Holocaust Survivors and Remembrance Project
preserving the past to protect the future ...

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"Forget You Not"™: Bergen-Belsen Death Camp
Bergen Belsen was the first death camp entered by the Western allies and first-hand accounts of mass graves,
piles of corpses and emaciated, diseased survivors spread quickly around the world.


 

Bergen-Belsen at liberation


About Bergen-Belsen Camp

Bergen-Belsen began as a prison camp for captured prisoners of war. It was not like Auschwitz where numerous gas chambers killed thousands everyday. But Bergen-Belsen was no less cruel or horrifying. Most died at Bergen-Belsen from being shot, hung, starved to death, or killed by disease. This camp did not fit the standard organization of a concentration camp. It had several camps that segregated the prisoners. Camp officials even traded important prisoners, including Jews, in exchange for money from different governments. Bergen-Belsen was unique in many ways, but it was still a camp where thousands suffered and died under the harsh hand of Nazi leadership.

Belsen survivor

<footnote.com/page/94047639_bergenbelsen_concentration_camp/>


Belsen post
Bergen-Belsen


Corpses of Bergen-Belsen

Dr. Fritz Klein, a former camp doctor who conducted medical experiments on prisoners, stands among corpses in a mass grave. Bergen-Belsen, Germany, after April 15, 1945. [USHMM]




Belsen survivors
Survivors queing up for rations provided by the British Army. (April 28, 1945)
United States National Archives

From a 1995 Interview of a Survivor:
Fela Warschau Describes the Liberation by British forces at Bergen-Belsen
<ushmm.org/wlc/media_oi.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10005224&MediaId=3281>
. We got weaker every day because there was nothing to eat. Finally, the last day when we had nothing, I could barely drag myself. I said to my sister, "I'm going into the barrack, and I'm going to lie down and just die in there. I do not want to die and people should just step over me like others do."
. They followed me. We all lie down there and just almost said goodbye to life. One of our friends --she was even younger than I was, the youngest --she was always searching, trying to find a way. So she said she has to take the last look outside and see what's going on.
. When she came back she said to me, "There's something funny going out there. People are running all over the place" and it's, it's unusual. It's not what usually happen. And I told her to just lay down and die in peace. She must be hallucinating. She insisted, so my sister walked out with her. When my sister came back, I don't know with what strength she came back, grabbed me by my arm, and she says, "Get up, get up. Guess what, everybody's running, and the gates are open.
. There's a man sitting, is it a tank or whatever" --we couldn't distinguish at that time one thing from the other-- "he is speaking through a loudspeaker. His words are being translated. I think we were liberated." When I got up and walked outside, my eyes couldn't comprehend. It just didn't register. It's unbelievable. I couldn't believe this was really true, so I said to my sister that she has to grab me by my arm and do something physical so I realize I am really alive and we were liberated. It was the English army that liberated us.
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Corpses at Bergen-Belsen

.The Hell Descendent on Earth at Bergen-Belsen -- (April 15, 1945 Photo)
<kz-zuege.de/kapitel_05.htm>


Bergen-Belsen Memorial Stone
.Bergen-Belsen: In Memoriam From Earth to Heaven
<sozialistische-gedenkstaetten.de/ns/Bergen-Belsen/Bergen-belsen.jpg>

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Bergen-Belsen concentration camp
Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Germany, date uncertain. [USHMM]

KZ Bergen-Belsen Map, September 1944

Bergen-Belsen Camp Map

Source: Bergen-Belsen Memorial, Explanatory Notes, page 53


Sign posted at Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp
by British Liberating Soldiers
that tells it all ...

Belsen sign posted at liberation

Belsen
.Horrific scenes, as the ones above and below,
greeted British troops as they entered Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on 15 April 1945.

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Gruesome picture of Bergen-Belsen Camp
The gruesome picture of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as discovered by British trops on April 20, 1945.
SS Women who once guarded these victims are now forced to bury them.
<http://jtajchert.w.interia.pl/zdjecia_po_wyzwoleniu_obozu_berg.htm>  + ENLARGE PICTURE

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Begen-Belsen camp at leberation
Former SS guards are made to load the bodies of dead prisoners onto a truck for burial. 17-18 April 1945

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Horror at Bergen-BelsenThe HELL descendent on Earth at Bergen-Belsen
<go2war2.nl/artikel/1341/4>

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Crematorium at Bergen-BelsenThe Crematorium at Bergen-Belsen
<go2war2.nl/artikel/1341/4>

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Children at liberation of Bergen-BelsenBarely alive at Bergen-Belsen liberation
Photo credit: British Photo Archives R41/33
<www.wcml.org.uk/webgallery/photos/pages/belsen_liberation.htm>

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Women survivors at Belsen
Women survivors in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp peel potatoes on April 28, 1945.
Photo credit: U.S. National Archives, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives
<fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust/gallery/10922.htm>.

