The Prisoners of Breendonk

Personal Histories from a World War II Concentration Camp


Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2015. Available in hardcover and ebook.

Illustrated in color and black-and-white with over 225 photographs, drawings, and maps, including many photos taken exclusively for the book by award-winning Belgian photographer Leon Nolis. 

Schedule a School Visit or Talk

about the Prisoners of Breendonk

with James M Deem

After researching and writing The Prisoners of Breendonk: Personal Histories from a World War II Concentration Camp over a four-year period, I have begun to speak about the camp and the moving stories of some of its prisoners. Recently, I have talked about the book with many middle schools and high school students, as well as members of a Holocaust survivors' group and students in an adult writers' workshop.

During my talk, I explain the prewar history of the Belgian camp and its development into what the SS called a "reception" camp (though it was essentially a concentration camp). I introduce the audience to some of the prisoners, using photographs obtained from various archives in Belgium. This personal close-up look allows the audience to better understand the horrors of the Holocaust as well as the dangers of living in an occupied country. About a third of Breendonk's prisoners (Jews, political prisoners, resistance fighters, and common criminals) were eventually sent to other concentration camps. I describe how the camp was evacuated and what happened to the prisoners.

I also talk about my own multi-faceted connection to the Holocaust and why I began to write books related to this topic. Finally, I share some stories about a few prisoners who were incarcerated at Breendonk.

This presentation is suitable for anyone studying or interested in the Holocaust and World War II.