The conditions at Bergen Belsen.

Bergen Belsen

I was in two minds on how to do this blog. Initially I was considering adding graphic pictures to accompany the text , but then I thought that the pictures may just be too horrific and it would turn people away from reading the text. Additionally there would be a chance that this blog would be deleted on social media outlet, and there would be a chance that I’d get banned again.

Therefore on this occasion I believe the text will be more then sufficient to give an understanding how the conditions were in Bergen Belsen.

It was originally established as a prisoner of war camp, in 1940. However in 1943, parts of it became a concentration camp. The camp was liberated on April 15,1945.

liberated sign

Below are 2 testimonies of witnesses, describing the horrors of the camp. The first account is a part of a description of conditions at the camp on 16 April, 1945, taken from file WO 235/19/76008 at the National Archives UK. The author’s name is not mentioned.

The second account is from  survivor Dora Almaleh, prepared for British War Crimes Tribunal, 13 June 1945 .

compound

Men’s Compounds.

No.1.

Typhus was on the wane and reached its peak in March. It is understood that it commenced early in February.

No. 2

This was the largest men’s compound and contained approx 8,000. Typhus had commenced here at a later date than in Compound 1 and had now reached its peak. There were 266 cases and new cases were still occurring, but the medical members considered the worst was over. It was in this Compound that the story of cannibalism was reported to me by one of the doctors. There had been none for the last 2 days but before that there had been many cases.

account

Transcript

IN THE MATTER OF WAR CRIMES

AND

ATTROCITIES AT BELSEN

DEPOSITION OF DORA ALMALEH (Female) late of 19B Othos Peve Ganna, Salonika, Greece, sworn before Major SAVILE GEOFFREY CHAMPION, Royal Artillery, Legal Staff, No. 1 War Crimes Investigation Team.

1. I am 21 years of age and because I am a Jewess I was arrested on 1st April 1942 and taken to Auschwitz Concentration Camp where I remained until I was transferred to Belsen in November 1944.

2. I recognize No. 2 on photograph 22 as an S.S. woman at Belsen. I knew here by the name of HILDE and I have now been told that her full name is HILDE LISIEWITZ. One day in April 1945 whilst at Belsen I was one of a working party detailed to carry vegetables from the store to the kitchen by means of a hand card. In charge of this working party was LISIEWITZ. Whilst I was on this job I allowed two male prisoners, whose names I do not know, to take two turnips off the cart. LISIEWITZ saw me do this and she pushed the men, who were very weak to the ground and then beat them on their heads with a thick stick which she always carried. She then stamped on their chests in the region of the heart with her jack-boots. The men lay still clutching the turnips. LISIEWITZ then got hold of me and shook me until I started to cry. She the said ‘Don’t cry or I’ll kill you too’.

(In the picture below)Hilde Lisiewitz is second from the left)

guards

She then went away and after 15 minutes I went up to the men and touched them to see if they were still alive. I formed the opinion that they were dead. I felt their hearts and could feel nothing. They were cold to the touch like dead men. I then went away leaving the bodies lying there and I do not know what happened to them.

3. I recognize No. 1 on photograph No. 5 as an S.S. man at Belsen who was in charge of the bread store. I have now been told that his name is KARL EGERSDORF. One day in April 1945 whilst at Belsen I was working in the vegetable store when I saw a Hungarian girl, whose name I do not know, come out of the bread store nearby carrying a loaf of bread. At this moment EGERSDORF appeared in the street and at a distance of about 6 meters from the girl shouted ‘What are you doing here?’. The girl replied ‘I am hungry’ and then started to run away. EGERSDORF immediately pulled out his pistol and shot the girl. She fell down and lay still bleeding from the back of the head where the bullet had penetrated. EGERSDORF then went away and a few minutes later I went and looked at the girl. I am sure she was dead and men who were passing by looked at her and were of the same opinion. The bullet had entered in the centre of the back of the head.

(In the picture below,Karl Egersdorf is first on the left. )

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I do not know what happened to her body.

SWORN BY THE SAID DEPONENT DORA ALMALEH AT BELSEN THIS 13TH DAY OF JUNE 1945, BEFORE ME

S.G. Champion [Signed]

Major R.A.

