“..I was not too interested in ..origins of Belsen. All we knew was ..we were Surviving ..that was all we needed to know. We were moving ..away from Auschwitz ..away from ..gas chambers ..we were happy ..if I can use such a word.” Anita Lasker-Walfisch.
I have not explored deeply enough the Concentration Camp and with them, the Exchange Camp that is Belsen. From as early as 1933, with a view being gained to adminster the enemies of the Reich, and then in 1935, Belsen came into view. It wasn’t until 1940 that the Camp was establishged as a holding pen for Prisoner’s of War, for which it continues until War’s end in 1945. Along with this horrendous place, a space of decaying death and destruction for those Jews and others who were immersed into Belsen, these have been well documented. However, and while knowing that in my search for truth and accuracy, there is an acceptance that I was seeking to explore the finite differences within the entire Camp system.
“..I sang in cabarets where German officers went.When they were drunk I would photograph ..contents of their briefcases and pass ..film along.” Fania Fenelon.
For all Jews, no matter the reasoning for them to be sent to any such establishment, their demise, death and destruction was to be a certainty. So as to ensure, that in the History of The Holocaust there is the understood knowledge that there exists but 6 specific Death Camps. Though all such Camp facility’s detaining and containing the Jews settled within them, these were to be places of their Deaths. With these 6 Annihilation Centres however, they were significant in that they were places for the systematic and intentioned annihilation of all of the Jews of Europe.
“..Let me explain that even though I had been in Auschwitz I did not know about ..gas chambers. Can you imagine that. We thought ..when we were there ..that our parents and ..children were taken to camps which were much better. We assumed that they couldn’t live through ..camp we were in. It was not until a large contingent from Auschwitz came to Belsen that I had to give up that idea that they were safe. I met 2 women in their 30’s who spoke Hungarian and they asked if it was true that ..Hungarian transports were so severely selected people to ..camps and ..others to be gassed. I said ..What are you saying. ..And they looked at me as if I were foolish ..but they didn’t want to destroy my hope and so didn’t try to explain. I ran back to ..tent and collapsed. I think I cried for weeks. I finally realized that everybody was killed.” Maria Frank-Abrams.
That they are as distinct from all other Camps such as Labour and even Concentration Camps is a proven fact. The very truth of the Death Camps, and their sole purpose, which was to exploit the very existence of the Jewish People has been borne out by evidences, testimony’s and first hand witness experiences narrated throughout The Holocaust. Theise Death Camps, and their sheer capacity to destroy those Jews transported there for resettlement is a major component of what we recognise is The Holocaust account.
“..My constant concern was for ..world not to forget that tragic period when 6,000,000 Jewish Men ..Women ..Children perished.” Josef Rosensaft.
The fact too that all of these Death Camps were established within Poland, has to be recognised that this was for a very specific and obvious place reason. That there where 3,650,000 Polish Jews, who were in situ within their own National Polish border confirmed for Hitler that the major strike at European Jewry would be made here. I recalled when I had been speaking to the Survivor of Belsen, Paul Oppenheimer, ironically it was before an exhibition on Anne Frank, who I then promised I would do my utmost to visit all of these Death Camps.
“..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.
Paul reminded me that there was no space which Jews were detained in which death or destruction did not deliver itself to them. For barely a minute, or perhaps these were two minutes, I spoke with the recognised Survivor that is Paul Oppenheimer. I knew, or more readily I sensed that I needed to place myself where I could, or felt that I might or even would be touched by all that Paul knew. For me, to even attempt to understand even a sample of what it was that Paul had endured, as I am certain the Survivor’s could all confirm, agree with and recognise was critical in my own understanding.
“..Opposite us was a shed. You could call it a mortuary ..it was actually an old shed. They were bringing bodies there all day long. They started off in carts. They would push ..cart with a body on it ..throw it in ..shed and collect ..next one. ..as ..carts wore out ..they would pull a body along in a blanket along ..ground but in ..end ..they were pulling ..bodies just on ..ground. Even ..blankets wore out. Then it was just pulling a body by a limb. ..terrible thing was that ..People who were doing it were only half alive themselves.” Mala Tribich.
For me to search for some meaning and comprehension I would have to look deeper into the horror to assess my own ability in reliving their terror to come up with the necessary words to to afford the Survivor an apology so missing for too long. Also, I resolved instinctively, in borrowing from many of the words I came into contact with, I would have to be visiting each of the 6 Death Camps in Poland for answers. I would be finally in search of an emotion that belonged to those Jews who knew its term of terrifying meaning.
“..universe ..seemed both an oasis and a Ghetto. ..Later ..I was to learn that it was also a sort of sandwich ..a slice of music between 2 slices of wretchedness.” Fania Fenelon.
As Paul reminded me, every place and area where there were Jews meant Death for All the Jews in those spaces and that meant anywhere in Europe. Violette Fintz, who was born on the Island of Rhodes and was deported from her home there found that very truth of the wastage felt by Jews in Belsen. By immediate contact with any of the Nazis or any of their collaborators, going all the way to when Belsen was liberated in April 1945, the Jews of Europe were in immediate threat of being destroyed.
“..Children were ..involved in ..running ..camp. ..distribution of food for ..60 or 80 People in our section.” Paul Oppenheimer.
For Violette, who passed from us in December 2007, and who was saved for her own World entire to survive, with a Son, a Daughter in law, a Granddaughter and 2 Great Grandchildren, her truth is known to us. When, and as I shook Paul’s hand, there was a tangible realisation that I was somehow in touch with all the terror and the horror that had confronted him. I came away from that meeting with Paul, and I have always been struck by the Survivor who manages to hold deeply held beliefs in the goodness of human kind, and Paul reconfirmed that sense for me.
“..I thought ..war was ..end of racism. ..I found that racism and anti-Semitism still existed. Nothing had really changed.” Fania Fenelon.
All of these Jews, even as they emerged from the depths of the deepest depravity ever to confront our very own humanity, still held that hope remained for humanity. For Fania Fenelon, her tattoo number is 74862, and who was torn from Paris, France, she has carried her deepest impressions and hopes, all the way from Auschwitz to Belsen. From Fania we learn much more than words can ever deliver but we choose her words to deliver us back to the horror we have little capacity to ever understand.
