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English synopsis Concertina


A fire broke out at a detention centre for rejected asylumseekers at Schiphol Airport Amsterdam in the night 26 op 27 October 2005. It was a shocking and traumatic incident which deeply touched Dutch society. Eleven detainees were killed and fifteen detainees and wardens injured in that fatal accident, a sad account of failing security procedures.

To head warden Gershon Weening, the arrival at his detention centre of ninety-eight of the victims of that tragic fire-incident offered a welcome change to the daily routine at his facility. He looked forward to an opportunity to help a vulnerable group of detainees. It would also give him a chance to show his qualities to his superiors. Driven by his zeal, Weening demonstrates to the department heads of the penitentiary facility at Camp Zeist that mistakes were made during the chaotic arrival of the victims of the fire. Names of some of the inmates appeared double or were missing, which resulted in uncertainty about the number and identity of the detainees on his ward. Not long afterwards, Gershon is relieved of his position as head warden because of an incident with a colleague.

Back on the ward as warden, Gershon comes into close contact with the victims of the fire at Schiphol Airport. With those that are left that is, because as he notices, the Justice department has ordered a rapid deportation-procedure for this group of detainees. Which was strange, because a debate in the Dutch Parliament whether or not to grand these victims of the fire a general pardon to stay in the Netherlands was still ongoing.  Together with his colleagues, Gershon works to improve the conditions and general atmosphere on the ward for those that remain. Sportive and social events are organized, clothes are gathered. The stories of the prisoners are heard and written down. Letters from lawyers or from court concerning the individual cases are read and explained to the detainees to prepare the men for their next appearance in court.

Erik Bakker perceives the behaviour of his staff on ward E as a threat to his authority as department head. A cat and mouse fight ensues between Bakker and Weening: each time the warden introduces a new initiative to improve conditions for the detainees, more restrictive procedures are put in place by the department head. Other wardens and the detainees are used to achieve gains against each other. Whilst it is the department head’s assignment to get as many of the victims of the Airport-fire deported before a political decision falls to grant them all asylum, Gershon puts all his effort in getting at least some released. When he achieves his pyrrhic victory, Gershon knows that he will never do anything but cleaning jobs if he stays. He decides to leave Camp Zeist for security work in the private sector.

Some weeks later Weening is contacted by a small group of former inmates from Camp Zeist. These victims of the fire have been released as a result of his efforts, but their freedom is a farce, so he finds out. They are compelled to stay at an asylum seekers facility in the far east of the county, waiting indefinitely for their permanent visa-papers. Gershon intervenes on their behalf once more by calling in the help of a high profile lawyer who brings the fate of these victims to the attention of the right members of parliament. Eventually 39 of the 268 victims of the fire at the Schiphol Airport detention centre receive financial compensation and a permanent status to remain in the Netherlands.

*Chapter 1 of this novel is published in Dutch on this website here.


Concertina is the razor sharp barbwire which comes in harmonica-like rolls and is placed on  fences and walls of prisons and detention centres to prevent breakouts.


Concertina is a semi-autobiographical novel, written by the Dutch theologian and novelist André Verkaik. The author formerly was warden and head warden at the prison facility, located in detention centre Camp Zeist (2002-2006), in the Netherlands. Verkaik followed short prose and novel writing courses at the Amsterdam writers college (‘Schrijversvakschool’) and has previously published the novel That Red Stuff (‘Dat Rode Spul’) and a collection of short prose, entitled Incidents, stories of  law enforcement (‘Incidenten, verhalen uit de handhaving’), so far only published in Dutch. Apart from his literary projects, André Verkaik is the founder and editor in-chief of text bureau AYBS ( and is still involved in part-time security assignments.


Works by A. Verkaik:

-Dat Rode Spul, 2013, Calbona, Rotterdam . ISBN 9789 491 254772. (English synopsis click here)

-Incidenten, verhalen uit de handhaving, 2016, Calbona Rotterdam. ISBN 9789 492 575111.

-Concertina, 2017, Calbona, Rotterdam. ISBN 9789 492 575814.

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CONCERTINA, de nieuwe roman van André Verkaik

(An English synopsis of the novel Concertina by André Verkaik can be found on this website at this location)

Concertina is een semi-autobiografische roman, geschreven door André Verkaik, voormalig

André Verkaik

detentietoezichthouder en wachtcommandant in detentiecentrum Zeist (2002-2006). Verkaik deed zijn schrijfopleiding aan de Schrijversvakschool te Amsterdam en bracht eerder de roman Dat Rode Spul (2013) en de bundel Incidenten, verhalen uit de handhaving (2016) uit. Concertina is het vlijmscherpe prikkeldraad dat in uittrekbare rollen wordt aangebracht op hekken en muren van gevangenissen en detentiecentra om uitbraak te voorkomen.


Het verhaal

De brand in het Uitzetcentrum Schiphol-Oost in de nacht van 26 op 27 oktober 2005, waarbij elf gedetineerden omkwamen en vijftien gedetineerden en bewakers gewond raakten, was een ingrijpende en traumatische gebeurtenis welke de Nederlandse samenleving diep trof, een ontluisterend relaas van falende veiligheidsprocedures.

