No fewer than 25,844 people were deported from Dossin barracks in Mechelen during the Second World War. Most never returned. Today their families can seek solace in a serene and intimate memorial in the old barracks building. There they will hear names being read out and they may find photographs of their loved ones and discover evidence of their last days.
Opposite the old barracks is the Museum on the Holocaust and Human Rights. The museum tells the story of Dossin barracks and invites visitors to reflect on human rights today.
The restored Memorial reopened on January 27th 2020.
The old military barracks is now a memorial to the numerous people who waited here in desperation and terrible fear before going on to die in unspeakable circumstances. The Memorial gives visitors an opportunity to silently remember those victims. For their next of kin, this place has a special significance. It evokes an almost tangible memory of the dramatic hours and days endured by family members. It also takes the place of the missing grave around which family and friends come together to mourn.
Open the door to the Memorial and you are met by the piercing gaze of many faces. These are the faces of the more than 25,500 Jews and Romany people who were deported to Auschwitz from the Dossin barracks.
In the first room, photographs and video images paint a picture of Jewish life in Belgium before the war. A picture of an engaged and dynamic community with dreams and expectations. Each and every one of them has a story to tell.
The Romani people were a small and diverse minority group in Belgium. Like the Jews, they were also victims of the Nazis.
In 1942 the German occupier started summoning and rounding up the Jewish population and bringing them here to the Dossin barracks in Mechelen. In this waiting-room of death, Jews and Roma were robbed of their freedom and forced to live in degrading conditions.
Inside the Memorial you hear and see how their identity was replaced by a number. Some waited here for several days, others months; each hoped to escape a terrible fate.
The audio guide recounts stories of the last traces of the victims. Letters written to loved ones, friends or family are read out and serve as a powerful testimony to this dark period.
Zakhor – Remember
In the vaulted cellar the names of the victims reverberate around the space. Naming a name is a respectful way to remember a victim and to ensure that person is never forgotten. Naming them by name thwarts anonymity and challenges the ultimate objective of the Nazis, restloze Vernichtung, annihilation that would leave no trace.
Not only does it name the victims by name but the Memorial also gives them a face. Hanging in the children’s room are portraits of youngsters deported from the Dossin barracks. A memorial stone calls for silent reflection, while a candle burns in perpetuity in honour of all the victims.
With the support of the friends of the Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance & the following partners