I HEREBY CERTIFY that, the said Deponent not understanding English, this Affidavit was translated in my presence to the said Deponent before swearing and I am satisfied that its contents were fully understood by the said Deponent.

Dated this 13th day of JUNE 1945. S.G.Champion[signed] Major R.A. I HEREBY CERTIFY that I have accurately translated this Affidavit to the said Deponent. Dated this 13th day of JUNE 1945. [signed] It appears to be a matter for medical evidence as to whether it is possible for a human body to have lost its warmth by death within 15 minutes, even where the man was in a weak state and had been savagely assaulted.

S.G.Champion

Major R.A.

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Sources

The National Archives UK Government.

 

Dr. Leonhard Levy.

LRVY

I often wonder how many really died during the Holocaust and where they did stop being considered a fatality of the Holocaust?

I think the real numbers are much higher because I don’t think the numbers include victims who died after the war as a direct result of the Holocaust.

Dr. Leonhard Levy was born July 14, 1898, in Hamburg .He married Gertraud Friedländer  in April 1943. I wish I could say more about him, but unfortunately there is not much more I found out. The only thing I know, but I don’t even know for certain is that at some stage he moved to the Netherlands.

What I do know for certain is that he had been imprisoned in Bergen Belsen concentration camp and was liberated from there. However due to the hardships he had endured while imprisoned, he had become very ill.He eventually still succumbed to the horrors of Bergen Belsen and died on November 23,1945,in Vaals , the Netherlands more then 6 Months after the liberation of the Netherlands.

Dutch Notification

He was laid to rest on November 26,1945 in a Cemetery in Maastricht.I know it’s not much but the only consolations is that he died a free man surrounded by people who loved him. His wife survived the war.

begraaf

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Dirk Bogarde-Not just an actor.

Dirk

I don’t know why but ever since I moved to Ireland I have found myself explaining my name quite a bit. I have been called Derek,Declan,Kirk and other variations.Nowadays I usually say “Dirk like Dirk Bogarde” it mostly takes another few minutes for people to get my last name right. Most people will have heard of the actor

He was a British actor although his Father was of Flemish ancestry.

Although I do mention his name while explaining my name to people. I have to be honest. I am no Dirk Bogarde. I wish I was for he was not only a great actor he was also a formidable human being.

I will not go into his acting career but will focus on some of his activities. During the war, Derek Bogarde served in the British Army, at the start with the Royal Corps of Signals before in 1943 being commissioned at the age of 22 into the Queen’s Royal Regiment  as a second lieutenant.

He served for a while at RAF Medmenham a unit specialized in photographic intelligence.  in the Army reconnaissance section as a visual inspector. Analyzing aerial photographs using special glasses to create 3D effects.

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The unit played a  pivotal role in gathering intelligence  on the V1 and V2 programs.

Bogarde was one of the first Allied officers in April 1945 to reach the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, this experience had the most profound effect on him and about which he found it difficult to speak for many years afterward. In an inteview he described what he saw. He got the dates wrong, the camp was liberated on the 15th of April.

“I think it was on the 13th of April – I’m not quite sure what the date was”  “when we opened up Belsen Camp, which was the first concentration camp any of us had seen, we didn’t even know what they were, we’d heard vague rumours that they were. I mean nothing could be worse than that. The gates were opened and then I realised that I was looking at Dante’s Inferno, I mean … I … I still haven’t seen anything as dreadful. And never will. And a girl came up who spoke English, because she recognised one of the badges, and she … her breasts were like, sort of, empty purses, she had no top on, and a pair of man’s pyjamas, you know, the prison pyjamas, and no hair. But I knew she was girl because of her breasts, which were empty. She was I suppose, oh I don’t know, twenty four, twenty five, and we talked, and she was, you know, so excited and thrilled, and all around us there were mountains of dead people, I mean mountains of them, and they were slushy, and they were slimy, so when you walked through them … or walked – you tried not to, but it was like …. well you just walked through them, and she … there was a very nice British MP, and he said ‘Don’t have any more, come away, come away sir, if you don’t mind, because they’ve all got typhoid and you’ll get it, you shouldn’t be here swanning-around’ and she saw in the back of the jeep, the unexpired portion of the daily ration, wrapped in a piece of the Daily Mirror, and she said could she have it, and he” [the MP] “said ‘Don’t give her food, because they eat it immediately and they die, within ten minutes’, but she didn’t want the food, she wanted the piece of Daily Mirror – she hadn’t seen newsprint for about eight years or five years, whatever it was she had been in the camp for. … she was Estonian. … that’s all she wanted. She gave me a big kiss, which was very moving. The corporal” [MP] “was out of his mind and I was just dragged off. I never saw her again, of course she died. I mean, I gather they all did. But, I can’t really describe it very well, I don’t really want to. I went through some of the huts and there were tiers and tiers of rotting people, but some of them who were alive underneath the rot, and were lifting their heads and trying …. …. trying to do the victory thing. That was the worst.

