born November 28, 1926
Marcel Durnez, 1942 (private collection)
Marcel Durnez grew up in West Flanders. His two older brothers were summoned to report to work for the Germans in 1943. Both, however, refused to appear. Since Marcel also faced compulsory recruitment, he and his brothers fled to France. In March 1944, they were betrayed in France and arrested by the Gestapo.
The Durnez brothers (from left: Gabriël, Michiel, Marcel, Daniël, Gilbert), 1938 (private collection)
Listing of the Durnez brothers in the Flossenbürg concentration camp register books, 1944 (National Archives, Washington D.C.)
The brothers arrived at Flossenbürg in May 1944 via Auschwitz and Buchenwald. During registration, the brothers of the seventeenyear-old Marcel told him to state that he was a carpenter. All three were initially deployed for armaments production in the Messerschmitt workshops. When work became scarce due to a lack of materials, Marcel’s brothers were transferred to the quarry. That was their death sentence. Daniël Durnez became sick and died in January 1945. Gilbert Durnez received a foot injury. He was then beaten by an SS man because he could no longer march properly. Several days later, Gilbert Durnez died from the beating. Marcel Durnez was liberated on the death march to Dachau.
After the war, the Belgian first worked as a weaver and later as a mason. He married and had a son. For many years, Marcel Durnez found it difficult to speak of his experiences. He was constantly tormented by the question of why he, but not his brothers, had survived.
Marcel Durnez after his return, 1945 (private collection)