“..I could write ..hundred’s ..thousands of pages ..and I would never manage to exhaust all ..misery ..to bring out all ..bitter details of our existence. Especially if I were to begin to enumerate all ..cases of personal disaster ..tragedy of former lives ..great individual sufferings that came before this ..collective misery ..it would be endless. ..volume of man’s pain is immense ..impossible to measure this ocean of suffering ..abyss of ..human soul under terror and torture is unfathomable. To try to describe all this ..a useless endeavor. ..far exceeds my capabilities.” Hanna Levy-Hass.
I promised a Survivor of Belsen I would visit all x6 Death Camps within Poland, assured that these were the Death Camps intended solely for the Slaughter of all Jews. This does not mean in the slightest that the Concentration and Labour Camp system did not also mean death and destruction to those Jews who entered them. However, that was the difference I placed before all considerations of what was and remains these x6 Death Camps in Poland. It remains an unequivocal resolve by Hitler and his legions that wherever the Jew was found, the Jew would remain, deceased.
“..We travelled by train in 3rd. class passenger coaches ..arrived early in ..morning at another camp ..Belsen. ..We had never heard this name before and had no idea what it was like. ..as soon as we marched into ..camp ..we could see that it was even larger than Westerbork ..and much worse. ..barbed wire ..guard towers ..electrified fences ..SS ..with bloodhounds ..machine guns ..searchlights. ..a real concentration camp.” Paul Oppenheimer.
While the ultimate intention was always the destruction of all the Jewish People, these x6 industrial complexes were soley erected to ensure every ounce of Jewish existence would be obliterated within them. Once ready to make the journeys, and while it was much more than preparedness allows, I was not at all prepared for what over comes one human being in places were 1,000,000’s of other human beings will no longer leave. That was the overriding memory as I stood at the gates of each of these places, known to ignominy as Auschwitz, Belzec, Birkenau, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka.
“..German people could have tried to save those people ..but maybe they were afraid for themselves. I feel afraid when I hear people say The Holocaust never happened. I feel nothing but pity for ..ignorance of such people ..shame on them ..they should know better. ..1,500,000 ..Jewish Children were murdered by ..Nazis 1,000’s of other innocent children perished because they were considered not worthy of a life. Why would I hate these people? That would make me ..same as them and I will never be that.” Tomi Reichental.
While No Jew was ever meant to escape the clutches of the industrialised process of annihilation in each of any of the Camps, Death Camps and otherwise, some did, far too many did not. I would suggest the burden of being able to present myself before them all, knowing full well they would remain as I walked back out at the end of my visits, was deeply overwhelming. But this is not my journey through the Jewish hell on earth as just these x6 Death Camps represent. It is to add to what I know all added to the destructive process which added to at least 6,000,000 Slaughtered Jews, and Belsen was an able assistant in this atrocity we know is The Holocaust.
“..during ..German occupation of Holland ..Germans decided to concentrate ..Jewish population in Amsterdam East. I was 11 years old. ..We saw families dragged from their homes ..never to be heard of again. ..God only knew what was happening to them.” Hetty Verolme.
On October 25th. 1943, some 1,700 Jews who were being detained within Belsen, held as exchane hostages to a World’s indifference toward them, were deported to Auschwitz and oblivion within Birkenau. Then, on October 28th. 1944 as Hitler’s 1,000 year reich was nearing its end, 988 years short of that aspiration, a major selection from amongst the Jews of Birkenau sees 8,000 deported toward the Concentration Camp at Belsen. Amongst these are Anne Frank and her Sister Margot Frank who had both been transported to Auschwitz at the end of October 1944. Wednesday August 30th. 1944
“..children who know no joy. Fear ..nothing but fear ..these poor little mortified creatures ..standing ..hours ..bodies filled with terror ..gazefixed ..awaiting whatever might happen. They bury their heads in an old rag ..press up against ..adults ..seeking shelter from ..cold and ..fear. ..their eyes remain wide open ..alarmed ..like those of a hunted animal.” Hanna Levy-Hass.
