In 2012, Jan Meisels Allen of the Ventura Conjego Valley JGS had the opportunity to meet the then director of the Kazerne Dossin Memorial Museum and Documentation Centre on the Holocaust and Human Rights, Mechlen, Belgium, when I stopped in unexpectedly on a trip to Belgium. The then director, Ward Adriaens was most gracious and spent several hours with my husband and myself. At the time the Kazerne Dossin was under renovation so we could not tour the museum, but Mr. Adriaens showed us slides of many of the documents. As a result of his knowledge and willingness to share I recommended that he be a speaker at the IAJGS 2013 International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Boston, Those who attended the conference were equally impressed with the breadth of the materials at the Kazerne Dossin and Mr. Adriaens. Kazerne means “barracks” and it was named after a World War l Belgium war hero, Lieutenant-General Emile de Dossin de Saint Georges.
Kazerne Dossin digitizes their records daily. These are original documents about the Holocaust in Belgium and places them in the image bank which currently has more than 1.5 million documents. This includes thousands of portraits of deportees from Dossin Kazerne. They also have the transport lists for each transport with their names and documents about Belgium Jews who arrived at Kazerne Dossin from the French camp Drancy.
To read about Kazerne Dossin go to: https://www.kazernedossin.eu/EN/Museumsite/Documentatiecentrum/Digitale-Beeldbank
This page may be read in English, Dutch, French, German Spanish and Hebrew. Click the down arrow at the upper left in yellow. It is recommended to read their suggestions before searching the archive.
To search click on the yellow box in the middle of the page or go to: https://beeldbank.kazernedossin.eu/
“Zoeken” means to search. “Collecties” means collections. Clicking on that takes you to https://beeldbank.kazernedossin.eu/index.php/collection
If you type in “Give Them a Face” which is the collection of deportee portraits you get to: https://beeldbank.kazernedossin.eu/index.php/search?q%5B%5D=Give+Them+A+Face&view=list
In 2017, “Give Them a Face” was awarded the Province of Antwerp Heritage Prize, thereby rewarding Kazerne Dossin’s 3 initiators of the project and team members as well as the former Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance for their efforts over the years to give the deported victims back their face and identity.
During World War ll Kazerne Dossin served as an SS-Sammellager (a transit camp) for Jews, Roma and Sinti from 27 July 1942 until the Liberation on 4 September 1944. 25,274 Jews and 354 Roma and Sinti were deported from the Dossin Barracks to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Another 218 Jews were deported to Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Ravensbrück and Vittel. Two-thirds of the deported persons was gassed immediately upon arrival. At the liberation of the camps, only 1,395 were still alive. According to the website, the central location of the barracks (between Antwerp and Brussels where most of the Jews lived), the railway next to the barracks, and the enclosed structure made this location the ideal deportation center.
The holocaust remembrance blog states: “On October 28th 1940, the Germans made a decree ordering that all Jews ages 15 and older must be registered with the municipality. An unintended outcome of this registration was that it offered previously unknown census data, revealing the structure of Jewish society that had blossomed in Antwerp and Brussels, and to a lesser extent in Liège and Charleroi. The numbers showed a distinctive Polish presence and a high number of Germans, while Belgians only accounted for at most 10% of the total population– 55.000 to 60.000 people (the Sicherheitspolizei-Sicherheitsdienst registered 56.000 individuals as of 1941).” As over 90% of the Jewish population in Belgium consisted of migrants and refugees, this meant that these files would most likely contain portraits of a majority of the deportees of the Dossin barracks. Thus, the Give Them a Face project, which worked to identify the correct files and scan the photos, was launched in 2005.
Give Them a Face Project
Ward Adriaens, director of the Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance (JMDR), the predecessor to the Kazerne Dossin, was able to convince the Minister of Internal Affairs to allow the JMDR access to over 2,7 million immigration files, created by the Belgian Office for Immigration Affairs. Between 2005 and 2009, over 18.000 photos were scanned from the immigration files and carefully catalogued. During the process of scanning, word about The Give Them a Face project spread and Jewish families in Belgium and abroad started to present photos to the JMDR to be added to the photo collection. By 2009, 18.522 portraits of the 25.628 deportees had been collected. In 2009-2017, the JMDR received 1.341 additional portraits. a second phase of the project, collecting from the immigration files photos of Jews living in Belgium but deported from France . This led to the collection of 4.169 photos of 5.877 deportees