“After the war I always knew that nothing, nothing, could ever be as bad … … but nothing could frighten me any more, I mean, no man could frighten me any more, no Director … … nothing could be as bad as the war, or the things I saw in the war.”

Bergan

Dirk Bogarde truly remarkable man.

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Sources

BBC

 

Why? Why? Why?

children

Young human beings why did you have to die?

One of you still has the eyes open but the eyes are without a spark, the life has gone out of them.

I don’t know who these children are, all I know that they died from starvation and typhus and were about to be buried. The only consolation is that they were getting a decent burial arranged by those who liberated Bergen Belsen.

The look of the dead child has touched me more then any other image I have seen before. It touches my heart. Although I don’t know them I feel a pain which is real.

The over sized socks rip my soul apart.

They only died because of the hate of those who did not deem them worthy to live.

Two young human beings who had so much to live for became a statistic. 2 of 13,000 unburied corpses.

But I refuse to see them as a corpse, the body once encompassed a life and a soul. I refuse to see them or any of the victims as a statistic, they are all a part of our history. If we see them as a statistic or some mathematical equation we forget that they could have been a friend,a neighbour, a parent of a spouse, a parent of the lady in the coffee shop who serves you a latte and a muffin once a week, and does it with a smile on her face.

We should never forget that these were human beings.

If we forget our history, we forfeit our future.

WE CAN NEVER EVER FORGET

The last train journey of 2 sisters.

Bergen BelsnTwo sisters, the younger one lively,outgoing and bubbly, the older one a bit more reserved and shy.

Two sisters who were very different and yet in many ways the same,

On October 30, 1944, they both boarded a train. Not to go a big city to go for a shopping spree or to the cinema, like so many teenage girls would have done because it is one of the most normal things for young girls to do.

Nor did they go on a school trip or a holiday.

You see it was not that kind of train where you could sit down relax and enjoy the scenery,slowly passing by your window.

The train these girls were pushed in to was not fit for human beings, but they were not seen as human beings. They were seen as a disease, a plague of some sorts. Vermin and subhumans they were called.

The train left Auschwitz and headed for Bergen Belsen, a journey from one hell to another.

The two girls were Anne and Margot Frank.The dates of their deaths is not even exactly known, either February or March 1945. All that is certain they died in Bergen Belsen just a few weeks before it was liberated.

anne and margot

 

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Deception and death.

Franz

I was struggling with the title of this blog and even about the contents. I was going to do a picture blog with pictures of some of the atrocities committed by the Nazis, and even though I have done blogs containing horrific images I realized that although a picture tells a thousand words it doesn’t necessarily tell the full story.

Therefore I decided to use testimonies from a Nazi and a witness statement of a  survivor to illustrate the evil of one particular evil man ,Franz Hössler, an often forgotten perpetrator who used deception and death to fulfill his own sadistic needs.

Franz 2

Franz Hössler  was a Nazi German SS-Obersturmführer and Schutzhaftlagerführer at the Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dora-Mittelbau and Bergen-Belsen.

Johann Kremer, SS camp doctor in Auschwitz from 30 August to 17 November 1942, recorded a transport of 1,703 Dutch Jews to the main camp managed by Hössler. He had described the event in his diary and used it in his testimony during the Auschwitz  trial.

Kremer

“In connection with the gassings I described in my diary dated 12.10.1942, I declare that on that day about 1,600 Dutch were gassed. This is an approximate figure, which I stated as a result of what I had heard from others. The action was led by SS officer Hssler. I remember that he tried to drive the whole group into a single bunker. This he achieved up to a last man who could not be crammed further into the bunker. Hossler shot this man with a revolver. This is the reason why I wrote in the diary: “Gruesome scene before the last bunker! (Hössler!)”.

