Scrapbookpages Blog

May 5, 2018

Gardelegen is back in the news….

Filed under: Germany — furtherglory @ 6:12 pm

Memorial Site just outside the town of Gardelegen

You can read about the alleged Gardelegen hoax here:

I visited Gardelegen several years ago and this is what I learned:

The town of Gardelegen in northeastern Germany dates back at least to the year 1241 when it was first mentioned as a town in an official document. Even before that, there was a settlement and a castle there, which were first mentioned in a document on November 23, 1196.

Gardelegen is famous for two things: Garlei beer which has been exported from the town since 1450, and for a horrible crime which was allegedly committed there in the closing days of World War II when German soldiers allegedly set fire to the straw inside a brick barn and burned to death or shot down 1016 prisoners, including a few Jews, who were attempting to escape.

The prisoners had been evacuated from concentration camps in the war zone in the last days of World War II. They had ended up at Gardelegen when the evacuation trains were forced to stop because the tracks had been bombed by Allied planes.

In May 2002, I visited Gardelegen for the express purpose of researching this tragic event which took place on the evening of April 13, 1945. Almost 100 of the victims survived to tell the story.

The American liberators of the 102nd Division, who arrived in the town late the next day, were sickened and appalled by this senseless massacre, and a week later, American General Frank A. Keating ordered all the able-bodied men in the town to bury the bodies of the victims in individual graves in a military cemetery.

General Keating referred to the victims as Prisoners of War, although most of them were civilian resistance fighters, or Communist political prisoners, who had been incarcerated in concentration camps or forced labor camps.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower had unilaterally declared in June 1944, after the Normandy invasion, that Resistance fighters would now be considered as legal combatants instead of partisans or insurgents, and thus entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention if captured.

If not for the massacre and the gruesome photos which were published in Life Magazine on May 7, 1945, Gardelegen would probably be completely unknown to most Americans today.

On April 21, 1945, the men of Gardelegen were assembled on the town square in front of the Deutches Haus restaurant. Most of them were dressed in suits and hats or what appeared to be their best clothes. They were then lined up alongside the Rathaus (town hall) and marched 5 kilometers, escorted by American tanks and armed guards, to a field near the barn where they had to dig the military-style graves.

My photograph below shows how the Rathaus (town hall) looks today.

My Holocaust education began at Bergen-Belsen

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — furtherglory @ 12:24 pm

When I began studying the Holocaust, the first place that I went was to the Bergen-Belsen camp.  I wrote the following notes about my trip:

My Bergen-Belsen journal

I visited the Bergen-Belsen Memorial Site on a trip to Germany during the last week of May, 2002. The city of Celle is 16 kilometers northwest of the former camp, so I decided to stay there since I wasn’t sure if there was a hotel in the nearby town of Bergen. Celle has good train connections, so I took the train from the long-distance train station in the Frankfurt airport, but I had to change trains at Hanover, which is north of Celle. I stayed at the Fürstenhof Celle hotel, the most well-known and fanciest one in the city. Celle is famous for its picturesque streets filled with half-timbered buildings which date back to the 16th and 17th century. It is one of the few towns in Germany that suffered only minor bomb damage. I visited the Castle in Celle and then saw the old Synagogue which was not open to visitors on the day that I was there.

Photos of Celle

I asked one of the young clerks at the hotel desk about the bus to the Bergen-Belsen Memorial Site, and she told me that there was no bus that goes there. I knew better because I had been doing research about the former camp for months in preparation for my trip.

I went to the tourist bureau at the old Rathaus and got some maps and information on the buses to Bergen-Belsen. The first bus which goes to the Memorial Site is at 12:05 p.m. and the next one is not until 1:30 p.m. The 12:05 bus is scheduled to arrive at 1:01 p.m. The only bus coming back from the Memorial Site is at 4:56 p.m. There are two bus stops in Celle, from which buses leave for the Memorial site, one of which is at the train station. I took a cab to the train station where I learned that one must buy a ticket from the driver on the bus. No one in the train station spoke English, which surprised me because Celle is a favorite place for tourists.

I asked directions to the bus stop and was told to go up the stairs which are inside the train terminal. I went upstairs but saw nothing there. I went back down and asked a young tourist who spoke English where the buses were. I learned that one must go up the stairs, but at the top of the stairs, you must turn left and take another set of stairs down to where the buses stop. This area is located under the building where travelers park their bikes. Bus # 11 is the only one that goes to the Memorial Site.

I was very nervous and apprehensive as I waited for the bus, and a group of teenagers noticed my discomfort. One of the boys reassured me, telling me, in German, that they were all going to Belsen, where they apparently lived, although they were attending school in Celle. I wondered how it must feel to live less than a mile from the location of a former concentration camp where 100,000 innocent victims of the Nazi regime lost their lives.

