men could be seen to fall like flies and their comrades would pick them up and take them to an unclean casemate, where all the sick were piled and which, ironically, was called the infirmary. But more often than not, in the early morning, one could see prisoners sadly carrying oblong boxes : they were the coffins of the unfortunate ones who had succumbed to similar sufferings. After some time, they were not even worried about giving these victims a decent burial. They were all buried together in the camp very secretly. It was thus that fifty Jewish prisoners were buried under a small hillock that can be seen at Breendonk.
Wounds, Murders and Tortures
Have I said that punches and kicks were the rule in this accursed camp ? Sometimes was added, under the pretext of collective punishment, the denial of all food for a whole day. But all this was nothing to what happened in that back room, in the guard house, which one only passed with shudders. It was there that the original cells were built and prisoners were thrown in them who were considered insolent, or who at work had not obeyed the brutal orders that were shouted to them and which they usually did not understand since they were always in German.
I got to know these cells the very same day on which I was liberated. I was made to go through a room with large barred cages all around it, similar to cages that are found in zoos. When I passed the poor prisoners gripped the bars of their cages to try to enter into conversation with me. But I also was put in a cell, without light and without air where I could not hold myself straight. This torture luckily only lasted an hour. By what follows, I was able to admit, as anyone who visits Breendonk must admit, the executioners had perfected their methods.
Narrow solitary confinement cells have been built, so small that one could hardly stand, a room for ‘reflections’, where to get confessions, the unfortunate ones had to undergo first the cold bath, then the boiling hot one and finally there was a torture room with all the implements for maiming the flesh and breaking the bones complete with a gutter to let the blood run away. It is quite true that close by all this, in a sinister enclosure, there are the execution posts and the scaffolds for those that were hanged. He who will not believe this, let him go and see for himself.
If I were asked to denounce the culprits of these atrocities, I would answer that in the very first place, the most guilty is the regime. The most humane of the officers who guarded us, assured me that it was by similar methods, in their own concentration camps, that the NAZIS had been able to quell the thousands of German adversaries, of whom they had rid the Reich. But it was obvious that the actual executioners in this abominable system of repression at Breendonk put a sadistic zeal in their work and they also are held responsible. Are names wanted ? You can well imagine that our torturers did not identify themselves to please us. The Camp Commandment was a certain Major Schmidt. A man who was impassive and insensitive, who would pass by us with disdainful air and who did not seem to be worried by our martyrdom.
But he had given the reins to a brute who directed all the labor, he would shout insults and would swear in the face of everyone, he would strike the prisoners with his riding whip or with his gloves, and it was he who gave out all those orders of torture. This horrible and grotesque character went under the name of Lieutenant Polsum. Is it his true name ? I could not say, but he remained a sufficient number of years at Breendonk for him to be identified. Try to seize him in Germany and make him pay the price for the immense number of his crimes against humanity. Crimes that he committed in the camp of famine and torture.
I certify that this account is authentic and true.
(signed) Franz Fischer
Belgian Member of Parliament
Honorary President of the Brussels Press
Notes by the compiler of the report :
1. No other evidence of bodies being buried in Breendonk has been produced, nor have excavations revealed any bodies.
2. It is considered that Lieutenant Polson is really Lieutenant Prauss.
Statement made by A. Denis Regarding the Reprisals Camp of Breendonk
Translated from French
Dante in his work entitled ‘The Inferno’ says in so many words ‘Abandon all hope ye who enter here’.
The fort of Breendonk was destined to receive those political detainees classified by the Germans in the category of Terrorists. This category included in their mind every type of resistance to the occupants and particularly the pro-British, who wore on their prison uniform a special sign (white and red bar), the other detainees wearing different signs according to their classification. This visual sign enabled the guards to inflict on the different detainees every kind of annoyance and cruelty without having to examine the particular case of each one.
