Holocaust museum opens in Mechelen


A new €22 million Holocaust Museum has opened in a former barracks building in Mechelen used for the deportation of more than 25,000 Jews and gypsies in World War Two. The Dossin barracks was the departure point for Belgian Jews sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. They left on 17 separate train conveys between July 1942 and July 1944, and most did not survive the war. From metal plaque to museum The role of the barracks was largely ignored up until recently, apart from a small metal plaque. But a small museum was opened there in 1996, and in 2001 the Flemish minister-president at the time, Patrick Dewael (whose grandfather had died in a concentration camp), launched the idea of a large museum. It took until 2008 before the project was finally launched. The new museum, designed by Antwerp architect Bob van Reeth, includes 26,000 white stones which are used to cover the windows of the building. On one wall in the entrance hall, hundreds of photographs show the faces of some of the Belgian victims of Nazi genocide. Mass violence begins with discrimination The main exhibition was designed Herman Van Goethem, a professor in human rights and history. His aim was not just to chart the systematic persecution of the Jews and their transportation to Germany, but also link it to more recent examples of intolerance. “We wanted to link the Holocaust and the transportations with human rights,” he said, “because mass violence always begins with discrimination.”

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