Kazerne Dossin – memorial museum

Kazerne Dossin

– / AWG architecten

Mechelen, Goswin de Stassartstraat 153

1756 / 2007-2012

Barracks

Ever since the opening, a visit to this museum had been on my wish list. It only succeeded for the first time a couple of months ago. The occasion was a lecture by the granddaughter of the inventor of the Antwerp Hand. Pastry maker Jos Hakker was Jewish and was also taken to Kazerne Dossin during WWII. After the war he wrote a book about the barracks: the mysterious barracks Dossin in Mechelen. His granddaughter did not know that he had written this book. During the lecture she gave more information about the family history. After the lecture we visited the museum and afterwards we went to eat in Mechelen.

Dossin

In 1756 the barracks were built in Mechelen on behalf of the Empress of Austria. Until 1940, the barracks continued to play a military role. In 1936 the barracks got the name of a war hero from the battle of the Yser during WWI: Lieutenant General Emile de Dossin de Saint Georges (1854 – 1936). Fortunately they only used part of his name …

Jews

In July 1942, the barracks became a collection camp for Jews and Gypsies. It was selected for its central location between Antwerp and Brussels and the presence of a railway line next to the barracks. More than 25,000 Jews and 352 Gypsies were gathered between 1942 and 1944 and taken to concentration camps. After the war, the barracks came into the hands of the Belgian state. After having fulfilled a few other functions, the barracks were empty from 1975 onwards. The city of Mechelen was considering demolishing the building, but this was protested and the facade was protected. They asked to furnish the barracks as a museum. The Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance opened its doors in 1996. The museum soon got too big, the idea of a larger and new museum came up.

Museum

A new building was chosen opposite the old barracks. A competition was launched in 2007, which was won by AWG architects. The assignment comprised four parts: renovation of the front of the barracks, a new museum on the site of the old prison house, construction of the public space and layout of the exhibition spaces. The old judgment house was almost completely demolished, part of the wall was integrated into the building. The new museum has four floors and has the shape of a pentagon. The upper floor contains large windows, the light falls down through the open stairs. The windows in the facade overlooking the barracks are bricked up. 25,000 white stones were used for this, as a symbol for the more than 25,000 people who were deported.

Place of memory

The new museum with a permanent collection was opened on 1 December 2012. There is an exhibition space on the 4th floor. The other three floors below each have a theme: mass, fear and death. Outside is a restored train wagon, which was used from 1943 to carry Jews and gypsies away. In the square there are four linden trees as a silent witness to the last public execution of war criminals.

Wall with portraits

The site is a place of remembrance, as evidenced by the portrait wall of deportees that extends over 4 floors. They are thousands of gloomy gray photos, the few in color are the few survivors.

Kazerne Dossin

 

– / AWG architecten

Mechelen, Goswin de Stassartstraat 153

1756 / 2007-2012

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