“..British ..marched into ..Belsen. ..I was alive. When I think back on ..pain ..torture in Ghetto ..suffering in Majdanek ..fear in Auschwitz ..hunger in Dora and Belsen ..that day in April ..world started over again for me and My People.” Joseph Schupack.
There are many a memoir of the lives that were to be lost in the shadows of the gas chambers and crematoriums. We recognise in these evidences, which then became the experiences of those of us willing to learn from them, all add to the witnesses we will eventually become. My insistence though, and that Jews had been given no right to life, wherever Hitler found them, theose who Survived pass on that experience for us. While the Death Camp remains an orchestrated design, these Death Camps, as formerly envisioned, were the mechanised and industrialised Slaughter Houses all of History must come to terms with.
“..We shall not forget and will not forgive.” Josef Rosensaft.
On reading of what Josef Rosensaft connects us to, was an Auschwitz escapee before he was returned to be brutalised there. Josef was amongst the many Jews who were transported to Belsen, exiting the myriad of Camps still in operation and he remained there until liberation. Into that mix of Camps, systems of ghettoisation and prepatory halfway spaces for the forwarding of transports for a deadly resettlement, the Death Camp system was in decline. The ability to ensure no Jew remained alive so as to deliver their evidences to the liberating Allies, still occupied Hitler ahead of any other consideration.
“..stunned. A call up ..everyone knows what that means. Visions of concentration camps and lonely cells raced through my head. How could we let Father go to such a fate.” Anne Frank.
The Second World War was a subsidiary endeavour, devouring further millions, while the effort to annihilate all of European Jews, 11,293,300 of them, was forcibly conducted. With the construction of these 6 Death Camps in Poland, Belzec, Birkenau (of which Auschwitz was the parent Camp), Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka, we recognise their spaces in the fuller analysis of annihilation process. However, and it should not be mistaken, in every Camp, including Belsen, in every Ghetto and Town, Village and Shtetl that once used to house Jews, their life was subsumed by Hitler’s demand for their destruction.
“..a lot of People do feel guilty for Surviving but there must be a purpose in Surviving somebody has to Survive to ..speak for ..People who can no longer speak. ..This is now My Purpose.” Anita Lasker Wallfisch.
That destructive demand was on the insistence of a decree we recognise is The Final Solution of The Jewish Question. As this played out across the length and breadth of Continental Europe, 6,000,000 Jews were laid to waste. As die Endlosung der Judenfrage is fully translated as The Final Solution of The Jewish Question, what we then recognise is the systematic and ordained Slaughter of 6,000,000 Jews and here we have The Holocaust. But even when we cannot identify with that suggested tally of destruction, it cannot be acceptable as a complete assessment.
“..There were people ..skeletons. ..shuffling along aimlessly ..zombies ..looking into space. They would shuffle along and just collapse and die. You could be speaking to someone ..and they could just die in front of your eyes.” Mala Tribich.
The silencing effect of acceptance of an assessment which is limited to a conservative estimate is a conjecture too far. We are bound by such parameters as these figures and assessments to accept their limiting reach. Within the term of The Holocaust itself, which seeks to dismiss even Jews from that very intention derived from Hitler’s resolve, we do a grave disservice to History in limiting how too readily we accept limitations in the overall truth of the destruction. The capacity alone ensures we are way off the mark when it comes to how many Jews are actually lost to us.
“..I remembered finding myself in a house belonging to Germans ..idea being to help oneself to whatever took one’s fancy. .It made me realize ..a thief is a thief whatever ..circumstances. There could never be adequate compensation for ..losses we ..sustained.” Anita Lasker-Walfisch.
In each and every assessment we reach, we find the Survivor Jew raging at the loss but determined not to sink to the depths to which Hitler’s perpetrators decended to. Therefore, and while we look for the similarity’s that occur in the expression of the events to consume all Jews, that search ensures no space is closed off with regard to both the humanity lost and the inhumanity detailed. For the final assessment, a configuration that is still to be made and of which the 6,000,000 figure has become a long standing issue, no definitive account can ever be certain.
“..We ..cowed ..emaciated inmates ..did not believe we were free. It seemed ..a dream which would ..turn ..into cruel reality.” Josef Rosensaft.
Of course, of the final account that is to be representative of what was conducted against the Jewish People, and once freedom had been assured, we find exception in that 6,000,000 figure. It is all too easily exposed as way too conservative a figure, when we add to the evidences and testimonies we have been given. Then, when we look to those deadly circumstances that did not overcome all of the intended victims, the Survivor Jews of this Belsen Concentration Camp, are here to elaborate upon what we are searching for.
“..Anne Frank wrote at ..end of her Diary ..she still believed people were good at heart ..I wonder what she would have thought if she had Survived ..Auschwitz and ..Belsen. ..people have a unique capacity for cruelty ..brutality ..indiffernce to human suffering. ..I have seen ..unedifying evidence of that at close hand ..it has led me to a lifetime of wondering about ..human soul.” Eva Schloss.
The human soul has been exposed to such horror’s, it has been torn from the civilised approaches to a humanity that is shattered by the experience. All of which is an effort I seek to explore further what we come to acknowledge what are those differences to lost Jewish lives. What this amounts to, and if ever you need to add to what you might think you mmay know of places like Belsen, you then need to learn what these Jewish Survivors and Writers of their experiences all wish inform us of. I speak here highly of Hetty Verolme, Fania Fenelon, Hanna Levy-Hass, Anital Lasker-Walfisch and Paul Oppenheimer who have written of their evidences within Belsen.
“..A new life breathed in ..camp. Our liberators ..moved among our skeletal ..tenuous silhouettes like a surge of life. ..These men seemed nit to know ..one could live in slow motion ..that energy was something you saved.” Fania Fenelon.
As such, those whose very experience of the terror and horror of The Holocaust, deliver for us a grasp of their abject fear that we as yet cannot begin to comprehend. Of course, there are many works which create an impression of what Belsen was like, all adding to what Hetty Verolme declares on books written which should only add to the narrative of the search. No books, on such a monumentally and outrageous assault upon the integrity of human existence, cannot ever detract nor distract from it.
