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Bergen Belsen Help

#1
Hi all,

Im new to the forum and come with pleading hands for help. I am extremely interested in both World War I and II, this is partially down to the history of my family in both World Wars with my Great, Great uncle being injured at the battle of the Somme (multiple bullet wounds to the arm) and my grandfather being a liberating soldier of Bergen Belsen.

I visited Bergen Belsen in 2007 and wrote my own account of Bergen-Belsen and my visit. I was wondering if any of you would kindly read through and correct me on any of the factual information to ensure it is accurate. There is nothing worse than finding information on the internet that is educating people with incorrect information.

Link: Bergen-Belsen

I thank you very much for your help and look forward to your replys, I also look forward to being on here more often to talk about militaria history!
 
#4
nice piece, but tanks don't go around in packs, here some info for you, you just might see your granddad

BELSEN CONCENTRATION CAMP - British Pathe
Thanks, Ive bookmarked the link and have already started watching a few videos...I feel many hours of is it my Grandfather/isnt it him coming on watching these. Many thanks for the link.

About the Tanks, there were four or five of them on the road in Bremen, I think they were on the way back from an exercise and they were close together travelling in traffic. This is at the barracks of the 7th armoured brigade that still resides at the placem where the British army were based after finding the camp.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#5
Hi all,

Im new to the forum and come with pleading hands for help. I am extremely interested in both World War I and II, this is partially down to the history of my family in both World Wars with my Great, Great uncle being injured at the battle of the Somme (multiple bullet wounds to the arm) and my grandfather being a liberating soldier of Bergen Belsen.

I visited Bergen Belsen in 2007 and wrote my own account of Bergen-Belsen and my visit. I was wondering if any of you would kindly read through and correct me on any of the factual information to ensure it is accurate. There is nothing worse than finding information on the internet that is educating people with incorrect information.

Link: Bergen-Belsen

I thank you very much for your help and look forward to your replys, I also look forward to being on here more often to talk about militaria history!
The Black Bull From Normandy to the Baltic with the 11th Armoured Division by Patrick Delaforce includes a chapter describing the liberation of Belsen by 11 Armoured Division (obviously). You could do worse than read or borrow this book. Strangely enough I didn't see Tropper mentioned.

;o)
 
#6
The Black Bull From Normandy to the Baltic with the 11th Armoured Division by Patrick Delaforce includes a chapter describing the liberation of Belsen by 11 Armoured Division (obviously). You could do worse than read or borrow this book. Strangely enough I didn't see Tropper mentioned.

;o)
Thanks! Ill definately be purchasing this book from Amazon shortly :) just finishing Antony Beevor 'Berlin - The Downfall 1945' so this will be a great follow on read and will help me uncover more info!!
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#7
This is at the barracks of the 7th armoured brigade that still resides at the placem where the British army were based after finding the camp.
Campbell Bks Hohne - which is about 10K up the road from the Belsen Kz site.

It was formerly home to an SS Unit..if memory serves, some of the Nazi barrack block 'art' was still visiible under the whitewash.....the buildings are colloquially known as 'Hitler blocks'.....built in the 1940s by slave labourers - who mixed so much sand into the concrete that early dilapidation was a given...an act of passive resistance......1,000 year Reich my Arrse.........almost as an afterthought in the Belsen camp is a notice telling visitors that 100,000 Soviet POWs were starved to death there.....sad spot.
 
#9
Mugshot - I was stationed in Bergen-Belsen (Hohne) for 3 years and have a family link to Belsen Camp (never Bergen-Belsen until later I believe). My wife's step-grandfather was also part of the liberating force and her grandmother was stationed in Celle at the end of the war. Grandad Jim never spoke of what he saw until I went to visit him in a care home/hospice when he was close to death. He knew I had been posted to Hohne and that really Hohne is Belsen. He told us of what he had saw and in a way it must have been an unburdening experience for him. We tried to make it a happier place for him to remember, by giving him an idea of the experiences we fouind while there - the woodland, the wildlife, the fun we had had. Not to detract from the tragedy, but to somehow show it is not all about ghosts of the past.

My experiences of Belsen Camp and its surrounds are that each time I went, there was never any birdsong and on a scale comparable to visiting WW1 CWGC Sites in France, the massive tragedy of so many dead people in one place, literally stacked into pits appalled and moved me.

Just down the road from Hohne Camp is the railway siding, used now to load armoured vehicles for onward movement to other German areas and for exercises in Poland. Here there is a little known branch of the Belsen Museum - a WW2 vintage freight railcar, with an outline inside in white paint on the floor. This outline is smaller than an A4 sheet of paper and represents the floor space given to prisoners in those cars as they were crammed into these cars by the dozen. From that siding, they were marched through the woods to the camp, hidden as it is from view by the forest.

My memories of Grandad Jim's recollections and what I learned/heard while there have merged, so I wont attribute all these as facts beyond reproach, but for what it's worth:

- In the Bergan-Belsen Camp (not Belsen Concentration camp), more "important" prisoners were kept. It was here that liberating troops found Russians literally starving to death, grazing on the grass outside the prison buildings (now military families' quarters). They were packed in and severely mistreated.

- There are supposed to be tunnels beneath the end of the military camp to the concentration camp - I learned of these recently, there are meant to be block up entrances beneath these buildings. It allowed for covered access to camp for German soldiers and also disposal of bodies to the concentration camp.

