Souvenirs by Vincent Châtel
Personal Thoughts of Nazis' Crimes by Chuck Ferree
Vincent Châtel and Chuck Ferree (July 1998)
"Dad, tell me how it was in the camps?". We are in 1972. Just the day before, the Belgian television had shown a documentary about the Nazi concentration camps. I was 10 years old, and I knew my father was a Holocaust Survivor. Sometimes, on very rare occasions, he talked about his experiences as a prisoner of the Nazis, with my mother. Just some words, a reminiscence, then the silence. Like so many children, I listened carefully, even though the conversation was not intended to be heard by me.
"Please, shut up, I just want to forget!". His answer was harsh and it became clear it was better for me to avoid any sensitive questions. But I did not understood why my father became aggravated so suddenly. We had so many conversations, there were no forbidden subjects, and even if I was very young, he always answered my questions without any lie or hypocrisy. Why did this subject make my father so different, I wondered?
Today, I know why... How could he share his experience with a 10 year boy? How could he even share his experience with anybody, except maybe another survivor? From his time in a concentration camp, I only knew his horrible physical pains... and the name of a place: Vught...
Some months later, my father left us. Maybe we could have talked about his experience if he only had some years more to live. But he was too ill, too weak, and his fight against death was now ended...
June 1996: I purchased a modem and decided to have a connection to the Internet. One of the very first thing I did was to visit a search site. I enter the word "Vught" and after a while, the list of the concerned sites appeared on the screen: hostels, museums, personal sites... and suddenly a title: "Vught Concentration Camp". I visit the site and I found some photos taken at the liberation of Vught by the Canadian troops. I try to find other sites without success. Then I send messages to sites about the Holocaust, hoping to receive some information about Vught. But the responses were discouraging. No source had anything about such a camp. And then I understood: Vught was only a little camp, one of the hundreds of small concentration camps which formed the Nazi concentration camps galaxy.
During this research, the Cybrary of the Holocaust contained names and experiences of Liberators. One American veteran and liberator: Chuck Ferree responded to my questions, we exchanged a lot of mail about our experiences and we discovered we have a lot to share. We are friends today. One day, we had an idea: why not create a site about these little, unknown concentration camps? This site is the result of our work... and it is a wonderful adventure.
We are not historians, we just want to share our information and take part in the fight against revisionism and denial. Maybe some informations you will find on this site are outdated or incomplete so feel free to contact us if you want to add information.
In memory of my father, Edmond Châtel, and of all the victims of fanaticism, whatever the form it takes and wherever it is coming from.
My father Edmond Châtel (1902 - 1972)
On 8 May, 1945 the Allies accepted the unconditional surrender of Germany. More that eleven million civilians had been murdered in cold blood since the German invasion of Poland more than five years before. Among those eleven were six million Jews.
Czechs, French, Greeks, Italians, Poles, Russians and Serbs had been among the millions of non-Jewish civilians killed in reprisal actions, and mass executions. But only the Jews had been systematically searched out from every region, city, town, village and hamlet of German-dominated Europe. The Nazi aim was to ensure that not one single Jew survived. and 3Jew2 was defined as anyone with Jewish parents. A single Jewish parent, or even a single Jewish grandparent.
An airplane accident which kills 350 people in one crash is considered a catastrophe. The murder of more than eleven million innocent people by the Nazis, is considered to be a statistic. No human being can comprehend such a vast number of dead people, murdered because Hitler decided these people were sub-human, vermin or useless in his goal to build a super-human race.
Only when one can contemplate the cruelty suffered by individuals or families, on a person to person basis, can the heinous depravity of Hitler, and his followers be meaningful.
One woman, tortured by the Nazi doctors, burned by over-dosing with powerful X-rays. Or a mother who watches helplessly as her infant is tossed into a flaming pit with hundreds of other burning corpses, or a father who stands helplessly while a German soldier shoots his wife and child in the head, brains spewing everywhere, even on the soldiers gory uniform. Or slow starvation of old people, who die quicker than their younger healthier children. They all die of starvation, entire families. Jews taunted, teased, and tortured by barbaric SS guards, who seem to delight in their pain and wretchedness, and finally club or shoot their victims to death.
Mothers, stripped of their clothing, in the cold, clutching their babies to their naked breasts, as the SS guards with their slobbering dogs, whip the innocent victims into the gas chambers. The Zyklon B pellets are poured into the vents and quickly turn into deadly suffocating gas. Some die very quickly, others scream and cry in panic. All defecate as they die. Heaps of human flesh greet the other inmates who must now shave the hair and yank any gold from the dead mouths.
This is the Holocaust. This is what The Nazis did to at least six million innocent people, without remorse or pity.
They were just doing their jobs, or their duty. But they did their duty willingly.
Chuck Ferree (Holocaust Witness and Liberator)