In Memoriam Paul Kerstenne
PAUL KERSTENNE is born in December 1921 in the Belgian town of Ans. He grows up in Liege and moves to Brussels to begin training in the insurance industry. Following the occupation of Belgium by the Germans in 1941, together with five comrades he decides to take part in resistance activities. Arrested in Chalon-sur-Saône while attempting to join the armed forces in Britain, he is tortured and detained in various prisons in France and Belgium. On February 27, 1943 he is transported to The Dachau concentration camp. Initially he is assigned to different work details. Suspected of sabotage he is transferred to the plantation/ herb garden detail, where in winter 1945 he has to shovel snow to the point of exhaustion. He falls severely ill on several occasions, struck by typhus, throat ulcers, and pneumonia. In a condition of extreme frailty he succeeds in being assigned to the "rose-planting" detail. The support he receives from his three fellow prisoners in the detail prevents a further deterioration of his health, ultimately saving his life.
Following liberation he first works in organizational tasks, an essential priority for initially no one is allowed to leave the camp because of quarantine measures. He falls ill with typhus and can thus first return home on June 18, 1945. The negative effects on his health caused by his concentration camp imprisonment are severe, forcing him to spend the winter of 1946/47 in Switzerland for treatment. Following recovery he resumes working for a Belgian insurance company. Paul Kerstenne marries in 1948, and his wife Paulette gives birth to a daughter in 1954.
Paul Kerstenne becomes involved in the Belgian Dachau-Komité as early as 1950. The groundwork for the later Memorial Site is laid under the Comité International de Dachau. Paul Kerstenne was a member of the committee board since his retirement. He saw his commitment to the cause as the result of his experiences in the concentration camp, where he learnt to understand the importance of freedom, friendship, and democracy.