KZ-Lager Poperwahlen

Unpublished manuscript on the forced labor camp KZ-Lager Poperwahlen (satellite camp to Dondangen), Latvia

Written by: L. M. Bruyn

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Preface for Poperwahlen

by Joyce Field

Poperwahlen is such an unusual entry on our Yizkor Book site that some readers may wonder how it fits into the more traditional offerings and our mission. Therefore, a few words of explanation may be in order.

The author, Lucas Melle Bruyn from the Netherlands, wrote to us and asked if we might be interested in putting this on the yizkor book web site. This work has not been published, but photocopies have been distributed to a few persons and organizations. The author's sole intent in writing to us was to get the story of Poperwahlen known.

After reading the file, I was totally intrigued by this previously unknown or unpublished part of World War II history. The story of the Latvian Jews and the intersecting story of the Dutch would add much to our understanding of the events of the 1940s, I thought, and tells us much about human behavior. Yizkor books also open windows to history and expand our understanding of human behavior. Of course, I could have presented hair-splitting arguments that this entry more appropriately belonged in some other web site, but I could not turn away from the impact of this story.

In the long run, I concluded, it does not matter where Poperwahlen appears as long as the story is known. I hope our readers concur.


KZ-Lager Poperwahlen (Nebenlager Dundangen, Curonia, Latvia) Dutch involvement in Ostland-Politik (N.O.C./N.O.B.)

By L. M. Bruyn

While on a one year stay in Latvia, the writer was asked by a survivor of the forced labour camp, KZ-Lager Poperwahlen, if he could provide any information concerning Dutch labourers who had been in the camp from 1943 until the end of the war. A request for information sent to the Institute for War Documentation of the Netherlands. The response was disappointing, no documents or studies on the subject were found in the archives of the Institute. Eventually the writer obtained some information about the camp through other channels. These confirmed the presence of Dutch in Poperwahlen and other places in Latvia and explained their status. They had been sent out by a Dutch organisation, the Nederlandsche Oost Bouw (Dutch East Building Company : N.O.B.), either as volunteers or as forced labourers. Armed with this information the writer once again approached the Institute. He discovered that the archives of the N.O.B. were in Amsterdam.

The first part of the study, Poperwahlen, was written in Latvia, based on information gathered through correspondence and during field trips to the location of the camp. Besides stating the few facts available it describes the difficulties encountered by an amateur historian trying to uncover facts about an episode in Dutch history which is not very popular in Holland itself. The reminiscences of the survivor's own experiences of the camp are also included.

After returning to the Netherlands the writer visited the archives of the Institute for War Documentation as well as that of the Ministry of Justice. Lack of time and resources limited the research to a few of visits, while the amount of material proved to be large. Some facts and numbers indicating the scope of the Dutch involvement of the German Ostland-Politik were collected and put into  appendices to the original article, together with suggestions and sources for further research.

Continue to main text, Poperwahlen

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Updated 26 Apr 2002 by LA