Author Topic: Bergen-Belsen: a history that makes me weep  (Read 2723 times)


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Bergen-Belsen: a history that makes me weep
« on: January 25, 2007, 04:57:29 PM »
After Daybreak:The Liberation of Belsen 1945

By mid-May, a hospital office had been established and efforts to register the patients had begun....

'On one occasion a nurse asked a patient to state her name, nationality and place of origin,' Annig Pfirter of the Swiss Red Cross recalled.

   The woman did not know what to say; at last she pulled up the sleeve of her nightgown and stammered:
' name - only number - no country, just a Jewess, do you understand? I am only a dog.'
The nurse tried all means of obtaining the required information but in vain. All of a sudden the patient looked at her, gave a deep sigh and said with fervour:
'How I wish I were like you-a human being."
When you're on your own
When you're at a fork in the road
You don't know which way to go
There's too many signs and arrows
You haven't laughed in a while
When you can't even fake a smile
When you feel ashamed...
The uniform don't make you brave


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Re: Excerpts that make me weep
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2009, 05:35:03 PM »
Sixty-four years ago today, British and Canadian troops liberated Bergen-Belsen.

All the camps were shocking to all of the liberating forces, but Belsen was one of the worst because it had become something like a dumping ground for women prisoners from the camps in the east. As the Soviet army approached the extermination camps in Poland in the late fall of 1944, the Germans perversely decided to transport huge numbers of prisoners back to German camps.

The famous fastidious bureaucracy of the camp system broke down at that point. The Germans just gave up trying to organize labour and murder at Belsen the way they had at Auschwitz-Birkenau -- that will happen when you're stuffing 60,000 people into a space that was built (cruelly) for 10,000. They also pretty much gave up feeding people or housing them very well.

Starving thousands living through the end of that winter in tents, their bodies covered in lice, began dying of a typhus epidemic in the new year, and those deaths continued for months after liberation. Allied troops forced the captured German crew on site to move bodies into mass graves, which were then bulldozed over (but marked in terms of estimated thousands), and then the whole camp was burnt down because of the epidemic. Survivors had been deloused and moved to a new camp nearby to recover, although thousands couldn't make it.

Among the women shipped back from Birkenau in November 1944 were Margot and Anne Frank and several of their friends who survived to be witnesses. Margot is believed to have died of typhus on 9 March 1945, and Anne a few days later. It's useless to imagine that any individual could have made it through a few weeks longer, given 70,000 deaths in those months, and yet knowing the reality of a few lives struggling through that hell and feeling the loss at so personal a level helps us to grasp a horror that would otherwise be just too overwhelming to be anything but statistics.

I have a blogpost about Margot and Anne gestating, but I can't finish it today. I think of them in the spring, though, those two lovely girls and all the lovely girls they knew, some of whom survived to witness, all the way through. There's much more to say, but for now, I stop here, simply to register the memorial.


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