Filip Müller one of the very few Sonderkommando members who survived Auschwitz. gave the following testimony. It was a speech of deception Hössler had given to  a group of Greek Jews in the undressing room at the portals of the gas chambers.

filip

“On behalf of the camp administration I bid you welcome. This is not a holiday resort but a labor camp. Just as our soldiers risk their lives at the front to gain victory for the Third Reich, you will have to work here for the welfare of a new Europe. How you tackle this task is entirely up to you. The chance is there for every one of you. We shall look after your health, and we shall also offer you well-paid work. After the war we shall assess everyone according to his merits and treat him accordingly.
Now, would you please all get undressed. Hang your clothes on the hooks we have provided and please remember your number of the hook. When you’ve had your bath there will be a bowl of soup and coffee or tea for all. Oh yes, before I forget, after your bath, please have ready your certificates, diplomas, school reports and any other documents so that we can employ everybody according to his or her training and ability.

Would diabetics who are not allowed sugar report to staff on duty after their baths”

Hössler was not tried at the Auschwitz trial but was   tried in the Belsen Trial.

trial

On 17 November 1945 Hössler was sentenced to death by hanging. The sentence was carried out by British hangman Albert Pierrepoint on 13 December 1945 at Hameln prison.

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The last single Journey: Westerbork-Auschwitz

Sign

One of the cruel jokes the Nazis played on their victims was giving them hope. Like a railway sign indicating a return journey that was never to be. Only empty trains returned ready to pick up more victims like lambs led to the slaughter.

Trein

On September 3,1944 the last transport by train from Westerbork Transit Camp to Auschwitz took place.

Westerbork

Between July 15 ,1942 and September 13,1944 a total of 99 trains had left Westerbork for either Auschwitz,Sobibor,Theresienstadt and Bergen Belsen.

On the September 3rd transport 1019 victims were transported to Auschwitz. A journey which would take 3 days. Even before they reached Auschwitz they endured hell, because they were cramped in cattle cars, quite literally like cattle. There were no toilets, barely any food or water, nowhere to sleep. Some would die even before they reached their final destination.

What makes this transport special is because of one family, A Father,mother and 2 daugthers, only the father would eventually survive. This family was the Frank Family.

scheule

Anne and Margot Frank had one more journey to make on 28 October they were selected to be transported to Bergen-Belsen, where both girls died. Otto and Edith Frank remained in Auschwitz but Edith eventually died of starvation in January 1945.

Frank Family

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Red Sector A

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“All that we can do is just survive.All that we can do to help ourselves
Is stay alive…”

These are the opening lines of the song “Red Sector A” by Canadian Rock band ‘Rush’. I am not exactly a fan of the band, there are only a few of their songs I like and Red Sector A is not one of them.Then why do a blog on the song?

It is only  by chance, I was doing research on survivors of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Bergen-belsen

Gary Lee Weinrib aka Geddy Lee is the lead vocalist of the band Rush, His parents were Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland who had survived the ghetto in their hometown Starachowice, followed by their imprisonments at Dachau and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, during the Holocaust. They were about 13 years old when they were initially imprisoned at Auschwitz concentration camp, close to the same age as Anne Frank at that time.“It was kind of surreal pre-teen shit,” says Lee, describing how his father bribed guards to bring his mother shoes. After a period, his mother was transferred to Bergen-Belsen and his father to Dachau. When the war ended after the Allies liberated the camps, his father set out in search of his mother and found her at a displaced persons camp. They married there and eventually emigrated to Canada.

“Red Sector A”  provides a first-person account of a nameless protagonist living in an unspecified prison camp setting. “Red Sector A” first appeared on the band’s 1984 album “Grace Under Pressure”.

grace-under-pressure-cover1-600x600

Though “Red Sector A,” like much of the album from which it comes, is set in a bleak, apocalyptic future,  “the psychology” of the song comes directly from a story Geddy Lee’s mother told him about the day she was liberated.

“She didn’t believe [liberation] was possible. She didn’t believe that if there was a society outside the camp how they could allow this to exist, so she believed society was done in.”This is something I can fully understand because  it is question that haunts me,leave alone those who survived it.

