On Sunday, 19 April 2020, an entirely virtual commemoration event took place in the Netherlands for the very first time. The event marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Kamp Amersfoort. Since hosting an event with thousands of attendees was no longer possible due to the coronavirus, an hour-long program was offered on television, newspapers' live streams and social media instead. The responses of those that attended the digital commemoration, both in the Netherlands and abroad, were overwhelmingly positive: many claimed that the virtual event was even more affecting than an in-person commemoration.
The victims of Kamp Amersfoort
Kamp Amersfoort, which was known as "das Hungerlager", or the hunger camp, was operational from August 1941 to April 1945. An estimated 40,000 prisoners found themelves subjected to its inhumane regime, including Jews, resistance fighters, evaders of the so-called "Arbeitseinsatz", or Nazi forced labor system, hostages, criminals, Soviet prisoners of war, Jehovah's witnesses and many more. Many of Kamp Amersfoort's prisoners would only experience it as a transit camp, and were transferred to other concentration camps like Dachau, Natzweiler and Neuengamme. Roughly 600 people were murdered in the camp, however, including 354 people that were shot in its vicinity, making Kamp Amersfoort the largest execution site in the Netherlands.
Digital commemoration of the 75th anniversary of liberation
19 April 1945 marks the date of the camp's liberation, when its administration was transferred to the Red Cross. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of liberation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, however, organizers had to think outside the box. Taking coronavirus measures into account, director Dennis Brussaard and the remembrance center's staff compiled pre-existing recordings, historical footage, drone images, individual contributions and new material to form one complete program. This also meant finding a way to recreate the planned performance of the 130-person choir and orchestra of relatives: each member recorded their part individually at home using their mobile phone, and the contributions were then spliced together to make up an impressive and moving "live" performance.
The commemoration program also included speeches by State Secretary Paul Blokhuis (Ministry of Health and Welfare), a former prisoner, relatives of former prisoners and the director of the National Monument Camp Amersfoort.
View the entire program on the National Monument Camp Amersfoort website.