“..Wednesday March 1st. 1944 ..It’s really scary ..since we don’t know whether ..burglar will take it into his head to try and get in again. Or was he so startled when he heard someone else in ..building that he’ll stay away. Yours ..Anne ps ..We’d be delighted if you could hunt up a good detective for us. Obviously ..there’s one condition ..he must be relied upon not to inform on people in hiding.” Anne Frank.
There is too a Diary, by a Young Girl, Anne Frank, who was consumed within Belsen, but who did Not know what Belsen was yet to mean to her, nor to her Sister Margot. For both Anne and Margot, Frank, tragically consumed by exceptionally callous intolerances, they are laid to unrest amongst 50,000 or even 70,000 of their fellow Jews. Here, unlike in the Death Camps were Gas Chambers sought to conceal the final horror, Jews were still beaten, Jews were starved voraciously, and Jews were killed and Murdered at a whim.
“..For some most fortunate reason ..I did not have to work in Belsen.” Paul Oppenheimer.
The seriously debilitating detail amidst all of this grandiose levels of slaughter was set as an example of the inhumanity conceived to the amass the humanity together to be discarded. Between 1943 and 1945 more than 50,000, though it is conceivable, and we don’t know that 70,000 Jewish People Perished in this, the Jewish exchange Camp Belsen. On July 24th. 1943 after intervention by the Spanish government, 367 of the Jewish Citizens, given protected status by Spain, were redirected away from Birkenau, and settled into a subsistence level within Belsen too few could ignore.
“..they had food for us ..sardines ..chocolate. ..Quite a combination ..don’t ask me how ..I don’t like either one ..frankly ..but believe me ..it tasted wonderful at that time.” Judy Jacobs.
On August 2nd. 1943 Belsen was officially opened as an Exchange Camp for Jews and the Star Camp was created. Of the many of these supposedly saved Jews, on October 25th. 1943 1,700 of these so called privileged Belsen Jews were deported to Birkenau for resettlement there. Exposed then is the myth of the transfer of Jews anywhere other than to their deaths, though there are cases were Jews did eventually receive such status as would free them. For Belsen, it was rapidly losing its fraudulent mask as other than a further well of despair for those Jews dispatched there.
“..name Belsen conjures up pictures of heaps and heaps of ..corpses and human skeletons moving ..among ..corpses. My courage has begun to desert me as I try to tell you what it was ..like living in this place. I am fully aware that Belsen is in every way indescribable.” Anita Lasker-Walfisch.
Those Jews led to believe, and who then assumed that they were bound for freedom, were again fooled and were transported directly to their deaths at Birkenau. Throughout 1944 Jews from all too many camps, which were being gradually emptied, were transported, marched and then discarded and dropped into the growing catastrophe that is Belsen. Many, who had even Survived Birkenau could not begin to contemplate what would then confront them across the breadth of Belsen. A mass of Jewish persistence was crushed and sprawled across the vastness of human misery and wee confined in a heap of human destitution.
“..life in Belsen ..during 1944 ..pretty dull ..tedious ..monotonous.” Paul Oppenheimer.
On February 4th. 1944, the 367 Jews who had been transported to Belsen from Birkenau, back in July 1943, were finally returned to Spain after their near seven month stay in Belsen. During March 1944, some 400 Albanian Jews arrive in Belsen of which barely 100 of these will Survive. It is ominously to those who are looking in, that it is perfectly clear that Survival and those aspirations for a future life go hand in hand. With most Jews, who were faced with an extinction which many of them are neither prepared for or informed of, recoil at the idea, the thought and the sight of such a horror to confront them, did not recognise where civilisation nor humanity existed.
“..Wednesday April 5th. 1944 ..end of ..war still seemed so far away ..so unreal ..like a fairy tale. If ..war isn’t over by September ..I won’t go back to school ..since I don’t want to be 2 years behind. ..I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant ..to get on in life ..to become a journalist ..because that’s what I want. I know I can write. ..Unless you write yourself ..you can’t know how wonderful it is ..I always used to bemoan ..fact ..I couldn’t draw ..but now I’m overjoyed that at least I can write. ..if I don’t have ..talent to write books or newspaper articles ..I can always write for myself. ..I want to achieve more than that. ..I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people ..even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death. ..When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sor row disappears ..my spirits are revived. ..writing allows me to record everything ..all my thoughts ..ideals ..fantasies. ..Anne Frank.”
On April 5th. 1944 of the over 690 Dutch Jews to be transportd for resettlement, many of them, some 240, find their way on a deportion to Belsen, as others of their community are transported to Auschwitz and Theresienstadt. On May 19th. 1944 over 680 more Dutch Jews are deported to Belsen while many of them are directed straight to Auschwitz. I look to these lines as I realised along the way og my own journey and as I stood in each of the Annihilation Centres, nothing I could sense, nor feel could ever be comparable to any emotion, surely ingrained, that the Survivor knew.
“..Friday May 19th. 1944 ..I’ve distanced myself a little from ..situation ..but you mustn’t think my love has cooled. ..I’ve slammed ..door to my inner self.” Anne Frank.
What is it about the words I state which draws such consternation amongst those surely seeking only the truth, which is what matters in History. I have learned along the way too that it can simply be the mere mention that my concern is for the 6,000,000 Jews of The Holocaust. The stain of intolerable hatred will not allow for these Jews to rest in any form of peace befitting their evidential destruction at the hands of an ostensibly christian cohort. Throughout October and November 1944 the fuller scale of arrivals of Jewish Transports at Belsen began to escalate.
“..In May 1944 big transports of Hungarians came in at Birkenau and scarlet fever was rampant. I remember that all those who were even suspected ..who were not yet in hospital but still in their proper blocks ..were sent to ..gas chambers. ..myself still being in charge of ..hospital in Block 3 ..and on that day big transports from a Concentration Camp called Lodz arrived and there were quite a few cases of typhoid fever. Those were put into my hospital and in a sort of big room ..and every 2 or 3 days selections were made and those were sent away. 2 or 3 days I saw trucks loaded with human beings on ..way to ..gas chambers. In ..first few days of ..month of October 1944 that hospital where I was working was ..liquidated.” Dr. Ada Bimko.
