James M. Deem

Jan 16, 2023

The Prisoners of Breendonk

Personal Histories from a World War II Concentration Camp

Mariner Books 2020

Fort Breendonk was built in the early 1900s to protect Antwerp, Belgium, from possible German invasion. Damaged at the start of World War I, it fell into disrepair . . . until the Nazis took it over after their invasion of Belgium in 1940. Never designated an official concentration camp by the SS and instead labeled a "reception" camp where prisoners were held until they were either released or transported, Breendonk was no less brutal. About 3,600 prisoners were held there--just over half of them survived. As one prisoner put it, "I would prefer to spend nineteen months at Buchenwald than nineteen days at Breendonk."

In The Prisoners of Breendonk: Personal Histories from a World War II Concentration Camp (Mariner Books, 2020), , James M. Deem pieces together the story of the camp by telling the stories of its victims--Jews, communists, resistance fighters, and common criminals--for the first time in an English-language publication. Leon Nolis's haunting photography of the camp today accompanies the wide range of archival images.

The story of Breendonk is one you will never forget.

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Ari Barbalat

Ari Barbalat holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of California in Los Angeles. He lives in Toronto with his family.

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