There were two types of detention :
– (1) complete isolation
– (2) communal
The workers in the latter category were compelled to do the most laborious tasks under inhuman conditions; loading wagons (about thirty a day) to be conducted and unloaded for filling up pits under the guard of the German and Belgian Nazis (VNV Flemish and Rexist Walloons) who were provided with lashes with which they beat the detainees. When to their mind a detainee did not work fast enough, as a punishment they placed on his back an army pack filled with bricks and weighing about thirty kilos, with which, under the blows of the lash, they had to do the same work as the others. These unfortunates were drilled and martyrised continually; they wore clogs and had to march to attention before the guards, jumping in the air at each step.
The Life of Detainees in Complete Isolation (Solitary Confinement)
Brought to the Fort handcuffed, the detainee was taken to an office where he was searched and where every object in his possession was taken away from him. All these operations, which took place at the Fort, were done with the face to the wall against which for the slightest thing he was knocked by a blow in the neck. The search finished, a blue sack, without any opening and descending as far as the belt, was placed on the head of the detainee who was conducted by an SS to a cell.
Description of the Cells
Area one meter by two, only one opening : a door, with a small peep-hole, and provided with an outside bolt padlocked. The ceiling of the cells was formed by a grate which allowed to penetrate the air already fouled by those other detainees who lived communally. A plank fixed to the wall by a hook (which manipulated from the outside of the cell rendered it mobile and allowed it to be lowered to form a bed) constituted along with a bucket the entire furniture of the cell. It was constantly damp, water percolating from the walls. In the extension of the central passage from which the cells jutted off were two windows, closed and blacked-out in such a manner that neither air nor daylight would penetrate.
A few hours after entering the cell the detainee was conducted, as indicated above, to the clothing store where his clothes were taken from him and where he received a pair of trousers and a cap (which it was forbidden to wear but had to be carried in the belt of the trousers), also an army jacket bearing the signs referred to above and his prison number in large figures and in addition, a pull-over, a blanket and a hand towel. After this procedure, the detainee was re-conducted back to his cell. Only in his cell could the detainee rid himself of his pack which he handed over to the NAZIS who came for it.
Life of the Prisoners
Reveille at 6 a.m. with an immediate fixing of the plank to the wall. From reveille until bed time, which was at 8 p.m., that in fourteen hours without being able either to sit down or squat or lean against the wall, the prisoner was obliged to remain standing, the guard opening at every moment the peep-hole of the door and each time the prisoner had to stand to attention and yell out ‘Eins’. The suffering caused by the fatigue was indescribable and had a very bad effect on the health. Fifty strokes of the rod was the immediate punishment for any breach of the rules.
At 7.30 a.m., the prisoner received a bowl of so-called coffee which with that given him at 5 p.m. was the only drink given him during the entire day. Suffering from thirst was permanent.
At 8:30 a.m the SS took the prisoners from their cells, one at a time, and conducted them to the latrine to empty their buckets; to go there, it was necessary to follow various interior passages where the prisoner was beaten up both by his own warder and the warder of the preceding or following prisoner. Certain of these warders forced their prisoner to strike another prisoner with the bucket he was carrying. The NAZI warders used to hit the prisoners in the face with their fists, kick their bodies and strike them with chains, pieces of wood, etc.
About 11 a.m. the principal meal of the day, composed of a bowl of soup, was distributed.
At 5 p.m. the prisoner received a bowl of ersatz coffee, a ration of bread, a potato or a salted sardine and the equivalent of a thimbleful of butter.
The food was prepared by the prisoners but furnished by the Belgian authorities, who did what they could, but not only was the quantity totally insufficient but also the quality.