The degradation of the Jewish People did not begin in the Death Camps, nor indeed with the entire Concentration Camp system, nor does it end there. The genesis of what occured began in the minds of Men and Women who sought out differences to manipulate their own minscule existence. For 6,000,000 Jews of Europe, their very existence was at the hands of those who could not see past their own hatreds. Dr. Bimko, giving her evidence before the Belsen Trial, it was a comparison being sought between the excesses at Birkenau and Belsen that bore and brought equivalences to the human capacity for grave inhumanity toward the Jewish People.
“..if one wants to argue this thing to its logical conclusion ..is it not quite obvious that ..actual internment itself was all done with a view in fact to further ..war effort. These were 2 reasons for interning these people. One was ..deliberate destruction of ..Jewish race. ..avowed object of that was to strengthen ..home front and to prevent what happened in ..last war. It was an avowed war effort.” Colonel T.M. Backhouse.
While Colonel Backhouse sought to inveigle every arm of the Reich in what was conducted both in War and within the resolve for The Final Solution, Dr. Bimko explored the depths to which humanity would sink. She was asked about the position within Birkenau that was now contrasted, though barely, to the already deadly conditions within Belsen. The major difference as I see it, even if degradation, starvation, insanitary conditions, methods of brutality, death and even if the eventual destruction were to be compared, was in fact the systematic attempt to drive more than 4,500,000 Jews from existence and through the doors of the Death Camps.
“..In ..beginning there was some talk about ..camp being some sort of exchange camp for prisoners ..but later on it did not give me that impression at all ..it was not a camp for sick people ..it was a death camp ..a torture camp.” Dr. fritz klein.
Though Dr. Klein in his capacity as an SS medic did see that both Birkenau and Belsen constituted a death sentence for the Jews within both, the distinction I make remains a valid onw. With the industrialised nature and mechanised approach to the Slaughter derived for all the 6 Death Camps in Poland, this fact transcends any comparison other than the Deaths it details. For the Jews, now detailed to rot within Belsen, what became even more devastating for those crushed into this swamp of human degradation, was the sheer horror that followed them.
“..at ..very bottom end of ..prison area was a small crematorium. ..conditions in ..camp were really indescribable ..no description nor photograph could really bring home ..horrors that were there outside ..huts and ..frightful scenes inside were much worse and ..were only seen by very few.” Brigadier Hugh Llewellyn Glyn Hughes.
As Hitler’s cohort began dismantling and then emptying all Camps that were coming close to being liberated by the Allied forces, a concealment exercise fully emerged. Allied troops in the East were fast approaching Auschwitz and Birkenau and the Western Allies were pinching off the lines of Hitler’s communication and logistical effort. Here, and while it would be criminally wrong to condemn the entire Allied effort on the basis of their own losses, the Jewish People were being consumed without let up. But, and while the Allied World was well aware of the fuller intention to terminate from all existence all Jews, this was essentially true by 1941, at the very latest.
“..August 28th. 1944 I’m in charge of taking care of ..Children. ..110 of them ..all different ages ..from 3 year old infants to 14 and 15 year old Boys and Girls.” Hanna Levy-Hass.
By1944, the full scale of Hitler’s final purpose, which has already resulted in 6,000,000 Jews having been systematically Slaughtered, was known to the intelligence services of the Allies, both East and West. Here though, and given the sheer logistics of supply and even communicating within the German front line, this was more and more secondary consideration to that final resolve of The Jewish Question. What remained permanently present in Hitler’s Worldview was that vista of a Jewish presence being terminally eradicated.
“..August 29th. 1944 Without books ..we are ill. ..beaten down. .. ..many lost hours ..so many vanished ..inaccessible riches. ..a miserable ..sterile existence ..atrophied minds” Hanna Levy-Hass.
My hope is in delivering the truth for these 6,000,000 Slaughtered Jews, and with the integrity inherent in its proposal, to serve well their everlasting memory. That very earnest and sought after truth, so denied these Jews in life, must avail them in The Holocaust, and not merely as a testament to their being. As a non-Jew, I defer to all Jews, for in their search for knowing, their demand comes from a more personal perspective. The Jewish need, and the Israeli States sought after expectation, given the spread of Jews throughout Europe, all too many were caught up in the catastrophe.
“..To give you some instances of what happened on arrival ..Auschwitz ..you will hear that in November 1944 in one transport of 1,400 people 1,000 never went into ..Camp ..only 400 were accepted and ..remainder were taken and gassed straight away. Another transport came ..and of 5,000 persons brought there 4,500 were gassed. You will hear that 45,000 Greek Jews were taken to that camp ..and when ..evacuating ..only 60 were left out of ..45,000.” Colonel T. M. Backhouse.
What is for a memory and eventual restitution, which is far greater than my effort could ever restore, and stretches far beyond what my search in the researching of The Holocaust can, it is within the qualification of the Survivor to deliver. All of that stated, this does not mean I agree wholeheartedly with those whose opinion might differ from mine. However, in a state of sheer collapse, as Allied forces decended upon the far reaches of Hitler’s Reich, and given that the Jews had no choice but to die, Survival was an extraordinary feat. Despite what History teachs us of Theresienstadt and Belsen, these spaces were somewhat privileged in name only as we learn of the fate of those Jews whose lives were rescinded there.
“..I do not know ..number of deaths which occurred in this period at all ..but ..conditions in Belsen got worse from ..middle of February till ..middle of April ..1945 ..when ..Allies came.” Josef Kramer.
In fact, no Jew was ever exempt from the full tenets of Hitler’s resolve to finally destroy them all, and wherever he found them. Until their own point of full Survival, 11,293,300 Jews of Europe were in permanent danger of total annihilation. For a man such as Kramer, whose capacity for degeneracy and hatred can be evidenced literally in his own words, he is unable to afford any form of redemption for humanity. For certain, there are so very few of these Nazi’s who could restore what the civilising terms of all humanity truly requires.
“..It is quite impossible to give any adequate description on paper of ..atrocious ..horrible ..utterly inhuman condition of affairs.” Lieutenant Colonel James Alexander Deans Johnston.
