8-9 OCTOBER | Antwerp Open Houses 2022 commemorates victims of World War II

The second edition of Open Houses will take place in Antwerp on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 October. These are small-scale commemorations for victims of World War II as part of the long-term project Antwerp Commemorates (Antwerpen Herdenkt). 

Storytellers, visitors and residents share compelling stories about fellow citizens in special locations where they lived and worked. Everyone is welcome to commemorate, listen and talk.

After a successful first edition, Open Huizen will take place again. This time with even more stories at more locations in the city: twenty houses, schools and community centers in six Antwerp districts open their doors for small-scale commemorations and stories about war, persecution and resistance from the Second World War. 

Relatives and residents tell about (Jewish) fellow citizens and resistance fighters who lived in their house or neighbourhood. In this second edition, some stories about victims of the V-bombs and military casualties are also discussed. Open Houses commemorates the victims of WWII in Antwerp with stories about family ties, resistance, courage and deportation, with room for dialogue.

Stories

Annie Rutzky studied piano and composition at the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp. Barely 23, she was deported along with her husband. On October 8, two conservatory students revive Annie’s music and librarian Jan Dewilde tells what he discovered about Annie’s life. 

An unknown British soldier was killed in the city park. Recently, a photo of the hastily dug grave surfaced. Olivier Vilain and Niko Van Kerckhoven went looking for the exact spot and told who he was there. 

Melvyn Fishel talks about what his family experienced in WWII and the deportation of his grandparents to Auschwitz. Neither of them turned back. These are just a few examples of the personal stories of Open Houses 2022.

During World War II, some 25,000 people died in Antwerp as a result of persecution and violence by the Nazi regime. Many others suffered psychological, physical and material damage. 

With Open Houses, a large group of volunteers keeps the memory of all these people and what they have experienced alive. They do this by opening up their houses, by testifying about their own family history or by telling life stories, which may not always be known (anymore) to local residents. 

They do this as much as possible in the place where these war victims lived, worked or went to school. The city supports them in this.

The personal stories can be read via Antwerpen Herdenkt.

Digital walks

On the Antwerp Commemorates website you can find two digital walks related to WWII in Antwerp. 

  • 167 days of bombs and terror‘. “The flying bombs (V-1s) started raining down on Antwerp one month after the city was liberated. The German command wanted to prevent the Allies from capturing Antwerp unscathed and supplying their troops on the front line, by dropping thousands of these vengeance weapons on the city. But the bombs were not always that reliable, which is how they ended up spreading terror throughout the city. They killed 3,560 people, injuring more than 9,000 other people. And the port? Wonder by wonder, it was captured almost intact by the Allies, going on to play an important role in the end of the war.”
  • The persecution of Jews in Antwerp during WWII‘. “The persecution of Jews during World War II is one of the darkest chapters in the city’s history. Many thousands of Antwerp Jews did not survive the war. The Germans put them on transports to the concentration camps. Antwerp’s police force and the town council also played a specific role in this, actively contributing to the raids on several occasions. Those Jews who did succeed in escaping this horrific fate lived in a climate of constant fear. Some temporarily went into hiding, others succeeded in leaving the country while others joined the resistance. Although the arrests and informing continued unrelentingly, the Jews and the resistance succeeded in organising themselves. In some cases, they were able to count on the assistance and solidarity of their neighbours, friends or colleagues. During this digital walk you can learn more about this chapter of the city’s history, as you listen to personal stories and visit well-known places in the city.”

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