Kazerne Dossin tells the Belgian side of the Holocaust story. On the first floor photographs, documents and testimonies illustrate the life of Jews and gypsies in Belgium before the war. Compulsory registration was introduced in the autumn of 1940. The second floor shows the increasing discrimination: on the work floor, in the cityscape, among friends. A whole host of measures were introduced which turned the Jews and gypsies into second-class citizens. One such measure was the obligatory wearing of the yellow Star of David.

In 1942 the occupier began to impose forced labour on Jews and gypsies. Thousands of Jews went into hiding. In the summer of 1942 razzias were carried out in Antwerp and Brussels. In one fell swoop hundreds of people were arrested and taken away.

Jews and gypsies living in Belgium and Northern France were rounded up and brought to Mechelen, mid-way between Brussels and Antwerp, where an old army barracks was earmarked as a transit camp. Jews and gypsies were shut up here for days or months at a time, awaiting deportation. Eventually 28 trains containing more than 25,000 Jews and 352 gypsies left the ‘SS Sammellager Mecheln’ destined for Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The third floor of the museum looks at the organized destruction and fate of Jews and gypsies in the camps. The majority of the Jews and gypsies deported from Mechelen were gassed on arrival in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only five percent of the deportees returned alive in 1945.

Click here for the concept note.