At 8 p.m. the plank was unscrewed and the prisoner could at last rest. The prisoner left his cell only to empty his bucket (during which time he was beaten up regularly) at that time and before returning to his cell he could in a fashion wash himself at the ablutions installed in one of the passages. In order to do so, the prisoner rid himself of his sack, rapidly threw his jacket on the ground and put his head under the tap, not even having the time to wash his hands, for the NAZI warder considered this was all that was required. Whilst this took place the prisoners face was against the wall, so he was not able to recognize the guard who came along and continued to beat him up. Replacing the sack on his head, picking up the bucket with one hand and his jacket with the other, the prisoner was led back to his cell under the blows of the NAZI warder.
Several times a week both the cell and the prisoner were searched by three NAZIS, who took advantage of each occasion to beat up the prisoner thoroughly, this being in addition to the daily punishment. Once a week the prisoner received some clean linen which was in rags, and was conducted with a sack on the head, to the showers, which he passed through by himself so as not to be able to see any other prisoner and where he had to put on his clothes whilst he was still wet, as insufficient time was allowed for washing himself.
Any relaxation supposedly humanitarian only took place for form’s sake. Each prisoner dreaded having to leave his cell for he knew the ill-treatment which awaited him.
At the time of his entry to the Fort, the prisoner had a so-called medical examination by the German M. O., the examination lasting four seconds. The prisoner, naked but with his head covered by a sack, passed through a passage and across an open yard, where after waiting, he was brought before the doctor. The doctor merely made the prisoner open his mouth and applied his stethoscope in the neighborhood of the heart; never had the prisoner an opportunity of being looked after by a doctor either for illness or wounds contracted at the camp.
The prisoner was generally held seven to eight weeks before being interrogated, this period being intended to weaken him physically, so that his moral resistance would be less when the NAZI officials of the Gestapo came to the camp to interrogate the prisoners. These interrogations were carried out in the presence of NAZIS of the camp who were there to assist the interrogators in their mission, that is to say, to make the prisoners talk by striking them with a bludgeon on the head and the face and all over the body, including the groin. The stubborn prisoners were taken to the torture room situated in the cellars of the Fort. The sufferings of these unfortunate was such that, from their cells, the prisoners heard them scream and moan inhumanly, sometimes for hours.
Furthermore, in the Fort were a number of ferocious police dogs. The NAZI jailers saw that the prisoners passed near these dogs and were bitten each time by them. During my first night at the Fort, a prisoner two cells away from mine managed to get out of his cell intending to escape or die; he was caught five meters from his cell and chained and delivered over to the dogs. When he lost consciousness (which was many times), the German NAZIS on guard jumped, both feet together, with their big nailed boots on the victim, whose cries of agony were heard for hours before he died.
Life of the Prisoners Communaly
In addition to the facts already set out above, further confirmation was given me by a prisoner from Breendonk, whom I met in the cells at the prison of St Gilles and who is at present in Germany, if he has not been shot. He is Major Stiers, an officer of the Belgian Regular Army and of the Colonies, who left for Germany at the beginning of February 1944 without having been judged and after having passed four to five months at Breendonk, and as long at St Gilles. He informed me that he had many times during his stay at Breendonk attempted suicide rather than endure the ill-treatment and tortures imposed upon the prisoners.
He had been confronted with the only two famous so-called Spaniard named Annir, or Anita, informer and mistress of De Sitter, alias Capt Willy, etc., one of the heads of the German Counter-Espionage in Belgium, having to his credit the discovery of the leading members of the pro-allied organizations in Belgium; he started certain resistance movements, subsidizing them and furnishing them with arms, causing the Patriots to visit the stores for arms supposed to have arrived from England (one of these depots or stores was thus visited by one of my friends, a villa full of arms at Stockel).
A book recounting the ordinary prison life at Breendonk will shortly be published and has been written by the Deputy Fischer, who lives at Place Gemblinne de Neux Brussels. (Note : This book has now been published).
The articles which appear in the ‘Moustique’ can be considered as being perfectly true and sincere. I recall a story of Major Stiers. He told me that he had seen the NAZIS at a time when there were too many prisoners in the camp, force them, by lashing them with a hide whip to crawl in the water, in the middle of winter, then force them to remain immobile for hours in the cold until they died.
