Visiting Schoonloo, The Netherlands: rural woodland and receding memories of a labour camp

Flag of The Netherlands
Flag of The Netherlands | Source
'De Tweelingen' : nature reserve near Schoonloo
'De Tweelingen' : nature reserve near Schoonloo | Source
'De Tweelingen' : nature reserve near Schoonloo
'De Tweelingen' : nature reserve near Schoonloo | Source
'Kamp Schoonloo'
'Kamp Schoonloo' | Source
Map location of Drenthe
Map location of Drenthe | Source

Different varieties of visitors

Schoonloo (sometimes written 'Schoonlo') is a quite isolated place. The name refers both to a village and to woodland in the province of Drenthe, in the north of The Netherlands. I went through it, rather than to it; but, then this is part of its secluded nature which at various times has proved attractive to the authorities in the past.

Because Schoonloo also gave its name to Kamp Schoonloo , which was a labour camp used during and after World War Two.

Immediately the alarm bells will start ringing in the minds of alert readers: World War Two? for several years of World War Two, The Netherlands was occupied by forces from a far from benevolent Nazi Germany. The fact is that the seclusion of Kamp Schoonloo was exactly the sort of local characteristic that appealed to the Nazi German occupants, with a view to holding there those for whom they felt a particular lack of benevolence.

Then on September 4, 1944, the Nazi Germans went home, somewhat in haste, and Kamp Schoonloo is supposed to have closed.

If not on September 5, 1944, however, then not a very long time afterward, Kamp Schoonloo sprang into life again. (Different guests, of course.)

Maybe inevitably, there were some Dutch people who had collaborated with the Nazi German occupants. Once The Netherlands had been liberated at the end of World War Two, those citizens known to have blotted their copy book in relation to the far from welcome German visitors were themselves far from popular with their fellow citizens.

So, what to do with them? (I think some readers can already guess where this is heading.) Ideology comes and goes, but geography and real estate endures. The very reasons which appealed to the Nazi Germans about Kamp Schoonloo appealed also to the hardly patient, restored Dutch authorities in relation to the task of confining former collaborators (although it must be said that the post-Liberation authorities were much more humane with their prisoners than had been the Nazi Germans).

Anyway, these episodes occurred a long time ago now. Interestingly, the facility, such as it was, at Kamp Schoonloo, dated from prior to World War Two, when unemployed workers were accommodated during the Depression.

Today, the anonymity of the woodland and the encroaching mists of time are rendering less apparent an unpleasant episode in Dutch history. In any case, the authorities these days are far more eager to talk up Schoonloo for its natural environment: at Schoonloo today, the De Tweelingen nature park attracts a balanced combination of fauna and flora and respectful visitors who are strictly welcome.

Schoonloo is in the Aa en Hunze (yes, really!) municipality of Drenthe province.

December 14, 2012

Also worth seeing

Assen (distance: 17 kilometres) there are various church buildings of note, which include the Kloosterkerk and the Josefkerk , and a number of elegant townhouses.

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How to get there: Airlines flying to Amsterdam-Schipol Airport from New York include Delta Airlines and KLM. The Dutch railroad company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) maintains rail services between Amsterdam-Schipol and Assen. There is car rental availability at Amsterdam airport and at Assen (distance between Amsterdam-Schipol and Schoonloo : 200 kilometres). Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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Comments 2 comments

Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 3 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Never had any idea this even existed! Is there anything left of it? You do get around!


MJFenn profile image

MJFenn 3 years ago Author

Gypsy Willow: The Camp was permanently closed in 1947. Eyewitnesses reported its gradual demolition after 1951.

If one digs a little, I find interesting these little insights into the history of a place. Thank-you for your comment.

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