I got on the 12:05 bus and told the driver that I wanted to go to Bergen-Belsen. He asked me in German, “Which one, Bergen or Belsen?” Although Americans talk about Bergen-Belsen, there is no such place today. Bergen and Belsen are two separate towns and each of them has several bus stops. Thank God, I knew the German word for Memorial Site (Gedenkstätte) or I might never have made it there because the driver spoke no English.

On the bus, I observed a sign that said “Rote Karte fur schwartze fahrer 30 EURO” That means that the fine for riding without a ticket is 30 Euro. A person who rides without a ticket is called a “black rider.” I wonder how long it will be before this term is changed because there are now a lot of African immigrants in Germany.

When we got to Bergen, I saw that it is a good-sized town. I learned later that it has a population of 13,000. I observed a nice hotel right on the highway which runs through the town of Bergen. This area looks very much like England with mostly brick houses and even the barns are brick. Belsen is a charming, picturesque village with old, half-timbered brick barns, with doors painted green. This area was in the British zone of occupation and the British soldiers must have felt right at home here. The British royal family is originally from Germany and at one time the King of England and the King of Hanover were one and the same. Between Bergen and Belsen is some beautiful farmland with a lot of horse pastures. In fact, Celle is noted for its fine horses and stud farms. Everything is in pristine condition; everywhere you look, it is like a beautiful painting. Not the kind of countryside where you would expect a concentration camp to have been located. Even the weeds are beautiful: there is Queen Anne’s lace growing beside the road just like in the English countryside.

Just before the bus got to the village of Belsen, we passed what looked like an army base, surrounded by a fence topped with rolled barbed wire. I saw that it is still in use and I learned that this army base had been here when Bergen-Belsen was a concentration camp. This is where the bread for the camp was baked, but in the last days of the war, the Germans cut down on the amount of food that they gave to the camp, and kept most of the bread to feed the German soldiers. Just after we passed the German army base, we entered a small forest and about one and a half kilometers from the village of Belsen, we came to the site of the former camp.

The bus got to the Memorial Site at 1:05 p.m. This was the end of the line, and I was the only passenger still on the bus. It was a gray day and it looked like rain. The bus stopped right in front of the Document Center which is a very small, very plain looking building with a parking lot for buses in front of it. To the right is a high wall with a gate into the former camp which is now a Memorial Site. A Museum is next to the Document Center, but is behind the wall, so you don’t see it from the front of the building. After you go through the open gate, there is a wide paved path which leads through some beautiful pine trees where there are lots of birds singing. Everything is very still and quiet except for the sound of the birds. Near the gate, I saw a sign which reminds visitors to be respectful because this a a place of mourning for the dead. A short ways up the path is a large stone block with a map of the camp on top of it. Across the path is a cobblestone strip which designates the boundaries of the former camp. Only about one fourth of the former camp has been dedicated to the Memorial Site.

There are none of the old buildings left there now. Everything was burned down by the British in order to kill the lice which causes typhus. This was the only way to stop the epidemic. There were disinfection chambers for the clothes at Bergen-Belsen, but they were not adequate to handle the amount of clothing in the camp after thousands of prisoners who had been evacuated from other camps were brought in, beginning in February 1945. After the liberation of the camp, the British moved the former prisoners into the barracks at the nearby Germany army base and then burned down the barracks on May 21, 1945. The army base became a DP camp until 1950, while the Jews waited to get into Palestine or some other country. They did not want to go back to Poland or Eastern Europe because their former Jewish communities no longer existed.

As soon as I reached the site of the former camp, I heard gunfire. It sounded like canon fire or some kind of big guns. It was as though there was a war going on. This is what it must have been like in the camp because there was a war going on right outside in the days just before the liberation. Part of the German army surrendered to the British in the heath near the camp on May 4, 1945. As a matter of fact, the camp was built on ground that was part of the Lüneburg heath. Heather grows wild in this area, just like in Scotland.

I was the only person there who was not part of a tour group. Every 15 minutes a new tour bus would arrive and a group of people, mostly young German students, would walk rapidly through the memorial site, barely glancing at the mass graves which are long mounds planted with heather. Then I would be there all alone for a few minutes until the next tour group walked through. During the whole time, the guns were firing. During the periods when I was there all alone, in a clearing in the woods that was about 15 acres in size, I was kind of scared because it was like being in the middle of a war zone. I could imagine what it must have been like for the prisoners who were sick and dying in the camp, not knowing whether the British would arrive in time to save them.