It is clear here that I speak highly of anyone who stands so much taller in the midst of the Catastrophe even when that personage is an SS, as Kurt Gerstein was. In that assessment I have written of his position in my Book on Hitler’s Belzec, even when I am strongly averse to any commendation of those who wore the black uniforn of hatred. But there is a precient point in which a soul can be redeemed by actions devised to dismantle, or attempt to, the supposed secrecy with which Hitler provoked his long standing hatred for the Jewish People.
“..I was one of ..handful of people who had seen every corner of ..establishment ..and certainly ..only one to have visited it as an enemy of this gang of murderers.” Kurt Gerstein.
Of course what some Allied liberator’s witnessed upon entry into Belsen, Gerstein was a witness to and subsequently advanced to the World what he knew of The Death Camp system, particularly at Belzec and Treblinka. But, and if Gerstein acted against his former offering of a loyalty to a code which betrayed the basic precepts of humanity, he showed where his humanity finally lay. Whereas, for a man like Rudolf Kasztner who polarises, not just an Historical division but a Jewish cadence in response to The Holocaust itself, there resides the position of injustices aimed at those who still acted for the Jews, or toward the tenets of civilisation.
“..There were cases of people who worked in ..crematorium called ‘Sonderkommando’ ..they had ..privilege when they came across a relation of saving them.” Dora Szafran.
What Dora recognised in Birkenau, having arrived from Majdanek was presented with such similar scenes within Belse. So in this I aim directly at those who would judge other’s who acted where we have no place to offer an opinion. That anyone offers up an accusation of those who stood before the abyss does not withstand the scrutiny of J’accuse by anyone having being absent from the point of the calamity they would now seek to judge. For me Reszo, as much as any Jew who acted within the confines of that certain lack of choice, it is as worthy of all historical defence for this Man for having saved so many Jews.
“..My place was ..so terribly dirty ..I tried to get another place to sleep and I managed to sleep in 220 ..and for that privilege to sleep in a cold corridor ..I had to clean and wash ..place there.” Ilona Stein.
Rudolf ‘Reszo’ Kasztner is an exemplary human being amongst the many Righteous who have been recognised more succintly as Gentiles before we look more closely at those who are Jews. I am certain too, that of the 1,685 Kasztner Jews, who we now list as Survivor’s, it is essential for me that None of these Jews are considered the wrong Jews. The story of Belsen holds with that exact same truth, and even as we establish a supposed route out of The Final Solution of The Jewish Question, but for certain Jews only, this was a Jewish ‘privileged’ position and was merely deemed as so and only on paper.
“..In half a barrack there were 600 to 700 people. People were lying on ..floor covered with lice and every other kind of vermin one could imagine. Our food depended very largely on ..efforts of ..senior of ..block. If she was energetic we might get a quarter basin of soup at midday ..if not we might get it at 3 o’clock. We received one bread for 10 people every 2nd. week ..and there was no bread for 4 weeks before ..arrival of ..British troops. During ..whole time I was at Belsen people were not taken for baths ..neither were their clothes changed. Towards morning there were several 100 corpses in ..blocks and around ..blocks and when ..block was closed ..when ..lagercommandant or Grese came along to inspect ..people ..from ..front of ..blocks ..corpses were cleared away ..but inside they were full of corpses.” Dora Szafran.
As Jews, and all Jews were Never exempted from the destructive capacity of the Reich, I am fearful that some might consider certain Jews less than concerned for. How then could I ever argue with the truth of the Survivor whose story is the narrative I wish to carefully weave into my own search. That 6,000,000 Jews were wholly betrayed, abandoned and Slaughtered, how could I not seek to defend all that these 6,000,000 innocent Jews could not withstand. For those who were saved, who stand before us, now too few, the Survivors who are now remaining for a lesson we need them to deliver and for that necessity so truthfully told by them, how can we not yet learn.
“..Gruppenfuhrer Pohl inspected Belsen Camp. ..I conducted Pohl right through ..camp and pointed out conditions as they were. ..first measure he suggested was to close ..camp and put no more people into it. I suggested 2 measures to Pohl
(a) no further transports to come in
(b) ..exchange of ..Jews in ..camp to take place immediately.
..result of this was that he dictated a letter from my office ..to Berlin ..saying that ..exchange of Jewish prisoners had to take place immediately. This exchange did eventually take place. ..I do not know against whom these prisoners were to be exchanged ..they left Belsen going to Theresienstadt. Between 6,000 and 7,000 ..were sent away to be exchanged. These 6,000 or 7,000 constituted ..entire number of Jewish prisoners ..to be exchanged.” Josef Kramer.
I then hear so often the acclaim given over only to those of The Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, as if all the 6,000,000 Slaughtered Jews could of or should have done similarly. Perhaps life, or better still the merest of existence for those Jews and others, had not contemplated their existence was terminal in those moments. For those Surviving Jews, now more tightly bound to Belsen, and who came to a more bestial position of degradation, these had even less choice than some might give them. With the arrival of Josef Kramer on December 2nd. 1944, to replace Adolf Haas as Kommandant, the demise of those Jews, affixed to the experience of Kramer at Birkenau, this had taught him all too well.
“..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.
The very depths to which Kramer’s depravity could descend however, did Not spur the Allies to act more concertedly, or in anyway in fact, toward preventing all future Jewish loss. Hitler was now further assured that The Final Solution was being raged and would be continuously resolved by his closest ideologues, the SS. On October 23rd. 1944, and for some 3,000 Jews who had Survived the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, these still alive were transported out of Birkenau. Some of these where amongst many who now found their way to the Camp at Belsen and the human mass of piled high bodies awaiting them.
“..first time I had any choice because ..guards came and said ..you can go to a labour camp or go back to Belsen ..and luckily I chose ..work camp. I thought that while we’re working ..chances are they will keep us alive.” Evelyn Lipmann.
At this same time some 1,750 Polish survivng Jews were being transported to Birkenau and away from Belsen. On October 28th. 1944 there is a last transport of Theresienstadt Jews to Auschwitz and as a major selection from amongst these and other Jews of Auschwitz and Birkenau, this sees 8,000 Jews deported toward Belsen. The disarray around what to do with the Surviing Jews, to keep them from ever falling into Russian and their American and British Allied hands was astounding, given the very need for the Wehrmacht for Trains, Transport, Time, Weapons and even the manpower to stave off the Allied threat a little longer.