Lee did co-write the song with other members of Rush,Neil Pearl and Alex Lifeson.

Rush-band

Someone remarked this week about Holocaust stories”will you ever give it a rest” I will give it a rest when it is no longer relevant, and that will be never. This song even indicates that it was not only the victims that were affected it is also their children,grand children and later generations. Aside from that this dark era in mankind’s history must never be forgotten because it can so easily happen again and it can become indeed a bleak, apocalyptic future as in the song Red Sector A.

Needless to say the song has now become one of my favourites.

Video edited selections of the Band of Brothers episode “Why We Fight” set to Rush’s “Red Sector A.”

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There is kindness to be found in the darkest of places.

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I have done hundreds of blogs on WWII and the Holocaust and it often is difficult to see and read about the horrors inflicted on innocent lives.And at times I feel like giving up because these stories do leave emotional scars, but then sometimes I stumble across stories which lift my soul and give me the drive to go on.

The story of  Francine Christophe is one of such stories.

Born on 18th of August 1933, Francine Christophe was deported with her mother to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1944.

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Christophe and her mother were brought to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp when she was a young girl, and her mother took with her two small pieces of chocolate, telling Christophe she would save them for a day when they really felt hopeless. She thought the chocolate would help to give them the strength to carry on.

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But the day came unexpectedly, when another prisoner named Helene went into labor. Christophe’s mother asked her, if she would mind sharing her piece of chocolate with Helene. “Giving birth here will be hard,” Christophe says her mother told her. “She may die. If I give her the chocolate, it may help her.”

She agreed and Helene, with the help of a little piece of chocolate, was able to give birth.The baby didn’t cry, it never cried.Six months later, they would be freed from the camp,at that point the baby cried for the first time.

 

But the true reward for Christophe came just a few years ago, when at the urging of her daughter, she gave a lecture on how survivors would have coped differently if they had had the help of counsellors in their recovery.

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A woman came to the podium saying she was a psychiatrist living in Marseille, France. She said she had something to give to Christophe on stage.

The woman came up and placed a piece of chocolate in Christophe’s hand and said, “I am the baby.”

The baby didn’t cry but I did researching this story, but they were happy tears.

The interview with Francine Christophe was part of a documentary called “Human”

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Dr Robert Collis’s report on Bergen-Belsen

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Robert  Collis (1900–1975) was an Irish doctor and writer.He was born at Killiney, County Dublin. He joined the British Army in 1918 as a cadet, but resigned a year later to study medicine. He was appointed Director of the Department of Paediatrics at the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, and in 1932 physician to the National Children’s Hospital, Harcourt Street. He developed neo-natal services at the Rotunda, particularly for premature babies.

He worked for the Red Cross in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp after its liberation by Allied troops.

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He was instrumental in bringing five orphaned children from the camp to Ireland in 1947, and adopted two of them. He met a Dutch nurse in Bergen Belsen, Han Hogerzeil, whom he later married, after divorcing his first wife.Below is an excerpt of his report of Bergen Belsen after the liberation.

 

 

“GENERAL LAYOUT”

“The camp is separated into two distinct portions-Camps 1 and 2. Camp 1 is a hutted encampment housing approximately 22,000 females and 18,000 males. Camp 2 consists of a series of brick buildings and houses approximately 27,000 males. The inhabitants of these camps are of mixed nationalities, with Russians and Poles predominating. Czechs, Belgians, French, and Italians are also present.

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CONDITIONS PREVAILING

The following is a brief account of the conditions seen on first entering these camps on April 17, 1945. It is impossible to -give an adequate description on paper.

(April 17, 1945 Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp in Germany – SS troops loading lorries with bodies for transport to burial grounds.)

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Camp 1. – A dense mass of emaciated apathetic scarecrows huddled together in wooden huts without beds or blankets in many cases, without any clothing whatsoever in some cases. The females in worse condition than the men, their clothing generally, if they have any, only filthy rags. The dead lie all over the camp and in piles outside the blocks of huts which house the worst of the sick and are miscalled hospitals.