Speaking generally, a prisoner afflicted with any kind of illness was destined to die through lack of care. I can speak from experience having had a festering bruise behind the ear for four weeks, the result of a blow from a fist, and I only received the attention of a German orderly every four or five days when he came to see if my wound had developed into a mastoid, which would have caused my death in very little time.
To sum up Breendonk was a hell for those who passed through there.
(signed) A. Denis
Compiler’s Note : ‘Moustique’ Referred to Above is a Belgian Magazine.
Statements on Breendonk by C. Lemaire
Translated from French
This report relates to happenings which took place during the period from 1st September 1942 to 12 June 1943.
During the German occupation few details were known by the Belgian population of Breendonk, an ancient fort belonging to the outer defenses of Antwerp, which is situated a short distance from the ‘autostrade’ from Brussels to Antwerp, owing to the fact that very few prisoners came out alive from this Gestapo punishment camp. Those that did had to sign a declaration by which they promised to reveal nothing of what they had seen or heard at Breendonk. In this same declaration, the liberated prisoners engaged themselves ‘to take no action against the German authorities’.
This helps to explain why, under the terror of the Gestapo and its accomplices, it was somewhat difficult for the public to know exactly what went on in this terrible camp, aptly named the ‘hell of Breendonk’. Nobody from the outside world entered the camp, except members of the Gestapo who arrived from various centres to interrogate the prisoners. Contact with the outside world was impossible; the prisoners were definitely cut off.
All the personnel, except the officers, slept in the camp. The camp was commanded by three German officers : Major Schmidt, of the SS troops, Lieutenant Schnapschustock and Lieutenant Prauss, both of the SS. Under their orders were forty-five soldiers including a number of NCOs of the Wehrmacht for guard duties, eight SS soldiers in grey uniforms, with the SP badge (Security Police), Belgian subjects, volunteers for this work and well paid receiving more than four thousand francs per month.
It is these officers and these Belgian SS men who are mainly responsible for the terrible reputation of the camp; they did the beating and killing. Amongst the Belgian SS, particularly notorious were the following : SS-Meis Fernand, of Antwerp, who killed more than thirty during the sojourn there of the author of the present report, SS-Debodt Richard, of Brussels, and SS-Raes Clément, of Brussels. The others have certainly also crimes to account for, which only a strict investigation, together with the collaboration of ex-prisoners, will be able to prove.
The prison regime of the camp consisted mainly of hard labor, clearing away the earth covering the fortified galleries and cupolas, leveling off the borders of the fort and the land adjacent. The earth was excavated with broken down trucks. The SS guards insisted on the maximum amount of hard work being done, striking prisoners for nothing and often to death. The prisoners had to work in all weathers without their jackets, even in winter. According to the whim of an officer or an SS, they had to work stripped to the waist or in the rain. During the extremely cold periods they were forbidden to warm themselves by striking their sides; whoever was caught doing so risked being beaten to death.
They were always bareheaded and with the heads shaved; forbidden to put their hands in their pockets; forbidden to cease work because of a wound; all the time at the orders of an officer or an SS for everything; forbidden to go to the hospital unless half dead, or without orders; forbidden to cease work even for a couple of seconds.
Punishment during work consisted of gymnastic exercises, running with tools, shovels, pick-axes, throwing oneself on the ground at the order ‘lie-down’, ‘run’, ‘lie-down’, ‘run’ and to crawl on the stomach over a long distance, even in the icy water of the pools. Whoever did not carry out the exercise well enough was beaten, often to death. These exercises were ordered at any hour of the day and without apparent reason. The orders for collective movements, falling in, march, break off, salutes, were given in German. One had to understand or guess, or be beaten.
Forty-eight and even fifty men were piled into the barrack rooms, transformed into prisons, rooms which in peace time normally took twenty men. There were wooden cage beds, with dirty and holed straw sacks. There were very few blankets and scarcely any toilet arrangements. Vermin was abounding. The rooms were cold and damp. Smoking and talking were absolutely forbidden.
