What is Fort Breendonk?
Fort Breendonk is an armoured concrete fortress built in the early days of the 20th century as part of a defensive belt circling Antwerp. In 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, it is hit full on when the German army attacks the Antwerp stronghold.
Breendonk gets its gruesome reputation in the Second World War, when the SS set up an “Auffanglager” in the empty fortress adjacent to the road connecting Brussels and Antwerp. It is a prison for Jews, resistance fighters and political opponents of the Nazi regime.
What happened at Fort Breendonk?
In the summer of 1940, the Sipo-SD or SS political police starts converting the abandoned fortress into a prison. The first prisoners arrive on 20 September 1940. By mid-1942 a torture chamber is set up in the “Breendonk Hell”, in order to subject prisoners to “enhanced interrogation”.
Some 3,600 prisoners are imprisoned at Breendonk. Forced labour, deprivation, abuse and manipulation are the order of the day.
- 184 prisoners are executed
- 23 are hanged
- 94 die of starvation, ill treatment, disease,...
A mere 5 prisoners manage to escape. 489 are released. 2,800 prisoners are deported from Breendonk to other camps. Less than half of the 3,600 prisoners survive the war.
What can be seen at Fort Breendonk?
An extensive trail introduces you to the daily life of prisoners and their German and Flemish guards. You walk through the rooms in which the historical facts took place: the tunnel, the cells, the isolation cells, the wooden barracks, the yard, the shower room and latrines, the torture chamber, the execution ground,... Fort Breendonk is one of the best-preserved Nazi camps in Europe. A visit to Breendonk is something you will never forget.
Groups are advised to visit Fort Breendonk with a guide. Audio guides with testimonies are available for individual visitors. Please allow approximately 2 hours for a visit.