For the Dutch, the name of Westerbork is inseparably linked to the horrors of World War II, as the Germans ran a large transit camp just a few kilometres out of the village centre. The former camp ground is closer to Hooghalen than Westerbork, but the name is imprinted deeply in the national memory.
The village of Westerbork today is a pleasant place, offering plenty of facilities for visitors and popular as a base to explore the surroundings or as a stop on an long bike trip.
Although severe violence and murder was relatively rare in the Westerbork camp, some 102.000 Jews and Roma were transported to their deaths from here. The original camp was taken down almost entirely, but a museum, several reconstructed buildings and a few monuments make former camp Westerbork a humbling place. Thousands of visitors come here every year to deepen their understanding of the war, educate their children or remember the tragic experience they or their loved ones lived through here.
The village of Westerbork is home to some 4700 people.
By car or bike
The village of Westerbork is served by the N374, which, via the N381 connects to the major A28 highway. There are numerous smaller roads suitable for those who want to cycle their way in and special direction signs for bikers are readily available, making it quite possible to find the way even without looking at a map.
By public transport
To the camp
Visitors of the Kamp Westerbork site in most cases shouldn't approach via Westerbork village. Coming from the South take exit 31 Westerbork in the direction of Beilen. After 300 meters, turn left onto N381 and follow the signs from there. Coming from the north take exit Assen-Zuid in direction Hooghalen and follow the signs from there.
Westerbork village is small and easily explore on foot or by bike.
The camp site and memorial centre is 10 km north of Westerbork and almost 2 km east of Hooghalen. Because of the extensive radio telescope installations close to the former camp site, you're not allowed to drive all the way there in a motorized vehicle. Fines will be given to those who ignore this restriction. You'll have to park at the memorial centre, which is 2.7 km from the actual camp site, and walk the educational path to the camp. Wheelchairs are available for those who need them. You can't rent bicycles, but if you're here with your own, you may use it. Alternatively, when the memorial centre is opened, special buses run to and from the centre to the camp site (€1.50/2 for single/return).
- Herinneringscentrum Kamp Westerbork, Oosthalen 8, Hooghalen. The camp was built as a refugee camp by the Dutch government, and taken over by the Nazis in 1942. It was used as a transit camp, bringing large number of Jews, Roma and Dutch resistance members together for deportation to the infamous concentration camps. 107,000 people (among them Anne Frank) were deported from Westerbork on 93 trains between 1942 and 1945. Only 5000 returned. After the war, the camp was used to hold Dutch Nazis who were awaiting trial, then as a military camp, and after that as a housing initiative for demobilised members of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army and their families. After the last families left in 1971, all of the camp buildings were removed. A commander's house is about the only original camp building that remains. To allow proper remembrance of this dramatic yet historic place, a museum was opened in 1983. Several partial reconstructions give a rough idea of the camp layout and monuments represent the magnitude of events that took place here.
- Stefanuskerk (Church of St. Stephen), Hoofdstraat 10. The town church was built in the early 15th century as a Catholic church, although the lower parts of its tower are much older (13th century). It was transferred to the Protestant community around the year 1600. Several paintings inside the church were made by local artist Reinhart Dozy (who lived in nearby Elp).
- Papercutting Museum, Burg.G.v.Weezelplein 10. Summer: M 13:30-17:00, Tu-F 10:00-17:00. This small but fun museum is only open on weekdays in the Summer and during Spring and Autumn holidays in the Netherlands (check the website as those last holidays change dates every year). It's quite a remarkable place and also nice for children, as visitors get the chance to make some paper cutting arts themselves. On display are, obviously, wonderful and sometimes seemingly impossible papercutting designs. Some are from centuries ago while others are more recent.
- The village of Westerbork is a popular base for hiking and biking trips through the region. The tourist information office can provide routes and maps, if you don't want to set your own trail. There are also a few free downloadable options online, including a tour that takes you in the footsteps of Anne Frank (53 or 44 km).
The village has a useful range of small stores, allowing for most daily shopping. Most are in the village centre, around the B.G. van Weezelplein and Hoofdstraat. Of interest for average traveller are for example:
- Jumbo supermarket, B.G. van Weezelplein, ☏ . M-Th 08:00-20:30, F 08:00-21:00, Sa 08:00-20:00, Su 13:00-18:00.
- DA Drogisterij La Santé, Hoofdstraat 57. This "drogisterij", much like an American drugstore, sells all kinds of personal hygiene, self-service medication and relevant goods.
At the museum, there's a small café, which also serves a few simple lunch dishes. Think sandwiches or soups, or just a cup of coffee with a piece of cake. There's a peaceful outdoor terrace overlooking the nearby forest and garden.
There are also options to eat and drink around the village though, as well as in Hooghalen.
- Het Wapen van Westerbork, Hoofdstraat 3, ☏ . Simple and typical Dutch bistro dishes, well prepared and for a reasonable price. The Saté get great reviews, as does the service. When the weather allows you can enjoy you meal at the outdoor terrace. From €16 for mains.
- Meursinge, Hoofdstraat 48, ☏ . This place houses to an Irish pub and an Irish specialties restaurant. Nice for a beer but also when you're craving a filling stew or other Irish pick. Mains from €12.50.
- Museumherberg De Ar, Hoofdstraat 42, ☏ . Have lunch or dinner in a historic setting, surrounded by artefacts from the past. There's a large outdoor terrace. Lunch from €7 and mains from €16.
- Diggels Brasserie, Hoofdstraat 8, ☏ . Another fine choice for simple bistro dishes - which seems the most popular kind of restaurant around here. €25 for a menu.
Many people visit Westerbork as a day trip, but there are surely options if you'd like to hang around and explore the area.
- Abdij De Westerburcht, Hoofdstraat 7, ☏ . This former monastery is now a friendly hotel, excellent for hikers and bikers. The rooms are simple but sufficient, as you would expect from a place like this. Some of the rooms are a bit outdated, but it shouldn't keep you from staying here. There's a café and restaurant. €40/80 for a single/double.
- Ruyghe Venne, Beilerstraat 24A, ☏ . On the outskirts of town, this is a comfortable hotel with rooms in different sizes. It rents out bikes, and is an excellent starting point for field trips. It has room service, a nice restaurant and some rooms even have a small private terrace. From €74 for a small room.
- Landgoed Borkerheide, Beilerstraat 13a. Just outside the village, this natural estate is now a camp site. It focusses on "natural camping" and only tents are allowed. Located pretty much in the middle of forests and heath lands, it's a most relaxing place with excellent outdoor opportunities. The owners are working to establish a small tea house on the premises. Camp spot including 2 people €19.50-21.50 per night, €€3.75-4.75 per extra person.
The hotels offer free Wi-Fi in their rooms.
- Postal services, Hoofdstraat 39-A (inside Bruna book store). M-Th 08:30-18:00, F 08:30-20:00 and Sa 08:30-17:00. The local Bruna doubles as a post office.
There are many small and large destinations in the direct surroundings, making for good bike tour destinations, whether you're heading on or just want to have a good day trip. Visit the zoo in Emmen, go see ancient dolmen near Borger or stop in Assen for a visit of the Drenths Museum. Head west to the Drents-Friese Wold Natural Park, move north, to bustling Groningen or south-west to Zwolle. If you have your own car or don't mind a 3-hour bike trip, consider the amazingly restore fort of Bourtange on the German border.
|Routes through Westerbork|
|Utrecht ← Meppel ←||S N||→ Assen → Groningen|