The very little food was definitely insufficient in vitamins and calories. About two hundred and twenty-five grammes of bread, a few grammes of sugar and jam and ersatz coffee (acorns?) was the daily ration, with a cabbage soup, badly cooked in water and without salt.
Apart from the barbarous treatment suffered by the prisoners, the majority suffered from distinctly characteristic illness, such as : general anasmia, ulcers, and boils. There were many deaths on this account. Those sick who were absolutely incapable of working were placed apart and received no treatment. By order of the German doctor, who could only see those whom the officers allowed to report sick, once a month, a few rare pills were given. The author of this report never saw a sick person get better at Breendonk; the men affected were not allowed to see the doctor. The writer was in this category.
We were arrested, forty-one men of the Brussels postal service, on September 1 1942, the majority about 4 a.m. at home, by agents of the Gestapo of Brussels. We were conducted to the Gestapo HQ, Avenue Louise, and after verification of our identity, taken in lorries to Breendonk. The writer was beaten up the first morning at Breendonk. We were searched and all our personal objects, including jewelry, was taken away from us. We were given a number and prison clothes; Belgian soldier trousers and tunic, with a number in big figures on the left side and a colored badge, a similar badge being on the back of the tunic. These badges signified either :
- Jew (yellow and red)
- Communist (white and red)
- Terrorist (large ‘A’)
- having previously escaped (red and white ring)
If one was not a Jew one was a communist. That was the definition adopted by the Gestapo. Without being interrogated, we were immediately treated as though we were guilty, receiving ill-treatment and beatings and vile food. We were interrogated after about two and a half months. These interrogations were carried out in a brutal manner; we were tortured and beaten, without knowing the reason for our arrest. Within a few weeks, half of our party had already been admitted into hospital, incapable of working. At the end of four months, the following were dead :
- Chockaere Pierre, Brussels Postman, died from blows received from SS Wijss
- Bonnevalle Jacques, Brussels Postman, died from blows received from SS Wijss
- Tissen J, Brussels Postman, died from blows received from SS Wijss
- Decreef Sebatien, Brussels Sorter at Brussels post office, died from blows received from SS Wijss
Shortly after, in January 1943 :
- De Pondt Albert, Brussels Postman, died after having been beaten up and following a general poisoning of the system
- Van Boven Jean, Antwerp mason, died from blows received from SS Wijss
A few of the forty-one postmen were liberated in November, 1942; about fifteen at the end of January 1943; some in February 1943; some in March-April 1943; the writer in June 1943; the last one of the group to be freed.
The majority are still under treatment and are incapable of resuming their duties at the Post Office. Some have to follow special treatment, injections, and careful dieting. The writer of the present report, at the time of his arrest, measured 1,72 M and weighed 82 kilos. When liberated, he measured only 1, 69 M and weighed 48 kilos. The writer was in a lamentable condition, his head still open from boils and the blows received, his chest open and damaged and badly scarred. His legs are damaged and even to this day his incapable of walking without the help of a stick.
During the month of March 1943, the writer saw the SS Wijss set upon the prisoners and kill five of them in the afternoon. These scenes were not rare for in September, during his first days of captivity, the writer saw a prisoner who, savagely beaten, did not get up on the order of the SS and was covered over with earth and stamped upon. Buried alive. It is not known what became of this unfortunate prisoner whom it was forbidden to assist, under pain of death. It was also forbidden to look. Another was drowned and his head split open by blows with a spade. Those were more frequent events and to relate them all would require more than a report.
It is also to be noted that the officers and the SS robbed the prisoners of their food; the prisoners having been obliged to give up their ration cards for general use of the camp. Even parcels sent by the Belgian Red Cross were stolen by the SS personnel and the officers. The writer saw two baskets of biscuits from a Red Cross parcel given away for the cows.
