"Too often people forget that this camp and the others who followed it were not aimed at subjugating foreigners (the first after the invasions were brought there after 1939), but that of the citizens of Germany, who had the courage to rebel against the Nazi regime "
Paul Kerstenne was born on December 26, 1921 in Ans (not far from Liège, Belgium). When the Germans invade Belgium and occupy the country, he decides to flee to England with five friends to fight Nazism and join the fighting troops. He drives through France to embark in Portugal, but in September 1942 he is Arrested in Chalon sur Saône in when he tried to cross the demarcation line with his five comrades. Detained and tortured in Chalon and Dijon, and then in Brussels, he was taken to Dachau, where he arrived on February 27, 1943. He has been 21 for two months. He has the registration number B 44329. "Our name now consisted of a code consisting of the initials of our country of origin and a number". He is one of the enslaved population and in 1943/44 he escapes death several times with a narrow need: typhoid and coma in 1943, sore throats and pneumonia in 1944 with subsequent tuberculosis. Hardly released from the TBC block, where he could be treated by a Czech concentration camp inmate (Prof. Alaska) thanks to the intervention of Arthur Haulot, he worked in the plantation, one of the most terrible, in winter 44/45 (February-March) Work details in Dachau. He has to clear the paths, shovel the snow, load it onto trucks, and then unload it. He also has to chop the earth, dig with the spade. This was for him the worst time in Dachau. He owes his survival to a Kapo, which makes him work in the "Rose Plants" sub-command, where he plants rose bushes along the barbed wire of the plantation.
If he was able to "cling to life anew, or at least what was left of life" several times, it was thanks to friends, which "nevertheless made me smile in the worst of circumstances. And who had given him a command that was not under the command of the SS but the Wehrmacht, that saved him from being transferred to another camp. That doesn't sound like much, but it was enormously important!"
At the liberation of the camp he helped Charles Baum and Arthur Haulot in the International Committee to ensure the survival of the prisoners, since he could write on the typewriter, sat on the first floor of the Jourhaus and wrote passports for some prisoners to leave the camp, which was then under quarantine.
Shortly after the liberation, he fell ill again with typhus, fell into a coma and could not return to Belgium until June 18, 1945. In 1945/1946 he was recovered in a hospital in Switzerland, then returned home and was taken back to the insurance company where he worked before being deported.
Permanent defender of democracy with a boundless love for freedom, loyal friend, open-minded, tolerant, he has been involved in the International Dachau Committee since the beginning. When the Comité International de Dachau of the former Dachau prisoners was founded in November 1955, Paul Kerstenne had membership card No. 0063. In 2013 he was the last survivor of the 15th founding members of our Comité International de Dachau (non-profit organization, which was founded in Brussels on November 20, 1958). Treasurer of the Fondation Internationale de Dachau (FID) since its creation in 1995, he became its President on May 4, 2002 until its dissolution. Treasurer and administrator of the CID since 1990, he resigns in 2007 for health reasons. Since May 2007 honorary treasurer, it has been dear to him to come to Munich to attend our general assembly. He often went to school to convey the message of the survivors: "This memory should inspire today's and future generations." On the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, he took part in the colloquium "The Dachau Concentration Camp: Experience, Memory, History" organized by Anne Bernou and Fabien Théofilakis, "The Dachau Concentration Camp: Experience, Memory, History" and remembered: "Too often people forget that this camp and the others who followed it were not aimed at subjugating foreigners (the first after the invasions were brought there after 1939), but that of the citizens of Germany, who had the courage to rebel against the Nazi regime ". And when asked about the importance of the eyewitness accounts, he answered, among other things:" This is our hope : that young people become aware that their most precious asset is freedom and that this freedom is unattainable without democracy ".
A video by Paul Kerstenneyou'll find here