Voor Gershon Weening betekent de komst van ongeveer honderd van de slachtoffers van de brand naar Detentiecentrum Zeist in die nacht een welkome afwisseling in zijn werk als wachtcommandant en een gelegenheid om zijn kwaliteiten te bewijzen. In zijn gedrevenheid toont Weening de afdelingshoofden van Justitie op Kamp Zeist dat er bij de chaotische binnenkomst van deze slachtoffers fouten zijn gemaakt, namen klopten niet, waardoor er onduidelijk bestond over de telling. Enige tijd later wordt hij uit zijn functie als wachtcommandant gezet vanwege een incident met een collega.

Weening staat weer als detentietoezichthouder op de gang en komt daardoor is nauw contact met de slachtoffers van de brand in het uitzetcentrum Schiphol-Oost. Met degenen die over zijn, want ze worden door Justitie in rap tempo uitgezet terwijl in de Tweede kamer wordt gedebatteerd over een generaal pardon voor deze groep. Met zijn team werkt Gershon aan de sfeer op de afdeling, er worden evenementen georganiseerd en kleding ingezameld. De verhalen van gedetineerden worden vastgelegd, brieven van advocaten en rechtbanken worden uitgelegd om de mannen voor te bereiden op advocaatbezoek en rechtbankzittingen.

Afdelingshoofd Erik Bakker ziet dit als een aanval op zijn gezag en stelt steeds strengere maatregelen in voor het bewakende personeel. Het wordt Gershon duidelijk dat niet het incident met de collega maar zijn bekendmaking van de fouten in de nacht na de brand de reden was voor zijn schorsing. Er ontstaat een spel van kat en muis, waarbij andere bewakers en de gedetineerden de ingezet worden om winst op elkaar te behalen. Terwijl het Bakker’s opdracht is om zo veel mogelijk van de honderd slachtoffers van de Schipholbrand uit te zetten, lukt het Weening om een paar van zijn gedetineerden vrij te krijgen. Na deze Pyrrusoverwinning weet Gershon dat hij nooit meer iets anders zal doen dan schoonmaak-werkzaamheden als hij blijft, en besluit Kamp Zeist te verlaten.

Concertina, A. Verkaik

Buiten wordt Weening benaderd door ex-gedetineerden. Hun vrijheid blijkt maar schijn te zijn, ze worden vastgehouden in een asielzoekerscentrum in Oost-Groningen en verkeren ook daar weer in een uitzichtloze situatie. Door dit onder de politieke aandacht te brengen krijgen deze slachtoffers een schadevergoeding en ontvangen uiteindelijk 39 van de slachtoffers van de Schipholbrand een permanente status.


*Hoofdstuk 1 van de roman Concertina, getiteld Nabrander, is integraal gepubliceerd op deze website en kan bereikt worden door deze link te volgen.

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Englisch synopsis: The Red Stuff: reconciling the Balkan paradox

Omslag Dat Rode Spul

A literary attempt to reconcile themes like the Yugoslav break-up and war versus freedom in Europe is the novel  ‘That Red Stuff’ (Dat Rode Spul) by Dutch author André Verkaik. This thriller appeared at Calbona publishing, Rotterdam in April 2013. It’s explosive political themes received much attention in the local press. A second edition, now also as ePub, will be published on the 15th of October by PAMAC publishing, Groningen.

As of the first of July 2013 Croatia has become the 28th member of the E.U.  The republic of Serbia is also ready to start accession-negotiations. This all happens while the wounds of the Balkan war of the nineties are still fresh. As became apparent when tens of thousands demonstrated in Zagreb on the 8th op April this year against the introduction of the Serbian-Cyrillic script on street name signs in Vukovar. In 1991 the Yugoslav army completely bombarded the city and expelled it’s population, executing many, among whom 250 patients that were left behind in the hospital.

In the thriller ‘That Red Stuff’ the author follows main character Erwin de Boer and his family on vacation in Croatia, 20 years after Vukovar. They are confronted with a warm shower of friendliness and hospitality from veterans of the independence struggle in Dalmatia as well as from Serbians that stayed behind in the one-time Serb-dominated Krajina.  De Boer has great difficulty reconciling the paradox of torture camps and holiday camps.

By his awkward handling of the local amiability, the protagonist ends up in prison. His Dutch camping neighbor Henk comes to his aid and helps to get Erwin released. Through him, Erwin is introduced to a sensitive political secret, a skeleton in the closet of the old Europe: What was the price that has been paid for the sixty-eight years of peace that Western Europe has enjoyed? After the first World war a  large population that was deemed to be prone to violence by nature was forcefully pacified by dispensing a sedative and mildly addictive drug in their daily nutrition.

If freedom is an illusion, but war the alternative, who would dare to become a whistle-blower? Reading ‘That Red Stuff’ makes one think differently about who you are and how you live as a European.

‘That Red Stuff’ lives up to what one can expect of a literary thriller: Characters come to life in multi-layered interactions of hate-love relations. The plot opens with a full-blown terrorist attack on the International Peace Palace in The Hague. The suspense is sustained until the explosive culmination of events in Zagreb, in which several parties, among whom a high representative of NATO, excel in their frantic attempts to stop the dissemination of information that, if published, would surely lead to a new war in Europe.

André Verkaik auteur Dat Rode Spul
André Verkaik

André Verkaik studied theology and political science. He is writer, publicist and editor for AYBS-webcontent (

For more information about That Red Stuff:



André Verkaik

Tel. 00-31-6-31299936  email:


PAMAC, Fraukemaheerd 95, 9736 RH GRoningen, The Netherlands.