- At the time of liberation the local Mayor and councillors were forced to dispose of bodies by liberating troops. They tried to argue at first that they knew nothing of the horrors occuring in the forest 3km from their town, then changed tack to a tone of "we had to, or be branded collaborators". They were working in the body pits, burying the multitude of corpses.

It is still a moving place so long after the end of WW2 and the current German regime (or elements of it) and some german civilians seem at great pains to raise the profile of what happened - the visitors room at Belsen was almost embarrassing in places, by the way the attrocities caused by their ancestors (only 1 or 2 generations ago) had been hidden from general knowledge and "allowed" to happen.

That's all I've got time for - very interesting log of your visit.
 
#11
I too spent time at Hohne and would occupationally road test my ferret scout car up to Belsen. Such visits usually timed to coincide with the high school and university visits, for a good letch.

This activity in no way detracts from the horror that I felt on my first visit to Belsen though. And likewise, I noted the absence of bird song there, although there were plenty of birds in the surrounding forest and fields.
 
#13
Django and EODmatt, both very informative posts, thank you.

On the subject of birds and birdsong, I first heard of this when I was about 11.

I visited Belsen abouit 20 times during the late eighties and early nineties. On my first visit I thought about the birds and when I looked around noticed there were as many as you would expect in a large open site on the side of heathland and they were indeed singing, as they were every other time I visited.

Now that was me and I think that as I was thinking of birds I made a conscious decision to notice them.

I believe that the site has a profound impact due to its simplicity given what you are witnessing and because of the sheer magnitude of other thoughts and emotions people really believe that there are no birds there when asked after a visit.
 
#14
Maybe they devised a way to scare them off - my time was in the noughties - in a 3 year posting I must have been there 10 times. It was a place of almost morbid fascination for visitors to casa del django (if I'm making that sound weird, I mean it was a local "attraction") and I paid particular attention to other aspects of visiting, as doing the trip more than twice means you don't read the boards or look at the photos any more, but try to absorb more of the surroundings.

I found that compared to the surrounding woodland/forestry area, it was markedly more quiet and this wasn't just the effect of such a vivid memorial leading visitors to be hushed - it truly did seem to be hushed, as if things didn't want to be there. After all, the local forest wasn't exactly chokka with people and when you walked through that you were surrounded by birds and fluffy stuff - also worth noting the wildlife was not scared off by humans from Belsen - they weren't bothered when you walked through the forest tracks - birds, rabbits, squirrels, deer, hogs... Yes it was a fairly open area in an otherwise heavily forested environment, but there was a marked absence of wildlife even if compared to other open areas in the locale - the 9/12L polo pitches the other side of Hohne Camp for example - covered in crows etc - Belsen - eerily quiet.

I can honestly say, that having got the "no birds" impression on the first few visits, I made an effort to spot them - very few around (a handful on the remaining 8 or so visits). and certainly no errant boar snuffling through, turfing up the ground, or deer, or rabbits etc (and yes it was fenced, but so was camp and how the hell to deer and boar jump 10ft to get inside the wire? there are always ways in for the wildlife).
 
#16
This is a pic of old Wehrmacht Officers Mess,in Hohne,used by British as Naafi.I am told the Eagle in carving over door used to have Swastika held in it's claw ,but it was chiselled out.
 

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#17
When I first visited Belsen in early 1980s it was strangely lifeless. By the mid 1990s this has changed with small birds returning to the site. That's no duff, straight up.

That said I suspect the birds, like many Germans, completely misread the following sign:

 
#18
I visited Belson in 1973. Sombre place to be for very obvious reasons. The story about no birds being there was well known and I did purposely look around and didn't see any. I did though see deposits on some of the concrete stonework that had obviously been left by birds so make of that whatever you will.
 
#19
I visited Belsen perhaps a dozen times in the 70's. During one of those visits I was on exercise in the area and had to take a patient to the local MRS. Chatting to one of the medics he told me that the whole barracks had been the SS Hospital for the camp (for the SS guards). He told me that they had two German sisters who worked at the MRS, one always denied they knew anything the other said "You see thousands walking towards the forest, none come back, we knew".
I too was struck by the quietness of the place and I was also surprised at the Gedenknis haus (spelling) because it was so small and open to the elements. It had pictures of the top Nazis, all with burn holes were their eyes should be. The single thing that most struck me about the site though was that they had graves with 150,000 dead and 250,000 dead then a couple with 'an uncountable number'. How many must be interred there to be uncountable number?
 
#20
Maybe they were the piles people got to last and couldn't count another 10,000 bodies being bulldozed into a pit...

Brownhat - nice old pic. The roundhouse is still there, still part of the NAAFI complex and the Eagle remains, but no Swastika in claws. supposedly, under the laminated/parquee floor of the dancehall/ballroom in the roundhouse, the original wooden floor with swastika resides - covered up for some reason...

Tales would abound from those that lived on camp (as in within the wire) that their houses were haunted.

Another tale from the street I lived on (Hoppenstedter Strasse - out the back of camp) was that Irma Grice lived about 3 doors down from my house and she was the only paid up female member of the SS or Nazi party (I forget which). Supposedly, she was a ruthless bitch, who would stand in her doorway as troop formations paraded past. She was alleged to have shot a German soldier in the street for saluting incorrectly, but this seems unlikely...although coupled with the other rumour that her house had lampshades made of skulls and skin etc...proper house of horrors, or ghoulish tales to further monsterise and dehumanise a woman who was hung in pretty short order in the post-war trials.
 

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