The prisoners who were shot at Breendonk were killed during the period from November 1942. The execution posts, ten railway sleepers, were erected by the prisoners. On the day these execution posts were erected, ten prisoners were shot at 3 p.m. Amongst them were men who that very morning did not know they were condemned to death, and had themselves assisted in placing the posts. The writer has seen more than eighty men leave for the execution post. Amongst those, the Head Postmen of Brussels, Hermans, also Martian Van Schnelle, well-known in the sporting world. All, including a blind man, went to the post upright and proud. The hanging of May 1943, took place during my sojourn a the military hospital of Antwerp.
The undersigned, Lemaitre C. G., Postman at the Central Post Office, Brussels, domiciled at 6, Boulevard d’Ypres, Brussels, born at Brussels on March 3 1896, volunteer for the 1914-18 war, war invalid, President du Conseil du Personnel de Bruxelles 1 postal section, 31 years service at the Post Office, certify on my honor the entire accuracy of the present report and affirm being able to guarantee its authenticity, with the testimony of my colleagues, ex-prisoners of Breendonk.
A copy of the complaint addressed to the Public Prosecutor, Brussels, is attached together with a copy of a paper in which is published an article on Breendonk written by the undersigned (Note : only the letter is attached). Further documents, such as the German order regarding deprivation of office, an additional punishment received at the time of liberation, are available for any useful conference on Breendonk.
Brussels, twenty-first of October, 1944
(signed) C. G. LEMAITRE
Membre du Comite de l’Association des Rescapes de Breendonk, 6 Boulevard d’Ypres
Brussels, September 30 1944
(translated from French)
The Public Prosecutor
Court of Justice
I, the undersigned, Lemaitre Constant, postman at Brussels 1, born in Brussels March 3 1896, and domiciled at 6, Boulevard d’Ypres, Brussels, ex-prisoner at Breendonk, beg to lodge a complaint against :
- (1) The German SS Major Schmidt, Commandant of the Camp of Breendonk, responsible for the ill-treatment which I suffered in this camp where I was interned for nine and a half months (from Sep 1 1942 to Jun 12 1943). Even his dog bit me on two occasions whilst I was in his presence without his attempting to prevent the animal from savaging me above the half of the leg
- (2) The German SS Lieutenant Schnapshustock. This officer’s functions were those of a torturer and he is responsible for the death of a number of prisoners; he, himself, shot a number with his revolver
- (3) The German SS Lieutenant Prauss, who on numerous occasions struck me savagely
- (4) The SS Troops of the German Security section, Belgian subjects, employed at Breendonk, responsible for the death of many prisoners, some of whom were killed during the same day. (I have personally loaded onto a cart the bodies of five men killed by the SS one afternoon during the month of May 1943). Amongst these SS Troops an individual named Fernand Wijss, of Antwerp, was particularly notorious. During my stay at Breendonk I witnessed more than thirty deaths to his account. I myself was beaten in such a manner that I had to be transferred to the military hospital in the Avenue Marie, Antwerp. It is a miracle that I and my postal colleagues of Brussels, arrested at the same time on Sep 1 1942, are still alive. Five postmen arrested at the same time as myself, died at Breendonk, as a consequence of the blows and ill-treatment which they received. They were beaten up from the morning onward and died the same evening.
(5) Two detainees, Belgian, subjects, employed by the Germans to be in charge of the barrack camp; they beat up the prisoners in a most ignoble manner and stole the prisoners’ food. These two individuals are : Devos Valère, of Gand, and Hermans René, whose last known address was 72, Rue Peter Benoit, Massault. Together with my colleagues, including M. Dewinter, Percepteur Principal des Postes, Brussels, we hope that a rapid and justly severe answer will be made to the present complaint.
(signed) C. Lemaitre
President of the Employees Committee (Postmen) Brussels 1, 6 Boulevard d’Ypres, Brussels