Nord Pas de Calais Camps Trail
(c) Marcus Roberts (2016). We gratefully acknowledge the support of an anonymous foundation and the Muriel and Gershon Coren Charitable Foundation.


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David Shentow's Testimony

David Shentow, is probably the only survivor from the construction of the Jew's Road or Chemin des Juifs and was at Lager Tibor at Dannes as well as other local camps. He was transported to Auschwitz on transport XVI and was one of only 4 survivors from that transport of 759 men. It provides a first-hand human context for some of the history and local camps.

'On 9 August 1942, my father and I received a letter from the Gestapo, ordering us to report the next morning to the Antwerp Railway Station. We could bring only one suitcase. We would be departing promptly at 6:00 a.m. When we arrived at the designated platform, we saw a group of men, and boys my age, neighbours and friends from our Pelikaanstraat community, surrounded by German soldiers, dressed in their green and grey Wehrmacht uniforms. We saw no guns or guard dogs.

At the base of the marble staircase leading to the railway platforms, I said goodbye to my mother and my two sisters. I would never set eyes on them again.

On entering our train, we had to hand our identity cards to one of the German soldiers. We arrived the same day, at 8:00 p.m., at the Dannes-Camiers railroad station. After leaving the train we were force-marched along a country road leading to Lager Tibor. The sun was setting on a very hot August evening.

The work camp consisted of a number of wooden barracks. Once inside our building, we were assigned to one of the double bunk-beds. We were allowed to keep our suitcases and our travel clothing. We were told that we could use our money to purchase food from the guards.

We slept in the same clothes in double-bunk beds. No work clothes or uniforms were distributed to the prisoners. Other than running water from an outdoor installation, there were no laundry facilities or showers. Outdoor latrines were inside the camp.

The next morning we were assigned to building concrete pill-boxes, installing barbed-wire fences, and constructing concrete sea-wall defences. We were given to understand that all this work was needed in case of an Allied invasion of Europe. The place where I was engaged in slave labour was located in Boulogne-sur-Mer, some 18 km. away from Camp Tibor. We had to walk there and back in all kinds of weather. All my other activities were restricted to the interior of the camp.

My father had stomach pains and went to the camp doctor who said that he could not do anything for him and let him go back home back to Antwerp. He said, 'how can I go back home without my son, my son is here?' they said he is not going with you he has to stay. [Notes: his father was surprisingly send back home and he hid in a cellar for most of the rest of the war working as a tailor. However, shortly before the end of the war he was betrayed by a neighbour and sent to Auschwitz, where he was killed].

One day news came that the Gestapo had rounded up the remaining members of the Jewish community of Antwerp. The elderly, the infirm, mothers and children had been arrested and deported at midnight.

Another assignment involved the construction of a cement highway to be used by heavily armoured vehicles and tanks in preparation for Hitler's planned invasion of Great Britain. Each day, engineers from Firma Moll, a German construction company, supervised our work. Their huge trucks and cranes moved heavy equipment and vast quantities of cement and assorted building materials to be used for the installation of military defences along the cliffs overlooking the beaches at Pas de Calais. The Wehrmacht ensured that Firma Moll received satisfactory results from our unpaid labour.

In France some people died, but they were buried - there was a funeral and outside of the camp there was a little cemetery. They died may be not from old age, may be from beatings, one or two perhaps, no more than half a dozen in three months. Whenever a prisoner died, the Wehrmacht gave us permission to bury the dead inside the camp. Those occasions were marked by traditional Hebrew prayers, chanted with bitter tears and heavy hearts.

In September 1942 we heard rumours of an Allied invasion of Dieppe. We could hear the bombardments quite clearly. We were not required to go to work that day. We were so sure that the war was over and that we would be going home that I ran to the barracks and started packing my suitcase. After some hours our guards came to tell us that the Canadian invasion had failed and that all the Canadian soldiers were dead. They ordered us back to work as if nothing extraordinary had transpired.

A few weeks later, we learned that Hitler had decided not to invade England at this time. Instead, he had planned to invade the Soviet Union and to have his armies' battle their way to the rich oil-fields in Central Asia. Our work camp was to be closed, and we were to be sent back to Belgium. We received from our guards a loaf of bread and a bit of jam. I was disturbed to hear that these meagre rations were to last us for four days. I prepared my suitcase and joined the other prisoners in our return march to the railway station at Dannes-Camiers where guards herded us on a passenger train headed for the Caserne Dossin at Malines [Mechlen].

Once our train had come to rest in the area in front of the Caserne, I saw another passenger train being attached to the one in which we had been traveling. Through the windows I could see that the passengers were composed of elderly men and women, young women, and mothers with babies and small children. Suddenly the train began to move, and we began to see the Belgian countryside disappear behind us as we travelled eastward. The train continued, non-stop, for four days and four nights. As we passed through Germany into Poland, we could see the names of important cities in the various train stations along our route. [David was deported on transport XVI, 31 October 1942].

Finally the train slowed down and came to a complete halt. It was 4:00 p.m. The sign in the train station read Auschwitz. Alongside of the station platform I could see men dressed in what appeared to me to be striped pyjamas and striped caps. I noticed that they were wearing wooden clogs on their bare feet. They all seemed tired and frightened and they all had their heads shaved. Suddenly we were surrounded by S.S. guards holding on to vicious guard dogs, German Shepherds, trained to rip out a prisoner's throat instantaneously upon command. Megaphones, used at full power, ordered us to vacate the train immediately. We had less than ten seconds to obey that first command... Henceforth I was Kazetnik (Prisoner) 72585. [David was selected to work and not to be immediately exterminated on his arrival at Auschwitz. He survived this and several other camps, as well as a 'death march' and being pistol whipped on his head, shortly before he was liberated]

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