This touching, yet jarring memorial to Holocaust victims designed by Dutch studio Oving Architecten encloses the former home of an SS Nazi officer in a giant glass box. One of the last remaining structures in the former Kamp Westerbork, the house will now be used as an educational center. Read on for more details about this unique exhibit.
In 1939, the seemingly ordinary green and white timber house that sits at the entrance of the camp was the residence of SS Commander Albert Konrad Gemmeker. The surrounding camp was used as a detention center by the Dutch government to receive Jewish refugees fleeing from Nazi Germany. Soon afterwards, the home was seized by the Nazis and converted into a transit hub. Tens of thousands of Jews were sent back to Nazi-occupied territory from Westerbork where most eventually met their deaths in various extermination camps in Poland, Czech Republic and Germany. Anne Frank was detained at Westerbork until her own deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944.
Most of the remains of the camp have since disappeared, with the exception of the commander’s house, which was declared a national monument in 1994. Oving Architecten’s new glass cocoon serves as a protective skin, not only preserving the historic monument, but also creating a public space that will host gatherings, educational programs, and various cultural activities.
According to the architects, the steel and glass shroud around the home acts as a memorial, conveying the immense human suffering that took place on site, “The spatial approach was to stage the human scale and the relation with the landscape. The project is positioned along the main access to the camp – the Boulevard des Miseres – and you enter it by walking through a low and closed part which facilitates pantry, toilets and storage,” they added. “This is also thought as a transition before you reach the glass cover.”
Photography by Susan Schuls