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Approximately 3,000 naked and emaciated corpses in various stages of decomposition are lying about this camp. Sanitation is non-existent. Pits, with, in only a few instances, wooden perch rails are available in totally inadequate .numbers, but the majority of inmates, from starvation, apathy, and weakness defecate and urinate where they sit or lie, even inside the living huts. There is no running water or electricity. All water is being brought in by our water trucks.

Camp 2. – Conditions in this camp are vastly improved in comparison with Camp 1. The inmates are housed in buildings, 600 to a building of 150 capacity. Sickness in this camp is much less and the death rate is about 10 a day. The inmates appear better clad and generally less emaciated than in Camp I, though signs of starvation are everywhere. An attempt is being made to bury the dead.

DISEASES PREVALENT

Camp 1. – Riddled with typhus and tuberculosis. Gastrointestinal infections are very common and are probably enteric and simple gastroenteritis. No cholera or dysentery has been diagnosed. Erysipelas, scurvy, and starvation disorders are prevalent.

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Camp 2. – Enteric, tuberculosis, erysipelas. There is no typhus in this camp.

Actually the state of affairs was worse than described above: for instance, when the corpses were more accurately counted the figure was nearer 8,000 to 10,000 than 3,000. In many cases the dead lay in naked walls of bodies around the huts, many of which were filled, literally filled, with the dead and the dying. Next to nothing had been done for these people for months. For a week they had had almost no water. There they lay, either three persons to a bunk designed to hold one or on the floor, in foul rags drenched in excreta, covered with lice. Death came chiefly through starvation, typhus, tuberculosis, and dysentery: 500 a day were dying from disease, and the guards killing more. In Camp 1, covering an area of 0.8 mile long by 0.4 mile wide and containing a large portion for administration and another for the crematorium and “accessories,” were kept 40,000 human beings confined most of the time to the huts on pain of being shot.

Into this foul place came the British troops. The S.S. guards were got under control and forced to bury the dead and clean up the worst of the filth.

bergen_belsen_liberation_01

The Hungarian guards were also employed, and an S S for help sent out. In the meantime the following British medical units were sent to the camp by the D.D.M.S., Second Army, Brig. H. L. Glyn Hughes, together with a contingent of the armed Forces, including military Government detachments, and began the colossal medical task of transforming a death-trap into a hospital, though it could not be regarded as a commitment which came strictly under the Army Medical Services, but the dictates of humanity required quick action: 32 C.C.S. (Lieut.-Col. J. A. D. Johnston, R.A.M.C.); 11 Light Field Ambulance (Lieut.-Col. M. W. Gonin, R.A.M.C.); 163 Field Ambulance (Lieut.-Col. M. E. M. Herford, D.S.O., R.A.M.C.); 30 Field Hygiene Section (Major P. J. Fox, R.A.M.C.); 76 Field Hygiene Section (Major F. R. Waldron, R.A.M.C.). Some days later these were reinforced by No. 9 General Hospital-600 beds (Col. A. R. Oram), and these have been followed up by another C.C.S. and another general hospital of 1,200 beds.

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The work carried out by these medical units under the direction of the S.M.O. Camp, Lieut.- Col. Johnston, produced results which have to be seen to be believed. The setting up of hospital accommodation of 17,000 beds in ordinary barrack buildings is one of the monumental tasks undertaken and accomplished. Beds, bedding, drugs, dressings, and a hundred and one other items of hospital equipment had to be found from one source or another, whilst nursing and domestic aid on a large scale had to be recruited and organized from among those internees capable of rendering assistance, and also from German sources.

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Only the superb initiative and untiring energy displayed by Lieut.-Col. Johnston made this feat possible. The Field Hygiene Section were meanwhile tackling the problems in hygiene which abounded in this camp of horror. Supervision of the clearing-away of corpses and filth, with which the camp area was literally covered, and the disinfestation by D.D.T. powder of the 40,000 inmates of the camp were among the manifold duties which fell to their lot in the struggle to control infection and prevent its spread. The antityphus measures undertaken were directed and controlled by Capt. W. A. Davis, U.S.A. Medical Corps (Consultant in Typhus attached to 21st Army Group from the U.S.A. Typhus Commission). The work carried out by the Field Hygiene Sections and Capt. Davis has undoubtedly resulted in preventing a widespread epidemic of typhus.