The Memorial Site is not very visitor-friendly. There are no benches whatsoever. Not even any benches in front of the Document Center. There is only one bench inside the building and I had to wait there for my return bus, as there is no bench at the bus stop. The only place to sit in the former camp is in the House of Silence which is in a grove of birch trees behind the Jewish Memorial Stone. This is also the only building where one can duck in out of the rain. In case of a sudden downpour, it would not hold all the visitors there at any given moment.

As is typical of most Holocaust memorial sites, there is no food whatsoever, no picnic tables, no vending machines and no restaurant nearby. Visitors must bring bottled water with them. Belsen is only a tiny village and probably doesn’t have a restaurant. There is no telephone on the grounds of the former camp and no way to call for help in case of an emergency. When you enter the former concentration camp you are totally on your own. There are no guards or attendants of any kind. I always carry a loud whistle so I can send an SOS signal in case I ever fall down and need help. I did not see anyone in a wheelchair there, but the grounds are completely flat and everything is wheelchair accessible.

Around 2 p.m. it sprinkled for about 10 minutes and it occurred to me that God was shedding tears for the victims of this place. I took cover in the House of Silence so that I wouldn’t get my camera wet. It is a modern building with a glass roof and inside, there are about 8 to 10 square wooden stools to sit on. At the front of the room is a table where visitors had left notes. I read all the notes while I waited for the rain to stop, and it was very touching to share the thoughts of other visitors. Being at this place where 100,000 people died in the most abject misery is an overwhelming experience. I could imagine the horror of 15-year-old Anne Frank dying here, all alone on the floor of a filthy barrack, and her emaciated body being tossed onto a heap of nameless corpses, then shoved into a mass grave by a British bulldozer.

The memorial site consists of two main monuments, one of which was put up in April 1946 in honor of only the 30,000 Jews who died in the camp. It looks like a large tombstone. On one side it has words carved in Hebrew and on the other side is the English translation. Near it are some fake gravestones, one of which has the names of Anne Frank and her sister Margot, both of whom died of typhus in the months just before the camp was turned over to the British. They are buried in one of the mass graves there, although no one knows which one. One of the stones is in honor of a former President of Israel, Chaim Herzog. Herzog was with the British Army, as an intelligence officer in 1945, when Bergen-Belsen was turned over to the British. Scattered around the area are small stones with the names of people who died in the camp, including one that I saw for a Catholic priest. There is also a small graveyard of symbolic stones in the grove of birch trees near the House of Silence.

The other main monument is an obelisk with a wall behind it; this monument is in honor of all the prisoners who died in the camp including the 20,000 non-Jews in the concentration camp and the 50,000 Prisoners of War. It looks like the Washington Monument, only much smaller. On the wall are inscriptions in many languages, including a very short inscription in English near the base of the wall in the center. It was put up by the German people on the orders of the British in 1947.

I finished my tour of the former camp by 2:30 p.m and went to the Document center to see the English version of a British-made documentary movie that was starting at 3 p.m. I was the only person to see the movie in English and it was shown in a small room on a TV set with a relatively small screen. Apparently, there are very few English-speaking visitors. There is a large theater where the movie is shown in German; it had just ended and the audience of young students was having a discussion period when I peeked into the theater.

The title of the film was “Bergen-Belsen for Example.” This is obviously a translation of the German title “Bergen-Belsen zum Beispiel.” Zum Beispiel is a German expression which means “for example” but it is used more often and in more different ways than our English expression. The movie opened with scenes of the prisoners greeting the British soldiers as they entered the concentration camp on April 15, 1945. The prisoners looked remarkably healthy, considering the ordeal that they had been through, and everyone was happy and smiling. Then a British soldier, who said his name was Arthur Bushnell, explained that when the British soldiers first arrived, they got a “false impression” because at first, they didn’t see any dead bodies or emaciated prisoners. All the inmates who rushed up to greet them appeared to be healthy and well-fed. Bushnell said that there had been 400 German guards in the camp, and that half of them were there when the British arrived, but he didn’t explain why all of them had not run away to avoid being captured and put on trial as war criminals.

What actually happened was that the camp had been voluntarily turned over to the British with the agreement that the guards would stay on in the camp to maintain order and help with the work of cleaning up the camp. Nothing was said about what would happen to the guards, but it was implied in the negotiations that the German guards would be treated with respect and not arrested as war criminals. The movie did not mention that the camp was formally surrendered to the British after both sides had negotiated an agreement. The movie led the viewers to believe that the British captured the camp and surprised half of the guards who hadn’t had a chance to escape like the other half. According to Eberhard Kolb of the Memorial Site Committee, there were only 80 guards who remained in the camp, 50 men and 30 women. The photographs taken by the British after the liberation show that this number is probably correct.