They were now brought to Belsen Concentration Camp near Hannover in Germany and where already there was a typhus epidemic ready to take them. The outbreak, which broke out shortly thereafter, as the lack of any humanitarian concern for those interned there, would see many more 1,000’s of lives ravaged by disease, hunger and always the starvation. Death for so many, including Margot, just a few short days before Anne herself, and who both succumbed to their same debillitating effects, were merely weeks away from freedom.
“..My Sister Margot was born in Frankfurt am Main ..Germany ..1926. I was born ..June 12th. 1929. I lived in Frankfurt until I was 4. Because we are Jewish ..my father immigrated to Holland in 1933.” Anne Frank.
It is uncertain when Anne actually died though this is more likely to have been sometime toward the end of February or the beginning of March. However, the liberation of Belsen should have been effected on April 12th. 1945 whilst the stench of the destruction was filtered through to Allied High Command. The forces of General Miles Dempsey, CO British 2nd. Army had driven the German Army back to Germany. The ring of allied fire had signalled its arrival for quite a number of days around Luneberg Heath and for the SS contingent of Belsen, they were fully aware of what approached them.
“..This human mass is heterogeneous. It is piled together here ..by force ..by violence ..in this small patch of dirty ..humid ground ..forced to live in ..most humiliating conditions and to endure ..most brutal deprivations ..that all human passions ..weaknesses have unleashed themselves ..taking on beastly forms.” Hanna Levy-Hass.
Lead units of the 11th. Armoured Division, had sought in the intervening period, allowed for the SS to relinquish its tenuous hold and from April 12th. till the command post at Belsen was handed over, April 15th., this short period secured more Jews would die. Of course, the certainty that more Nazi evidence was consigned to the inferno and, the future prospect for any Jewish Survivor of Belsen was weakened, indefensibly. Both Anne and Margot’s bodies are interred some where in a mass grave, no marker to show exactly where! Belsen was liberated on April 15th. 1945 by the British Army.
“..Conentration Camp is not more and only ..silent mass graves tell ..terrible story of what took place there during ..barbaric regime of ..Nazis. I had great resrvations about entering Belsen once again ..but ..it did not rekindle ..horrors. ..it was as if those mass graves were telling me ..We are at peace now.” Hetty Verolme.
On April 15th. 1945 the British Army liberated Belsen as 13,000 Dead Jews lay as they fell and History records tht both Anne and Margot Frank are amongst them. It is now believed that Anne succumbed to the appalling conditions sometime prior to the end of March, though exactness is not as reliable as it should be. Some 50,000 Jews and others were murdered here. While 40,000 inmates are freed, the Jewish Survivor is still dying at the rate of 600 or 700 per day. The toll for all who died here, is incalculable! On April 17th. 1945, this is what Richard Dimbleby saw and recorded:
“..Here over an acre of ground lay dead and dying people. You could not see which was which except perhaps by a convulsive movement or ..last quiver of a sigh from a living skeleton too weak to move. ..living lay with their heads against ..corpses and around them moved ..awful ghostly procession of emaciated ..aimless people with nothing to do and no hope of life. Unable to move out of your way ..unable to look at ..terrible sights around them. There was no privacy ..nor did men or women ask it any longer. Women stood and squatted stark naked in ..dust trying to wash themselves and to catch ..lice on their bodies. Babies had been born here ..tiny wizened things that could not live. A mother driven mad screamed at a British sentry to give her milk for her child and thrust ..tiny mite into his arms and ran off crying terribly. He opened the bundle and found ..baby had been dead for days. This day at Belsen was ..most horrible of my life.” Richard Dimbleby.
Diary of a Young Girl Anne Frank.
Diary of Bergen-Belsen 1944-1945 Hanna Levy-Hass.
From Belsen to Buckingham Palace Paul Oppenheimer.
I Was a Boy in Belsen Tomi Reichental.
The Children’s House of Belsen Hetty Verolme.
“..Nothing is left of ..stench of rotting corpses. Now only ..memory remains ..and we who bear it.” Paul Oppenheimer.