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About a week after the camp was uncovered a contingent of the British Red Cross arrived and were immediately thrown into the fray, doing anything and everything that they were asked. The women, under the leadership of Sisters Silver-Jones and Beardwell, were sent into the hospital area to take care of the first 600 patients admitted, most of whom were in a dying condition, covered with suppurating sores and almost all suffering from dysentery and many from typhus. The men took on the job of driving the now patients from the horror camp to the human laundry and then to the hospital. About two weeks later 100 medical students arrived and, under the direction of Dr. Meiklejohn, of U.N.R.R.A., took over the major job of feeding the internees in the horror camp.

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The stench, the foulness, which these young men endured is quite impossible to describe. Gradually the huts were got into order and the patients thinned out, partly by removal and partly by death, and the camp Was divided into two areas-one known as the Horror Camp Hospital, in which treatment of a medical nature is now being undertaken. In those huts outside the Horror Camp Hospital one or two students with 0 to 5 internee nurses look after 200 to 400 people who have not been medically sorted out. In the huts of the hospital area of the Horror Camp (Camp 1) three medical students look after some 150 patients, assisted by internee nurses and Hungarian guards.

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In a small division of a hut containing 8 to 10 patients may be found two cases of typhus, one or two cases of advanced tuberculosis, and three with dysentery. The complications most often met with in the typhus patients are thrombosis, gangrene, and bronchopneumonia. Cerebral symptoms are rare and usually fatal. Among the pure famine cases are many with oedema, gingivitis, pigmentation (? pellagra), emaciation, and profound lassitude. These medical students have done and are doing a work of epic gallantry and are worthy of all honour.

The daily death rate in the camp, which was approximately 300, fell very shortly after the arrival of the students and is now approximately 60.

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There is no doubt that the provision of 40 tons of dried milk and of the necessary protein hydrolysate and glucose, and the supervision of the special feeding, have resulted in the saving of thousands of lives.

The accompanying map gives the general layout of the camp as it now exists.

Camp I (the Horror Camp) is now practically empty. A day or two should see the last of the inmates cleared from the ordinary huts to either No. 1 Camp Hospital or to the hospital proper. The Horror Camp will then be burned.

Camp 2.-Part of this camp is now under the control of an Army General Hospital, with already nearly 2,300 patients. It is rapidly expanding to 3,500. The larger portion of Camp 2 is still under the control of the original C.C.S. and consists of the main hospital area, containing 11,200 patients. It is divided into squares of five houses, the whole square accommodating approximately 700 patients. Each square is under the control of one medical officer from the R.A.M.C. Each house of 150 patients has one Swiss or internee or German doctor in charge. Each square has only one or two British trained nurses, the rest being either internee nurses or German nurses. It has been found necessary due to the lack of doctors and nurses from home to employ German doctors and nurses. No doubt the additional medical skill thus added have proved beneficial in a general sense, but the patients are naturally terrified of being looked after by Germans even under supervision, remembering how they were tortured in the past. It has been established that patients were often given intravenous infusions of benzol and creosote by the German medical staff, so that now, when the doctors approach with hydrolysate for intravenous infusion, the patients often cry out begging not to be taken to the crematorium. The main squares (see map) are for general treatment, while the three blocks at the back are kept for maternity patients and children.

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Probably nowhere else in the world at the present moment, certainly in no maternity, hospital, have obstetricians to deliver women who are actually suffering from typhus at the time of their confinement, but here this is quite-ordinary. The difficulties facing the staff have been truly appalling, but now very few women are getting puerperal sepsis, though many of the babies are still going down with neonatal sepsis.

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The Children’s Blocks are the happiest in the whole camp. Many of the children are emaciated, showing the utmost marasmus, and many are sick; but also many are now beginning to recover, and, strange though it may seem, these, particularly the children under 7, do not show the terror symptoms which are perhaps the most terrible aspect of the adult patients’ mental state. Already they are laughing and smiling again. Many are going to recover altogether. But our responsibility will not end then, for most have no homes to go to, no parents, no ordinary future. Surely somewhere in the world there are people who will come forward and care for these children and give them a home again.

