Scrapbookpages Blog

February 22, 2012

What really happened at Bergen-Belsen? Can you say “typhus”?

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:30 am

Graph shows the number of deaths at Bergen-Belsen in the last 5 months of World War II

The photo above shows a graph that was displayed at Bergen-Belsen around fifty years ago. It shows that there were 350 deaths at Bergen-Belsen in December 1944; 800 to 1000 deaths in January 1945; 6,000 to 7,000 deaths in February 1945; 18,168 deaths in March 1945 and 18,365 deaths in April 1945.  What caused the number of deaths at Bergen-Belsen to increase so dramatically in the last months of World War II?  Daniel Jonah Goldhagen famously  wrote in his best-selling book entitled Hitler’s Willing Executioners: “Finally, the fidelity of the Germans to their genocidal enterprise was so great as seeming to defy comprehension. Their world was disintegrating around them, yet they persisted in genocidal killing until the end.”

I eagerly read Goldhagen’s boring book when it first came out in 1996.  I recall that he wrote that the so-called “death marches” out of the camps were done for the purpose of killing the Jews, but in his 468 page book, the word typhus is never mentioned. Bergen-Belsen was briefly mentioned on only one page.  (If books are ever burned in Germany again, his stupid book will be the first one to be thrown into the fire.)

Today, survivors of Bergen-Belsen, like Eva Olsson, go around telling innocent 10-year-old schoolchildren in American and Canada that there was a gas chamber at Bergen-Belsen and that children were burned alive when the Germans ran out of pellets for the gas chamber.  I previously blogged about Eva Olsson here.  Olsson herself had typhus while she was at Bergen-Belsen.  As most people in the world know, Anne Frank and her sister Margo both died of typhus in the camp.

Poster in the Bergen-Belsen museum in 2002 shows the burning of the camp

I took the photo above in the Bergen-Belsen museum in May 2002; it shows the British liberators of the camp burning down all the buildings in the camp, as this was the only way to stop the typhus epidemic in the camp.

You can read more about Bergen-Belsen here.

A Documentation Center and an exhibition on the history of the camp was first opened at Bergen-Belsen in 1966. A new permanent exhibition was opened in April 1990.

The photo below shows the Bergen-Belsen museum as it looked in 2002 when I visited the Memorial Site.  I did not see the graph shown in the photo above in the museum in May 2002.  On October 28, 2007, a new museum, devoted to the survivors, opened at Bergen-Belsen.

My photo of the Bergen-Belsen museum in May 2002

A survivor of Bergen-Belsen who was sick when the British liberated the camp

The photo above, which I took at the old Bergen-Belsen museum in 2002, shows a sick woman who is in the “Typhoid barracks.” Typhoid is usually spread by drinking contaminated water.  The water pump at Bergen-Belsen had been destroyed when the Allies bombed the camp near the end of the war. The British liberators pumped water out of a creek for the survivors when they took over the camp.

A poster in the Dachau Museum shows a survivor of Bergen-Belsen

I took the photo above inside the Dachau Museum in May 2003.  It shows a photo of a prisoner at Bergen-Belsen and the caption above the photo reads: “The murder of those unfit for work.”  I haven’t been back to Dachau since May 2007, so I don’t know if they are still showing this misleading photo to gullible American tourists. (There were no selections at either Dachau or Bergen-Belsen; prisoners who were unfit for work were not murdered at either of these camps.)

Photo of dying prisoner was taken at Bergen-Belsen, but shown at Dachau

The death statistics at Dachau were similar to those at Bergen Belsen because both camps had a typhus epidemic near the end of World War II.   Paul Berben, a prisoner in the camp, wrote a book entitled Dachau, the Official History 1933 – 1945, in which he stated that 2,888 prisoners had died at Dachau in January 1945; 3,977 prisoners had died in February; 3,668 had died in March and 2,625 had died in April, for a total of 13,158 in the first four months of 1945.

There were 31,951 deaths at the main Dachau camp during the 12 years that the camp was in existence, according to a report made by the International Tracing Service at Arolson, Germany in 1977. The Tracing Service is part of the International Red Cross. This report was based on death records meticulously kept by the Nazis.

The increase in the number of deaths at Dachau, in the last 4 months that the camp was in operation, was due to a typhus epidemic which got started in December 1944 when prisoners were “death marched” out of the camps in the East and brought to Germany.  Unfortunately, typhus was also brought from the camps in the East to Bergen-Belsen.