On This Day in 1945 Bergen-Belsen was set alight
British troops including my father, as part of the British 11th Armoured Division, liberated the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. More than 70,000 prisoners were murdered at Bergen-Belsen, where inhumane conditions led to the spread of diseases such as dysentery and tuberculosis.
The camp was established in the north of Germany in 1940. In April 1943 part of the camp was handed over to the SS who established a ‘detention camp’, primarily for Jewish prisoners. As Allied forces liberated concentration camps closer to the frontline, the Germans transferred prisoners from these camps to Bergen-Belsen. In the period from July 1944 to April 1945 the camp population grew from approximately 7,300 to over 90,000. The inhumane conditions in the camp, including lack of adequate food and water, poor sanitation, overcrowding and lack of shelter led to the spread of diseases such as dysentery, typhoid fever and tuberculosis. In the first few months of 1945, tens of thousands of prisoners died.
When the British Army liberated Bergen-Belsen on 15 April 1945 they found around 53,000 prisoners, the majority of whom were emaciated and suffering from various diseases. Thousands of dead bodies lay unburied on the camp grounds. Following the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, the camp buildings were burnt to the ground to stop the spread of disease. British troops established a displaced persons’ camp in a nearby German military school to house over 12,000 Holocaust survivors.
We will remember them.