Amongst these eventual Jwish Survivor’s to depart toward Belsen are:
1) Anne Frank was transported from Auschwitz at the end of October 1944 and was brought to Belsen Concentration Camp near Hanover in Germany. There was a typhus epidemic which broke out shortly thereafter, as the lack of any humanitarian concern for those interned there mounted exponentially. 1,000’s of lives were ravaged by disease, hunger and starvation including Anne’s Sister Margot, a few days before Anne hereself too succumbed to the same debillitating effects. 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. Both Anne and Margot’s bodies are interred some where in a mass grave within Belsen itself and there no marker to show exactly where!
2) Margot Frank was transported with Anne from Auschwitz toward the end of October 1944 and was brought to Belsen Concentration Camp near Hanover in Germany. There was a typhus epidemic which broke out shortly thereafter, as the lack of any humanitarian concern for those interned there grew. 1,000’s of lives were ravaged by disease, hunger and starvation including Anne, merely days after Margot too succumbed to the same debillitating effects. It is uncertain when Margot actually died though this is more likely to have been sometime toward the end of February or the beginning of March. Both Margot and Anne’s bodies are interred some where in a mass grave within Belsen though no marker exists to show eaxactly where!
3) Auguste van Pels was transported from Auschwitz to Belsen and from there to Buchenwald and then on to Theresienstadt on April 9th. 1945. Auguste did not survive though we are unaware when she Died was Killed or was Murdered.
“..In respect of Belsen ..there will not be an allegation that there was a gas chamber or that persons were herded by their 1,000’s to their death ..but there will be an allegation that by ..treatment that was given to those at Belsen ..every member of ..staff at Belsen who stands before you bore their share in that treatment which they knew was causing and would continue to cause death and injury.” Colonel T.M. Backhouse.
On until November 1st. 1944 Birkenau’s Orchestra Girls, those ordered to play for the Nazi’s and to provide musical accompaniment for the march for those inmates from the Camp, out and back into the Camp from work details. They were now transferred to Belsen. By January 23rd. 1945, there were 98,000 Jews who were expelled from the Death Camp at Birkenau. Many of these Jews, barely clinging to life itself ended up in Belsen and this is where so many of them ended their final days of torment.
“..April 1945 ..this gloomy barracks full of ghosts ..humiliation ..hatred ..motionless sick People reduced to total powerlessness ..these living ..already putrefied corpses ..a dark abyss where an entire humanity founders.” Hanna Levy-Hass.
On March 24th. 1945 a train arrived with 1,000 Jewish Women from the Flossenburg Concentration Camp with 820 of them who were already dead. Upon liberation 1945 there were still some 60,000 Jews, and others, clinging to life on the body strewn vastness of the Belsen Camp, all too many barely able to crawl away from death itself. That immense number would drastically dwindle, with 5,000 in the first few days of rescue succumbing to weakness and exhaustion. All too many, too debilitated to even hope for life persisted before death while their Survival chances capsized around them.
“..such desecration of human beings. ..lost souls. ..dying ..no way back for them. ..Their minds ..gone.” Lt. Eric Brown.
Belsen was finally liberated on April 12th. 1945, by the British Army and with more than 13,000 of those Dead who still lie as they fell. For those clinging to hope still, Medical attention could do little for all too many of these individuals who had been discarded from all or any concern. And here again I meet my nemesis, The Holocaust, which has proved such a formidable adversary and I am usually somewhat buoyed by the sense of acheiement I am delivered to it. For these, the Jewish People of The Holocaust, who more than require my continued effort, I deliver in writing what I cannot relinquish, and it is in the form of their hold over me.
“..Enough ..enough. ..I have to stop writing. No. No. I can’t stop. I remember another girl of 14. My own brother’s orphan daughter in Lvov whom I carried about in my arms as if she were my own child. Lussye.” Rachel Auerbach.
As we know, amongst those to lose their hold on life here in the final days of the suffering, are Anne and Margot Frank. It is now believed that Anne succumbed to the appalling conditions sometime prior to the end of March, perhaps a month later than suspected. The flimsy estimates which suggest that 50,000 Jews were Murdered here, and some 40,000 others, and even as 40,000 others are freed, some to die subsequently, will never add to the knowledge we now seek. Of course, and despite the efforts of the Allied medical teams, Jews were dying at the rate of 4,500 per week upon their liberation. The toll for all who died here in Belsen is an incalculable slur upon the civilised world to act with humanity, compassion and concern!
“..When British came and liberated us I was already a corpse ..full of lice ..but I remember ..first time in almost a year ..gentleness ..kindness. Somebody lifted me up and placed me in this little ambulance ..how was that possible. ..I was so dehumanised.” Susan Pollack.
Susan had arrived from Birkenau, and faced a nightmare and perhaps it is a consideration, that it was in the interests of the Allies to bear witness to what was done by Hitler and his regime. Also, maybe in destroying the very evidence of what Hitler managed and for them, for what they themselves are complicit in, such evidence would have been so accusing. I have spoken to many Survivor’s whose hunger was so ingrained, they did Not have to imagine that hunger. Far too often I have researched what hunger meant for those starving Jews and it came down to scavenging for the merest morsel that would sustain life.
“..advised ..to stretch ..coffee ration since it was ..only liquid available. It wasn’t that I wasn’t hungry ..I’m sure I was ..too scared to deal with ..strange bread .and horrible coffee.” Tomi Reichental.
Far too many Survivor’s have identified exactly how devastating hunger became with many eating things they didn’t particularly like, or even abhored. But we, who stand on this periphery, look for a comprehension that gives us a further insight into what drove the Jewish People to extraordinary lenghts to stay alive. I am amazed at the sheer devastation that was forced upon the Jewish People in whatever antechamber to the destructive processes that were designed for them. Many, forced to squabble over a piece of bread, or a ladle of putrid water classed as soup, ersatz coffee or some other concoction. But the hold on life was strong.
