Kazerne Dossin is no ordinary museum site, but a ‘place of remembrance’. The kazerne – or barracks – will be forever associated with Belgium’s Shoah or Holocaust. Between 1942 and 1944 the Nazis used the barracks as an assembly camp, transporting 25,484 Jews and 352 gypsies from here to Auschwitz-Birkenau. On this emotionally-charged site the museum tells the story of the persecution of Jews and gypsies in our country.
From Jewish Museum to Kazerne Dossin
Kazerne Dossin grew out of the former Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance, founded in 1995 by a number of Jewish survivors, including the late Natan Ramet who was knighted in 2005. The museum was a success from the outset, its permanent exhibition attracting 35,000 visitors a year. But as visitor numbers grew, it needed to expand.
In 2001 the Flemish Government got behind plans for a new Holocaust and Human Rights Museum and put in place the financing to renovate and develop the museum site. Flemish Minister-President Kris Peeters will open the new museum complex at the end of November 2012.
The old Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance is now a memorial, a place of reflection for victims and their relatives, while a brand-new building – a white monolith - opposite the old barracks houses the permanent historical exhibition.
The new building occupies the site of the former detention building, opposite the barracks, emphatically marking the spot where the events of the Second World War unfolded. It was designed by the former Flemish Government architect bOb Van Reeth of AWG Architecten. The museum is pentagon-shaped with large expanses of glass on one side and bricked-up windows on the other. On top of the building is a terrace which looks out over the old barracks.
The infrastructure is designed to accommodate school and other groups as well as individual visitors. With four floors of galleries, a spacious auditorium, cafeteria and two educational areas, the museum has everything it takes to put itself on the map nationally and internationally.
Photo © Stijn Bollaert