There are hundreds of Holocaust survivors who are giving talks to American students about the horrors of the concentration camps and the “death camps” which they survived. From an article in the Washington Post, I learned about Emanuel “Manny” Mandel, a survivor of the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp, who spoke to students in Maryland.
This quote is from the Washington Post:
Mandel was the youngest survivor to address the students Tuesday.
He was raised in Budapest and was 8 when he was sent to Bergen-Belsen with his mother in 1944.
Nothing more was said in the article in the Washington Post, but I immediately recognized that Manny might have been one of the prisoners at Bergen Belsen, who were exchanged for prisoners being held by the Allies. So I did a search and found another article here which explains how Manny survived six months in the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp before it was turned into a concentration camp in December 1944.
This quote is from the article which you can read in full here:
Manny Mandel was only 7 years old when the Germans occupied Budapest in March 1944.
Mandel and his family were among a group of Jews that were going to be traded in exchange for materials and goods from the Allied powers, a deal which was being negotiated by Nazi commander Adolf Eichmann. About 1,600 to 1,700 Hungarian Jews left Hungary and were promised they would be transported safely to Switzerland, he said. When the negotiations fell through, they were taken on a train to the Bergen-Belsen camp.
While his father was off performing hard labor for the government, Manny and his mother were taken to Bergen-Belsen in July 1944. He said they stayed in barracks 11 and 12. Each barrack held about 100 people with triple bunk beds.
Manny and his mother were taken out of the camp in December 1944. They were taken by Nazi transport to Switzerland, first to a Red Cross hotel in Caux, the French part of Switzerland, near Montreux, and later to a children’s home in Heiden.
Nineteen other children went with them. Manny said his mother was allowed to go because she was a former schoolteacher and was fluent in German, French and Hungarian, and would be able to translate lessons.
After the war ended, Manny and Ella traveled by ship to Palestine. They learned his father had survived and was in Hungary. Manny’s father had boarded a ship in La Spezia, Italy, along with 100 other people who were trying to get into Israel illegally, but the ship was stopped by British destroyers.
“As part of an agreement, the British would not allow any more Jews into Israel and had closed the borders,” Mandel said. Mandel said his father and the 100 other people went on a hunger strike for several days until the British finally decided to let them go.
Did Manny tell the Maryland students the truth about Bergen-Belsen being an exchange camp and the truth about the British trying to keep Jews out of Palestine while Hitler was sneaking Jews into Palestine via “The Transfer Agreement”?
I did learn something new from the article:
“There was not a stick left from 65 years ago,” Mandel said. “The Germans burned down almost everything before the British came and destroyed most of the records.”
When British forces liberated the camp on April 15, 1945, they discovered about 60,000 prisoners and thousands of unburied corpses on the camp grounds. After evacuating Bergen-Belsen, British forces burned down what was left of the camp to prevent the spread of typhus.
Why would the Germans have destroyed “most of the records” from an EXCHANGE camp? Did they want to prevent future historians from knowing that Hitler had a plan to exchange 30,000 Jews for 30,000 prisoners in Allied camps? You can read about the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp on my website here. I previously blogged about the records in the Bergen-Belsen camp here.
As for Manny Mandel’s statement that the Germans burned down “almost everything” at Bergen-Belsen, where did the prisoners live until the British arrived?
After the British burned down the barracks at Bergen-Belsen, the prisoners were moved to the SS barracks that were adjacent to the camp.
This quote is from the article in the Washington Post:
They came as part of a program aimed at connecting curriculum with real life. The students are reading Anne Frank’s diary.
If this program in a Maryland school was aimed at connecting the curriculum with real life, I wonder if Manny Mandel pointed out that, unlike Anne Frank, who was sent from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen, he was in “the Hungarian camp” where prisoners were treated very well as they waited to be exchanged?
I previously blogged here about how Anne Frank would have fared if her family had not gone into hiding.
This quote is from this page of my website about the 8 separate camps at Bergen-Belsen:
4. Hungarian Camp (Ungarnlager)
This camp was established on July 8, 1944 for 1683 Jews from Hungary. According to the Memorial Site, they were treated even better than the inmates in the Star camp. They were allowed to wear civilian clothes, with a Star of David sewn on. They did not have to work, nor were they forced to attend the endless roll calls. They were given better food and the sick were properly cared for. They were known as Vorzugsjuden or Preferential Jews. Like the Star Camp, this camp had a Jewish self-administration.
5. Star Camp (Sternlager)
Approximately 4,000 Jewish prisoners, mostly from the Netherlands, lived in the Star camp, where conditions were somewhat better than in other parts of Bergen-Belsen. In the Star camp, the prisoners wore a yellow Star of David on their own clothes instead of the usual blue and gray striped prison uniform, but they did have to work, even the old people, according to the Memorial Site.
In spite of the fact that Manny Mandel was in the very best section of the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp, he had to tell something about the horror of the camp. This quote is from this article:
Manny said he had symptoms of what was pneumonia. Since antibiotics were not available, he and his mother wrapped burlap sacks covered with muster plaster around his body to treat the infection in his lungs.
Mandel said the prisoners knew full well that the Nazi officers would remove the sick people from the camp and take them to the dispensary, where they were never seen again.
Were the sick prisoners “never seen again” because they were put into a hospital in the camp or because they were killed, as Manny implied?
How did his mother manage to have “muster plaster” in a Nazi camp? Oh, that’s right, Manny was in the best section of the camp, as he waited to be exchanged. The truth is, that the “muster plaster” was probably supplied by the German doctors in the camp, who did not want to put little Manny in the hospital where he might have caught other diseases.
I had never heard of “muster plaster” so I had to look it up on Wikipedia, where I found this quote about MUSTARD PLASTER.
A mustard plaster is a poultice of mustard seed powder spread inside a protective dressing and applied to the chest or abdomen to stimulate healing. In times past and present, the mixture was spread onto a cloth and applied to the chest or back. The mustard paste itself should never make contact with the skin. Applied externally, black mustard is used in the treatment of bronchial pneumonia and pleurisy.
Fortunately Manny’s mother just happened to have some black mustard seed among her possessions in the Bergen-Belsen Hungarian camp, so Manny didn’t have to go to the camp hospital and he was saved from certain death.
I continued to search for other stories of Bergen-Belsen survivors who are speaking to American students and I came across an article here about Marion Blumenthal Lazan who has been speaking to students for 27 years.
Marion’s father was sent to a camp “for 10 days after Kristallnacht, and when he was released [the family] went to Holland.” According to the article, “They were in Holland, waiting in the Westerbork detention camp to leave for the United States in December 1939 when Germany invaded.” (Germany invaded Holland in 1939?)
It is my understanding that the “Westerbork detention camp” was originally set up for Jews who were in Holland illegally; it was later turned into a transit camp for Jews who were sent to concentration camps. I previously blogged about Westerbork here.
In January 1944, the Blumenthal family was sent to Bergen-Belsen. The photo below shows Marion holding up a Gold Star which she and her family had to wear in Bergen-Belsen. This means that she was in “the Star camp,” where prisoners at Bergen-Belsen were treated well.
Marion has written a book that is in its 23rd printing and has been translated into German, Dutch and Japanese, as well as being the inspiration for an hour-long documentary titled “Marion’s Triumph — Surviving History’s Nightmare.”
With her book and the documentary, combined with speaking to students for 27 years, how much money has Marion made off her four months of imprisonment in the Star Camp of Bergen-Belsen?