“..She limped down the corridor looking old and haggard. She was 42 years old ..a little over 5 feet high ..trembling as she was put on ..scale. she said ..I have my feelings.”Albert Pierrepoint.
On Monday, 17th September 1945 the Trial of 48 Belsen Camp personnel began with 3 of the defendants omitted and the remainder arraigned before what we recognise is The Belsen Trial. One of these indicted, and hanged for her crimes Against Humanity, was Juana Bormann. She is numbered 6 in all the displays showing the indicted at Belsen and for whom the hangman Albert Pierrepoint witnessed her tremble.
“..Many People talk about Auschwitz ..a horrible camp ..but Belsen ..no words can describe it.” Violette Fintz.
No doubt this trembling is not to be witnessed by countless Jews and others who stood before her and witnessed her outrage of power. Here though at her final execution, Bormann had more feelings it appears than she ever gave to those inmates she confronted with brutality and inhumanity. Josef Kramer, the former Kommandant of Belsen and fourty-four other Camp guards, administrators and perpetrators were tried by a British war crimes court at Luneburg.
“..People were dying in such numbers that there were dead bodies everywhere. There were piles of bodies ..piles of naked ..decaying ..twisted bodies. What a most terrible sight.” Mala Tribich.
Like Fania Fenelon, I found the continued will to write for the memory of those Jews, all 6,000,000 of them being lost to time. From the start date of September 17th. 1945 to November 17th. 1945, the trial against these nazi’s was progressed. While identifying specific Crimes Against Humanity, we can be assured that no Justice for all those lost to such inhumanity will ever be in evidence. There were 11 death sentences delivered and all the guilty perpetrators were Hanged. There were also acquittal’s and various terms of imprisonment.
“..entering Belsen once again ..did not rekindle ..horrors. ..instead ..mass graves were telling me. We are at peace now.” Hetty Verolme.
Accused No. 1 Josef Kramer Executed by hanging on December 13th. 1945.
Accused No. 2 Dr. Fritz Klein Executed by hanging on December 13th. 1945.
Accused No. 3 Peter Weingartner Executed by hanging on December 13th. 1945.
Accused No. 4 George Kraft Acquitted & Released
Accused No. 5 Franz Hoessler Executed by hanging on December 13th. 1945.
Accused No. 6 Juana Bormann Executed by hanging on December 13th. 1945.
Accused No. 7 Elisabeth Volkenrath Executed by hanging on December 13th. 1945.
Accused No. 8 Herta Ehlert 15 Years Imprisonment
Accused No. 9 Irma Grese Executed by hanging on December 13th. 1945.
Accused No. 10 Ilse Lothe Acquitted & Released
Accused No. 11 Hilde Lohbauer 10 Years Imprisonment
Accused No. 12 Josef Klippel Acquitted & Released
Accused No. 13 Jenner is not present and is struck from the charge.
Accused No. 14 Oscar Schmitz Acquitted & Released
Accused No. 15 Steinmetz is not present and is struck from the charge.
Accused No. 16 Karl Francioh Executed by hanging on December 13th. 1945.
Accused No. 17 Ladislaw Gura (Hospitalised) Acquitted & Released
Accused No. 18 Fritz Mathes Acquitted & Released
Accused No. 19 Otto Calesson Kulessa 15 Years Imprisonment
Accused No. 20 Medislaw Burgraf 5 Years Imprisonment
Accused No. 21 Karl Egersdoerf Acquitted & Released
Accused No. 22 Ansgar Pichen Executed by hanging on December 13th. 1945.
Accused No. 23 Walter Otto Acquitted & Released
Accused No. 24 Melcher is not present and is struck from the charge.
Accused No. 25 Franz Stofel Executed by hanging on December 13th. 1945.
Accused No. 26 Heinrich Schreirer 15 Years Imprisonment.
Accused No. 27 Wilhelm Doerr Executed by hanging on December 13th. 1945.
Accused No. 28 Eric Barsch Acquitted & Released
Accused No. 29 Erich Zoddel Life Imprisonment
Accused No. 30 Ignatz Schlomoivicz Acquitted & Released
Accused No. 31 Vladislav Ostrowoski 15 Years Imprisonment
Accused No. 32 Antoni Aurdzieg 10 Years Imprisonment
Accused No. 33 Ilse Foerster 10 Years Imprisonment
Accused No. 34 Ida Foerster Acquitted & Released
Accused No. 35 Clara Opitz Acquitted & Released
Accused No. 36 Charlotte Klein Acquitted & Released
Accused No. 37 Herta Bothe 10 Years Imprisonment
Accused No. 38 Freida Walter 3 Years Imprisonment
Accused No. 39 Irene Haschke 10 Years Imprisonment
Accused No. 40 Gertrud Fiest 5 Years Imprisonment
Accused No. 41 Gertrud Sauer 10 Years Imprisonment
Accused No. 42 Hilde Lisiewitz 1 Year Imprisonment
Accused No. 43 Johanne Roth 10 Years Imprisonment
Accused No. 44 Anna Hempel 10 Years Imprisonment
Accused No. 45 Hildegard Hahnel Acquitted & Released
Accused No. 46 Helena Koper 15 Years Imprisonment
Accused No. 47 Anton Polanski Acquitted & Released
Accused No. 48 Stanislawa Starostka 10 Years Imprisonment
Many of these prison sentences, not worth the sought after justice, were further commuted as time went by. Ignoring the echoing pleas of 6,000,000 lost Jewish souls in need of some form of Justice, once again the World failed the Jewish People. While I have borrowed here from those like Hetty Verolme, Paul Oppenheimer, Anita Lasker and Hannah Levy-Hass, and their purpose has been mine for more than 25 years now, I commend their evidences as essential. The purpose I seek, so that I too can speak for the 6,000,000 Jews, has awakened me to the gravest wrongs ever perpetrated against an innocent People in all of History, and this because they were Jews.
“..penetrating silence ..they are resting in Peace.” Mala Tribich.
