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Nazi Transit Camps: Malines/Mechelen

Malines/Mechelen, transit camp established by the Nazis in Belgium, between its two largest Jewish communities, Antwerp and Brussels, in October 1941 to concentrate Jews before transporting them to Eastern Europe. An infrastructure was already in place and a railway line led directly to the camp, which became an antechamber to death. The camp was surrounded by local inhabitants. The first group of Belgium Jews was arrested on July 22 and taken to Breendonck and then to Malines. The first transport from Mechelen was on August 4, 1942, and arrived in Auschwitz on August 6. According to a list in the Mechelen archive, between August 4, 1942 and July 1944 there were 28 transports to the east with more than 25,257 Jews; some gypsies were transported in 1943 and 1944. All the inmates of the camp had to wear identification badges. The badges differed for the Jews in the camp. The various known symbols were: T = Transport-Juden (Jews who would be sent to the east), Z = citizens of the Allied countries or neutral countries, E = Entscheidungsfalle, borderline cases, whose identity required further investigation, G = Gefaehrliche Juden (dangerous Jews to be sent to punishment camps elsewhere). Jews who were married to non-Jews were sent to Drancy in German-occupied France. Members of the Committee for Jewish Defense (CDJ) which was in contact with the Belgian resistance movement, and the Catholic fighters' organization, penetrated into Mechelen a number of times in order to warn the inmates and try to liberate them. The organized Jewish community sent in packages. The camp was finally liberated by the Allies in September 1944; a few hundred Jews had managed to survive.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved. [B. Mordechai Ansbacher / Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]