Bushnell went on to say that there was no food at all in the camp when the British arrived. Eberhard Kolb wrote that the 30,000 prisoners who arrived in the camp on April 8, one week before the liberation, had raided the food supplies of the camp. The water pump, which pumped drinking water out of cisterns, had been destroyed by allied bombs and there was also no water in the camp. Some water was being brought to the camp by the Germany Army, but not enough for the 60,000 prisoners.

At this point in the film, we see a prisoner on his knees kissing the hand of a British soldier. Then we see Josef Kramer, the Commandant of the camp, who had remained behind with other SS soldiers in order to help clean up the camp and restore order out of the existing chaos. At Buchenwald, the only other concentration camp in Germany which had fallen into the hands of the Allies thus far, the SS guards and the Commandant had escaped just before the Allies arrived, and the Communist prisoners had taken charge of the camp.

On April 11, 1945, just one day before the German Army signed a cease-fire agreement with the British at Bergen-Belsen on the evening of April 12th, American troops had stumbled across Buchenwald; they allowed the Communist inmates to leave the camp, hunt down the guards who were hiding in the forest, and bring them back to the camp to be beaten to death. Some of the American soldiers participated in killing the guards. Then the former prisoners were given American guns and allowed to drive, in American jeeps, to the nearby town of Weimar to rape, loot and kill the civilians in the town. Heinrich Himmler, the head of all the concentration camps, was trying to prevent another tragedy like this by negotiating an orderly surrender of the Bergen-Belsen camp to the British. He was concerned that the prisoners might be released into a war zone and that the typhus epidemic, which was out of control in the camp, would spread to both of the armies fighting in the area and to the surrounding civilian population. That’s why he negotiated a surrender of the camp, although this was not explained whatsoever in the film.

As soon as the British saw the dead bodies scattered around the camp, they promptly arrested the Commandant. Two days later, they arrested all the camp personnel and then forced the SS soldiers to put the diseased bodies onto trucks to transport them to mass graves. The movie didn’t mention it, but they were not allowed to wear gloves. The original movie which was shown in the newsreels in May 1945 mentioned that the guards were not allowed to wear gloves when they handled the bodies. In fact, the British officers in the original film bragged about exposing the SS guards unnecessarily to contagious diseases. According to Eberhard Kolb, 20 of the 80 guards left in the camp died, and most of the deaths were caused by typhus. Some of the guards, who had voluntarily stayed behind, were deliberately thrown into lice-infested barracks so that they would get typhus and die, but this was not told in the film.

The movie mentioned that there was a total of 1634 camps in the Nazi system, but did not point out that many of them were small sub-camps consisting of factories. In September 1944, a British reconnaissance photo was taken of the Bergen-Belsen camp. Many of the Nazi concentration camps were bombed by the Allies because of the factories located there, but Bergen-Belsen had no factories.

Bergen-Belsen had first opened in 1940 as a POW camp, according to the film. The film did not mention that, in 1943, a detention camp for exchange prisoners with foreign passports was set up at Bergen-Belsen which was separate from the POW camp. The purpose of this camp was to have prisoners available who could be exchanged for Germans being held in internment camps in Great Britain and America.

German citizens and a few German-Americans were rounded up and put into a prison on Ellis Island two days before Germany declared war on America. For the German-American citizens, this was a violation of their civil rights under the Constitution of the United States because no charges were brought against them and they were never put on trial. They were held for as long as a year after the war ended. For the most part, very few prisoners were exchanged, but a few lucky inmates were sent to Palestine in exchange for German citizens imprisoned in Great Britain who were released and sent back to Germany. A few American Jews, who were stranded in Europe when the war started, were held in the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp, but this was not mentioned in the film. America did not offer to exchange any prisoners.

The film mentioned that there was typhoid in the camp, but there was no mention of typhus. Typhoid is a disease which is caused by contaminated water, while typhus is transmitted by lice. America had DDT to kill lice at that time, but the Germans didn’t. America also had a typhus vaccine, which they sent to the American POWs in Germany, but they didn’t send any to the concentration camp prisoners. The Germans were trying to develop a typhus vaccine at Buchenwald by experimenting on prisoners who had been condemned to death. The doctors who were working on the vaccine were put on trial as war criminals.

The film does not mention that a “sick camp” was set up at Bergen-Belsen and prisoners who could no longer work in the factories in the forced labor camps were sent there. The viewer is given the impression that the camp went from a POW camp to a concentration camp, but in fact, Bergen-Belsen did not become a concentration camp until December 2, 1944.

