1940-1942

In the camp, the strings were pulled tighter. The freedom to come and go at will out was removed. The boundaries were indicated with signs and discipline was improved. The Ministry of Justice took over the management of the camp under the leadership of the new Dutch commander, J. Schol. Instead of a few village policemen, a brigade of fifteen military police was now supervising. This seemed an extreme measure as the rolling heather fields hardly tempted attempts at escape. But the military police did not limit themselves to simply guarding. They escorted the camp inhabitants to the hospital and to the work outside the camp. The strongest sign of different times having arrived was the roll call which was carried out in the mornings and afternoons at the start of work. Surveillance became a serious matter and even extended to the bedrooms in the barracks. The censorship on letter writing was tightened. Sending sealed letters was no longer permitted. Cycling was also forbidden. On the other hand, at last there was a serious commitment to education. The school leaving age was initially nineteen years but later fourteen years became the limit. Schol set up the foundations for a camp organisation which would be taken over by the Germans. The so-called ‘dienstgroepen’ (work groups) for all sorts of activities were set up and each barrack appointed a barrack leader.

One by one, these were measures which led to the further militarising of the camp which became hermetically sealed from the outside world.
The ‘Germanising’ of the camp life suited them well; after all, they came from Germany or Austria. The anti-German Commander Schol understood that a perfect organisation was the best way to keep the Germans out of the way and whilst Schol tightened his regime, he did not act inhumanely. This did not please some German authorities whatsoever. In August 1941, it was reported to the Drenthe envoy of Arthur Seyss-Inquart (Hitler’s appointed leader of the occupied Netherlands); ‘I have the impression that the Jews are treated far too humanely here and that, due to the attitude of the camp commander, the Jews are feeling very much at ease here. (…) It would be necessary, before anything else, to appoint a different camp commander here’.
In 1942, the Nazis decided on the systematic extermination of the Jews and this was to have serious implications for the camp, which was extended to include a large number of smaller buildings and barracks. On 1st July, 1942 the camp was designated as Polizeiliches Judendurchgangslager (police-enforced transit camp for Jews). The Befehlshaber der Sicherheitspolizei (Commander of the Security Police) and the SD (Security Service) took over management from the Dutch. Commander Schol remained in office until January 1943 when the commander of the Security Police (SD) took charge of the Dutch camp.