It might be true as Mala suggests that around Belsen there is a peace that has descended , but these Jewish People, given no future voice to speak for themselves, look to us all to gain them some form of actual justice. For 6,000 Jews of Europe, consumed wholly and intentionally on an industrial scale, we cannot assess Justice by its sheer lack of attribution. That many more than the conservative estimate delivered, and just to 6 Death Camps, cannot ever be accepted as definitive in any finite study.
“..I’ve seen Nazism make a strong comeback ..So I had to write this book ..finally.” Fania Fenelon.
We simply cannot ever know the fuller extent to those reaches of this Catastrophe that we seek to comprehend. Having stood in each of the 6 Death Camps in Poland, I thought back to all those Survivors I have met, who could not know that they would emerge. Paul Oppenheimer is amongst those to emerge from the very system that was designed to annihilate them. The distinction I make, and though Belsen was Not a Death Camp, it was a place of Death for those Jews and others placed there.
“..From ..Jewish viewpoint ..it is a grievous disappointment in that there is a complete absence in ..indictment of ..slightest suggestion of ..colossal crime against ..Jews resulting in ..annihilation of 6,000,000 souls. ..word Jew is not mentioned once in ..preliminary formal proceedings.” Alexander L. Easterman.
That said, and it is a sad fact that I reminded myself at the entrance to each of these factories of destruction, that I would at least be walking back out of them, yes all of them. For me, this was a salutory reality that struck very deeply at me as I stood outside these Death Camps. After each visit, there was this immense relief as I walked out knowing full well that 1,000,000’s of Jews, and others had been consigned to the spaces I had just walked across. Truly, I could not walk upon such blood soaked lands without the deepest concerns that must be afforded such a vanquished People.
“..I wish to draw a distinction between Auschwitz and Belsen. At Auschwitz 1,000’s of people were killed ..at Belsen 1,000’s of people died. But there is no dispute that at Auschwitz there was a gas chamber in which 1,000’s of people met their end. It is ..clear that this was one of ..methods used by ..Germans for ..liquidation of those people that were of no use to ..German Reich. It is quite clear that this gassing was carried out on ..orders of ..very highest authority in Germany.” Major Thomas C. M. Winwood.
I realised too that this was not the privileged status for the Jews in Hitler’s Reich, as the very highest authority of that Reich, generally denied those dispatched to the Death Camps. However it was promoted or envisaged for these Jews within Belsen who somehow were led to believe that they might be spared, none of which would be a guarantee of their life. I have spent the past 25 years searching for meaning even comprehension and certainly some form of understanding. Gradually over time I have recognised there are opposing views based solely upon the same hatred that interred 6,000,000 Jews in The Holocaust.
“..Ida Foerster ..whom I know from Belsen ..in Kitchen No. 2 ..on one occasion when a prisoner came near ..kitchen to get some food or some remnants of it she ran out from ..kitchen with a sort of rubber tube and started hitting this prisoner so badly that she had to be carried away by ambulance.” Ilona Stein.
The truth is being worn down to suit a bias that does not reflect badly on the Hitler design which destroyed these Jewish People. I also recognise from some media platforms, that they are choosing to deny the existence of The Jews, who are The Holocaust, in the midst of the gravest catastrophe ever inflicted upon human civilisation. In the medium used, where some wish to inform us with, there is a reluctance to recognise the status of the Jewish People in the solution devised to destroy them. I have written and have had Published four Books, which might not account for much in the delivery to Memory of these 6,000,000 Slaughtered Jews, but they are at least my attempt to.
“..camp was really at an end because people were just dying in such numbers and ..food was coming to an end and it was nearing ..end of ..war ..not that I knew that. There was no roll call. I don’t think anybody was working there except for in ..kitchens.” Mala Tribich.
In each of these 4 Books, my accusation comes from the abandonment of the Jews and then the denial of the very fact of the Jewish presence. I also respond resolutely to the intention to somehow diminish Hitler’s carefully designed plan to annihilate All the Jews of Europe. In that, the truth that a World’s indifference to the emerging truth in The Holocaust is also a fact. It is for the very Science of History that we must ensure that we do not visit misleading, disingenuous and biased disregard for the truth onto the pages of any testimony.
“..Irene Haschke ..I remember this woman from Belsen ..also ..Kitchen No. 2. She took part in these beatings ..and whenever a prisoner got a few drops of soup then she knocked it over ..poured it out ..and hit that prisoner until hardly they could get up.” Ilona Stein.
As a resource, I have used much of the evidence on Belsen gained from the very People who Survived its devastating effects, these Jews of Belsen. Many of them have poured their torment, the devastation of such evidence as makes us wretch, with a hunger and debilitating emotional trauma to deliver words which I have sought out in the tomes I have described below. Here too I present a short Belsen Bibliography to assure you, this is not merely a detail of History, but a torment for more than 10’s of 1.000’s of Jews from the 6,000,000 Jewish People who were torn from all existence.
Lasker-Walfisch, Anita. – Inherit the Truth.
“..I have never ..had an overwhelming desire to talk about my experiences. ..reason for this are complex ..varied ..but I have ..not had any desire to forget…there seems to be a taboo on ..subject of The Holocaust.” Anita Lasker-Walfisch.
Levy-Hass, Hanna. – Diary of Bergen – Belsen.
“..My whole being seems paralysed and with each passing day I feel more apathetic about ..World outside ..less suited to life as it is now.” Hanna Levy-Hass.
Oppenheimer, Paul. – From Belsen to Buckingham Palace.
“..I do not remember everything that happened to me more than 50 years ago. I was 16 years old when World War II ended ..and I have had to assemble my story from a variety of sources.” Paul Oppenheimer.
Reichental, Tomi. – I Was A Boy in Belsen.
“..My childhood is divided into 3 very different phases ..carefree years before ..onslaught of ..anti-Jewish laws ..subsequent arrest and deportation of myself and My Family to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp ..and finally ..struggle to return home to a tattered normality after our liberation.” Tomi Reichental.
Verolme, Hetty – The Children’s House of Belsen.
“..My Family ..Mother ..Father ..Myself ..younger Brothers Max and Jacky ..lived in Amsterdam ..Jewish Quarter. It never used to be a Jewish Quarter ..as ..Dutch people did know ..word ..segregation ..and everybody could live wherever they wanted.” Hetty Verolme.