National Memorial Fortress of Breendonk | Attraction Guides | History Hit

National Memorial Fortress of Breendonk

Willebroek, Flanders, Belgium

Lucy Davidson

20 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About National Memorial Fortress of Breendonk

Fort Breendonk (Dutch: Fort van Breendonk, French: Fort de Breendonk) was originally built between 1906 and 1913 as a military fortification in Breendonk, near Mechelen in Belgium, as part of the National Redoubt defence line.

History of National Memorial Fortress of Breendonk

After heavy bombardment, it was eventually captured. However it is not its role in World War I for which it is infamous, but as the Nazi prison camp, Auffanglager during the German occupation of Belgium during World War II.

The Nazi detained Belgian political dissidents, resistance members, and Jews at Fort Breendonk. Although technically a prison rather than a concentration camp, the prisoners’ living conditions were dire and torture rife. Most prisoners who were detained at Auffanglager were later moved to larger concentration camps in Eastern Europe.

In all, 3,590 prisoners known to have been imprisoned at Breendonk, of which 303 died or were executed within the fort itself while as many as 1,741 died subsequently in other camps before the end of the war.

National Memorial Fortress of Breendonk Today

Today, Fort Breendonk is a national memorial and museum where visitors can gain an understanding of what life was like there for its prisoners by walking through the places where they slept, worked, and endured the atrocities of the Holocaust. A visit usually lasts 2-3 hours.

Audio guides (including in English) are available. A visit is not recommended for children under 14 years of age and it is best to look at the site’s rules before going, all intended to maintain respect for those who suffered there.

For more information you can visit the Fort Breendonk website at http://breendonk.be/EN/.

Getting to National Memorial Fortress of Breendonk

From the centre of Willebroek, the fortress is a 6 minute drive via Brandstraat. There are also a number of public transport options available which stop at the Willebroek Fort van Breendonk stop, from where the fort is a 5 minute walk. It’s also a scenic 22 minute walk to reach the site via the N183 road.

 

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