Camp Ommen came into being
when Werner Schwier, director of Referat Internationale
Organisationen - Reference to International Organizations, also
was appointed to the position of Camp Commandant of Ommen. The
purpose of the Referat was to liquidate property of organizations
considered hostile to the Reich. However, Schwier saw potential in
keeping the campground belonging to a religious cult for the
purpose of transforming it into a concentration camp. Before the
outbreak of the war the camp had been used by followers of the
cult leader Jiddu Krishnamurti. The cult held annual meetings; the
last meeting took place in August of 1939. The place of the
meeting was a camp near Ommen called Sterkamp - Star camp.
Construction of the camp began on
13 June 1941 after Schwier had offered the duty of
Lagerführer - Camp leader to Karel Lodewijk Diepgrond. The
latter had been an interpreter for the SD in Amsterdam. Schwier
had known him since the outbreak of the war. Diepgrond accepted
the offer. His first task was to interview and subsequently hire
forty-eight camp guards. He arrived in Ommen with the guards on 13
June according to a business diary he faithfully maintained.
The guards were assured by
Diepgrond and Schwier that the nature of the camp would remain
strictly Dutch. Exactly how Dutch would be revealed within a very
short time. Schwier renamed the camp calling it Arbeitslager Erika
- Work Procurement Camp Erika. All reports were written in the
German language and orders were given in German as well. Guards
were called Kontroll Kommando or KK - Control Commando. German
ranks were introduced as well with Diepgrond receiving the highest
rank, that of Lagerführer - camp commander.
The first prisoners arrived 19
June 1942, but officially the camp was opened for business on 22
June. Black marketers and forced-labor dodgers were sent to Ommen
where they received harsh treatment from the Kontroll Kommando.
Prisoners arrived in Ommen by train guarded by Dutch constables.
Leaving the train station by foot they had to march three KM in
order to reach the camp at gate "A." There the collaborating
constables would turn the prisoners over to Dutch SS camp guards.
Almost immediately upon entering the prisoners would experience
the cruelty the Dutch guards were capable off. They would scream,
curse, and hit the prisoners mercilessly. Anyone who dared to open
his mouth was beaten with a truncheon.
Following initiation the
prisoners were assigned to work details. Sixty men were housed in
each barrack and instead of sleeping in beds prisoners slept in
hammocks, three high. Bedding and clothing was inadequate. Food
was insufficient. Work was carried out in high tempo. Each alleged
trespass was punished severely. Prisoners were ill-treated
continually. Each guard had his own method of inflicting pain or
otherwise making life unbearable for the prisoners. They wanted to
make sure that forced-labor dodgers and black marketers would
learn their lesson.
Werner Schwier was arrested after
the war and transferred to an internment camp near Brussels. He
escaped and fled to Germany. He never went on trial in the
Netherlands. Karel Diepgrond was sentenced to 20 years
imprisonment on 13 May 1949. He was pardoned and set free in 1957
after having served only eight years of his sentence. J. de Jong
was shot and killed in 1945 a few weeks after he fled from camp
Westerbork where he was interned after the war. J. Driehuis
received the death sentence on 3 June 1946 which was carried out
Source: The Forgotten Camps