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In the general squares of the hospital area the main treatment up to the present has been that of feeding those in the extreme famine condition. Dr. Janet Vaughan and her team are doing invaluable work with intravenous hydrolysate while making important scientific investigations; but it is not easy to give an intravenous infusion with one hand and a bed-pan with the other, and little can be expected from these specific treatments. Few of the important scientific problems can be tackled properly until sufficient nursing facilit.es can be obtained.

In the hospital area it is still necessary to nurse patients with open tuberculosis and typhus in the small overcrowded wards containing other patients. Without x-ray apparatus diagnosis is often only provisional.

Camp 3. – This area contains approximately 8,000 persons. They are supposedly well or at least convalescent and have been transferred from the other camps. They are able to walk and generally able to look after themselves but many are pitiably weak still, and now quite a number are getting sick and being transferred back to the hospital once more. Typhus has broken out now in Camp 3 quite seriously, and the problem of the management of this vast collection of persons from the social and medical points of view is one of the most difficult facing the directors of the camp.

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If the map is referred to again two other hospitals will be seen the Round House Hospital and the German Hospital. These have not yet been opened, though over 1,200 German patients have been removed from the latter, and it is now being got ready for admission of the patients from the camp. One wing is at present being used for the treatment of a number of orderlies and R.A.M.C. personnel who have themselves contracted typhus in the course of their duty. The opening of these new hospitals will greatly help the more advanced types of medical and surgical therapy.

Finally comes the immense problem of rehabilitation of these poor, abused, broken people. First the demands of their bodies must no doubt be met, but many are as wasted in mind as they are in body. Here expert workers are necessary, and vast quantities of books in all languages-Russian, Polish, Yugoslavian, German, and French, together with all kinds of sewing equipment, such as needles, thread, thimbles, etc., for the women; and much besides. The number of French internees cannot be more than 200, and all whom one speaks to-who are recovering are full of hope and thinking only of the day of their return to France; but many thousands of those from the East, particularly the Poles, have no homes to go to, have apparently no future, no hope. The problem of what to do with these forsaken, almost lost, souls is immense, but one which if not tackled and solved will make all our efforts here mere waste of time, for then it were kinder to have let them die than to have brought them back to mere existence and more suffering in a hostile world where they have no longer even a hope of being able to compete in the struggle of the survival of the fittest, and must inevitably go down.

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CONCLUSION

This is a brief preliminary report of Belsen Camp to give the medical profession in Britain some idea of the medical problems involved. It is a complete understatement. No words can describe the stench of decaying faeces, rotting bodies, and burning rags, which in the first weeks one could begin to smell miles from the camp, and it can but be left to the imagination of the medical men who read this article to appreciate what the doctors, nurses, and students at Belsen have endured and accomplished.

Since the camp was taken over from the Germans more than 20,000 internees have been buried; some 30,000 are left, of whom 11,200 are in the main hospital area. Now the Horror Camp is being rapidly emptied and the first emergency problem of hospitalisation at Belsen has been accomplished, though an enormous task lies ahead if these poor people are to be cured and rehabilitated. It will be possible to repatriate those who are fit to be moved to their own countries, where further hospitalizations and rehabilitation will be a matter for their respective peoples ; but there will still remain a very large number, possibly thousands, of Stateless and homeless people whose welfare, both medical and general, and ultimate assimilation into normal society must remain as an almost insoluble problem for years to come.

All honour is due to the R.A.M.C. and the doctors, nurses, and medical students of the British Red Cross and Order of St. John, under whose umbrella a large number of people of different nationalities have worked in perfect harmony.

Particular mention must be made of the Swiss doctors and nurses who arrived by air and immediately went straight into action in the traditional manner of their countrymen whenever the cause of humanity is to be served. Nor must the gallant efforts of the internee doctors and nurses be forgotten. Many were sick and weak themselves, but, forgetting their tired and wasted bodies, they have worked and fought beside our medical personnel to their utmost power. Finally, the part played by the orderlies and other British soldiers must also be remembered. Their courage and kindliness were amazing, and not a few of them now lie dangerously ill, having -contracted typhus while cleaning; up the filth and helping the lice-covered patients.”

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/04/15/bergen-belsen-concentration-camp/

 

Dr Collis was involved in establishing Cerebral Palsy Ireland. One of his first patients was Christy Brown, a cerebral palsy patient who later became a notable author himself.Collis proofread Brown’s first attempt at an autobiography.

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