A country hamlet in the vast peat lands. It is very likely that no one would ever have heard of the village of Veenhuizen if the Maatschappij van Weldadigheid (Society of Humanitarianism), established by General Johannes van den Bosch, had not knocked up a penal colony there.
We write 1822. The Netherlands was left completely disrupted after the departure of the French army. Especially in the large cities poverty was grinding. The severe economic conditions made the three asylums of Veenhuizen the home to many paupers.
Some decades later, Van den Bosch transferred the Colonies of Humanitarianism to the State, and Veenhuizen became a Rijkswerkinrichting (State Labour Institution). In the course of the years, tens of thousands of inmates were ‘sent’ to Veenhuizen.
After the First World War, Veenhuizen more and more got the character of a penitentiary institution, and the first criminals were locked up in it.
Until late 1980, Veenhuizen was isolated from the rest of the country. Anyone who had no business being there was not allowed to enter the village. Only after 1989, Veenhuizen became open to the public.
Just a village? Not at all. In addition to three prisons, there are more than a hundred listed monuments. Veenhuizen was and is unique.