Memorial to Soviet soldiers executed in WWII is in wrong place

The memorial to 77 Soviet soldiers. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The location of one of the largest mass executions in the Netherlands during World War II is not at the spot now marked with a monument, new research has found.

In April 1942, 77 Soviet soldiers from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan were executed at the so-called Untermenschenfriedhof at the concentration camp in Amersfoort.

Instead of the spot now marked by the Koedriest monument on the Soviet field of honour, the execution took place a few hundred meters away, at what is now a golf course, recently found documents analysed by Kamp Amersfoort researchers showed.

A service to commemorate the men and 21 other Soviet soldiers who died at the camp is held every year at a monument erected in the 1960s by the USSR.

Kamp Amersfoort has no jurisdiction over the monument, but director Micha Bruinvels is not in favour of removing or relocating it. “This monument has become part of the remembrance culture,” he told Trouw. “But its history has now been added to and that should be recognised.”

The execution of the 77 Soviet prisoners of war is the second-largest execution to take place in the Netherlands during the war. In March 1945 the Nazis killed 117 people in Woeste Hoeve near Apeldoorn as a reprisal for an attack on leader of the SS in the Netherlands, Hanns Rauter.

Some 47,000 people were held at concentration camp Amersfoort between 1941 and 1945, including Jews, resistance fighters and Jehovah’s witnesses. Over 24,000 prisoners were taken to labour camps in Germany. Dozens of mass graves were discovered around the camp after the war.

Bruinvels is talking to the local councils in Amersfoort and Leusden and the golf club about the consequences of the discovery. Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs was also invited to take part, as the mass grave at the monument also contains the remains of Jewish victims.

The discovery of the documents shows that it is still relevant to find out what happened during the war, Bruinvels said. “Research can uncover crucial elements about the war that mean the records have to be adjusted, or it can even uncover previously unknown facts,” he said.

At Kamp Amersfoort, efforts to identify 8,000 of the victims who died at the concentration camp are ongoing.

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