In 1919, the department of Justice had prisoner barracks built ‘to imprison non-smuggling convicts’, next to the old Scheveningen Detention Centre. In reality, it housed mainly petty thieves and convicts. However, the war literally brought a different regime. From then on it was called the Deutsches Untersuchungs- und Strafgefängnis and per the Summer of 1942 Polizeigefängnis.
Its involuntary residents came from all over the Netherlands. They shared resistance in word and deed: from reading an illegal pamphlet or hiding people to stealing ration coupons or executing traitors. The majority of them ended up in concentration and death camps, where many of them died. 215 prisoners were shot dead at the Waalsdorpvlakte near the Oranjehotel. They spent their final night in one of the death cells, which were located in the central corridor.
After the war, the department of Justice started using the building again. It closed due to overcapacity in 2010. Nowadays, the cell doors are all wide open, but you cannot escape the past here. “It is an honour to keep the memory alive”, says Dineke Mulock Houwer. She is the strong-minded president of Stichting Oranjehotel in the Hague. The foundation organises the annual commemoration and ad-hoc tours, which both attract many participants and are highly valued.
That is why got a terrible shock in 2010: “There were plans to not just close the barracks, but to demolish them. We couldn’t believe it. We really had to put in a fight to preserve the building. Everyone knows Nationaal Kamp Westerbork or Kamp Vught, but the Oranjehotel never got much attention. It is hidden behind a wall. Until recently, you could only visit this complex if you were accompanied by a guide. Guard Rob-with-the-keychain of the Detention Centre accompanied us on many occasions.”