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Women at Bergen0Belsen Caomp
Women survivors in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp

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Typhus women survivors at Belsen Camp
Women survivors suffering from Typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Photo credit: German National Archives
<http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust/GALL31R/83815.htm>

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Bergen-Belsen Camp
Survivors of Bergen-Belsen walk along the main street of the camp, past a pile of victims' shoes.
Photo credit: USHMM
<http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust/GALL31R/75113.htm>
 


Bergen-Belsen inmates at liberation
For the living skeletons who survived the Nazi terror, the Displaced Persons Camp set up two miles (three kilometers) away offered little relief from misery.
People still died at the rate of 1,000 to 1,500 a day ...
<article.wn.com/view/2007/05/18/Nazi_archive_reveals_a_panorama_of_misery/>


 

Belsen at liberation

Belsen as discovered by British Troops on April 20, 1945.
churchill-society-london.org.uk/1945JFMA.html
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Belsen survivor
A British soldier speaks with a Belsen survivor.
[Courtesy of BBC ]

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Survivors at BelsenA group of survivors in Bergen-Belsen displaced person's camp in December 1945. After liberation, the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen became the site of a displaced persons' camp, the British army medical corps helping in the physical rehabilitation of the former prisoners. --Yad Vashem Archives 3815/23

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Bergen-Belsen survivors
Bergen-Belsen survivors clinging to life ...
[United States National Archives]

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Anne and Margot Frank tombstone

 . In the winter of 1944-1945, the situation at Bergen-Belsen deteriorates. There is little or no food and the sanitary conditions are dreadful. Many of the prisoners become ill.
 . Margot and Anne Frank come down with typhus. They both die just a few weeks before the camp is liberated.
 .Janny Brilleslijper witnesses their deaths: "First Margot had fallen out of bed onto the stone floor. She couldn't get up anymore. Anne died a day later."

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Photo taken c. April 1956 by Stanley Abramson

"The fact is that all these were once clean-living and sane and certainly not the type to do harm to the Nazis. They are Jews and are dying now at the rate of three hundred a day. They must die and nothing can save them --their end is inescapable, they are too far gone now to be brought back to life. I saw their corpses lying near their hovels, for they crawl or totter out into the sunlight to die. I watched them make their last feeble journeys, and even as I watched they died."

        [Peter Coombs, British soldier, May 4, 1945 letter to his wife after liberation of Bergen-Belsen.] 

Editor's Note: On January 17, 2009, we received an email from Chris Coombs --the son of the late Peter Coombs, who noted:

"My father Cap't Peter Coombs of 21st Army Group, originally of the Royal Welsh Fusilers and attached to the R.A. was, I believe, one of the first British officers to help liberate Belsen. He died this year aged 96 less three days, on Jan 14th in the UK."

 

Boy walking on Belsen camp in 1945

1945 Photo by George Rodger: "It wasn't even a matter of what I was photographing, as what had happened to me in the process. When I discovered that I could look at the horror of Belsen --4000 dead and starving lying around-- and think only of a nice photographic composition, I knew something had happened to me and I had to stop. I felt I was like the people running the camp --it didn't mean a thing." George Rodger in "Dialogue with photography", Dewi Lewis Publishing.


Editor's Note: On January 31, 2009, we received an email from Guy Marlow whose grandfather, Charles Marlow, was part of the British liberating troops at Bergen-Belsen. In the received email, referring to his late grandfather (who originally was in the Kings 8th Royal Irish Hussars), Guy wrote:

    "I know that what he saw at Bergen-Belsen troubled him throughout his life as he never mentioned the war and what happened. He only opened up and spoke to me about the war one day, this was when he told me that he was at Bergen Belsen and that he had to use tractors to push bodies into pits.
   My sister recently told me of a story I did not know where while at Bergen-Belsen, post liberation, a Jewish lady who was delerious came to my grandfather asking for food and/or cigarettes (we presume the cigarettes were a bartering tool) while holding onto the dead body of her child and that it was clear that her child had been dead for quite a while but that the woman still cared for it as if it was alive."


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Brigadier-General H. L. Glyn Hughes
.Brigadier-General H. L. Glyn Hughes,
Commanded the British unit that liberated the Belsen Camp.


Special Selected Links:

Pile of shoes from Bergen-Belsen

April 1945: A pile of shoes from the prisoners who perished in Bergen-Belsen.

This photo was taken in April 1945, after liberation. Originally designed as a prisoner of war and transit camp, Bergen-Belsen was to house 10,000 prisoners. From March 1944, Bergen-Belsen became a "regular concentration camp" with new prisoners arriving who were too sick to work at other camps. Some 35,000 to 40,000 inmates died of starvation, overcrowding, hard labor and disease or were killed.

-- Yad Vashem Archive #1201 --
<www1.yadvashem.org/this_month/april/this_month_12.html>

Bergen-Belsen prisoners at liberatation

Bergen-Belsen, near Hanover in Germany, was the first concentration camp to be liberated by British troops, on 15 April 1945. When soldiers of the 2nd Army arrived they found the camp littered with dead and dying prisoners. Around 60,000 starving people, many suffering from typhus and dysentery, required immediate aid. Despite the best efforts of the medical services, hundreds died in the days after the liberation. In the weeks that followed, British troops buried 10,000 bodies in mass graves. An estimated 70,000 Jews, Slavs, Roma, political prisoners, gays, Jehovah's witnesses and criminals were killed at Belsen.

 

Bergen-Belsen Memorial

 

Franz Hoessler at Belsen
 .SS officer Franz Hoessler at Belsen.
Before Belsen, Hoessler was commandant of the women's camp at Birkenau. 
Source: "The Belsen Trial," edited by R. Phillips; William Hodge and Company, 1949, p. 225.

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Belsen Memorial Plaque


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"Forget You Not"Project


NOTE: If you have been distressed by this rather mild account of the Holocaust at Bergen-Belsen, we are not in the least sorry ....