The next person to speak in the film was a Jewish woman named Nussbaum who, we were told, was the first president of the European Parliament. She was a survivor of both Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.

Next the film showed the triangles that the prisoners had to wear on their uniforms. A red triangle was shown but it was not explained that it designated a political prisoner. Most of the Jews were regarded as political prisoners, but this was not mentioned either. Then a black triangle was shown and it was explained that these were worn by “anti-socials” which included lesbians and Romany (Gypsies). This is not accurate since there was no German law against lesbianism, comparable to Paragraph 175, the law under which homosexuals were arrested. There were no lesbians put into any of the camps simply for being lesbians. There might have been lesbians in the camps, but they were put there for some other reason, and not for being “anti-social.” The Romany were first sent to the camps because they refused to work at a time when there was a German law which mandated that every male German citizen had to work if he were able to. This put the Gypsy men, who traditionally didn’t work, into the “work-shy” category and they were sent to the camps along with any ethnic German men who refused to work. The only women in the anti-social category were prostitutes who were breaking the German law against prostitution. This included some of the Gypsy women. Most of the women prisoners in the concentration camps were either Jews or political prisoners who were active Communists.

I don’t recall that the film narrator said how many survivors there were at Bergen-Belsen. In the last days of the war, when other camps were being evacuated, there were approximately 60,000 people crowded into the Bergen-Belsen camp, but 30,000 of them had arrived only the week before.

The narrator then says that there were 500 children liberated from Bergen-Belsen, but the children were not shown. Curiously, the Museum at Bergen-Belsen does not show any photographs of the children either. The Museum only shows a photo of the children who were liberated from Auschwitz in January 1945. One of the prisoners then tells, in the film, about how the inmates fought over bread in the camp and how some of the prisoners stole food from their fellow prisoners. The punishment for stealing bread was to have the bread ration withheld. The prisoner said the daily bread ration was 3.5 cubic centimeters of bread.

According to the film, there were 27,000 deaths in the six weeks just before the British arrived, but the cause of these deaths was not explained. Someone must have buried the dead because the photographs taken by the British do not show anywhere near 27,000 bodies. As a matter of fact, the SS guards had just organized a work party of 2,000 prisoners who had dragged bodies to mass graves, from morning until night, for 4 days, but this was not mentioned in the film. The film did not mention how many bodies there were when the British soldiers arrived, so the viewer is left to assume that they were confronted with 27,000 rotting corpses, some of which had been lying there for six weeks. There were 600 people dying every day of disease, so even after the Herculean effort made by the prisoners to bury the dead, there would still have been plenty of bodies lying around by the time the British forced the German guards to begin burying the dead on April 18, 1945, three days after they took charge of the camp.

The narrator in the film said that the “Germany Army” refused to bury the dead. Bergen-Belsen was right in the middle of a war zone and the Germany Army was engaged in fighting in a last-ditch effort to save their country from Communism. When the Bergen-Belsen camp was voluntarily turned over to the British, Hungarian soldiers in the German Army were assigned to maintain order at Bergen-Belsen for six days during the transfer of the camp to the British, according to the negotiated agreement. After six days, they had been promised that they would have safe passage back to the German lines. When they were ordered by the British officers to handle the diseased bodies with their bare hands, the Hungarian soldiers refused because this was not part of the negotiated agreement; their job was to maintain order. The narrator did not mention that some of the Hungarian soldiers were shot, in violation of the agreement, because they had refused to help with the burial of the bodies.

The next person featured in the film was Mike Lewis, who said he was a Jewish soldier in the British army. He said that it was purely an “accident” that he was sent to Bergen-Belsen as one of the liberators. He said that he took photos and movie film at the liberation but he could never bear to look at the photographs afterwards. The film that Lewis took was shown at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal; this was the famous footage of British bulldozers shoving the bodies into the mass graves. Remarkably, Lewis says that he took a turn driving the bulldozer himself while someone else filmed him.

A short film clip is shown of a woman naked from the waist up washing herself with water in a wash basin. The narrator explains that the prisoners were so demoralized that they did their “body functions” out in the open.

In the film, Lewis asks “Why Germany?” Then he explains that “any race is capable of this.” So why the Germans? Lewis says “some disease made them prone” to do this. The implication was that the Germans had deliberately starved or killed the prisoners in the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp, and that they did this because of some strange disease which only the German “race” suffers from. It was not explained in the film that the emaciated corpses in the camp were those of people who had died of typhus in an epidemic that was out of control. Keep in mind that most of the visitors who see this film are 14-year-old German students.

The film shows the British feeding the prisoners only a clear broth, but says that many of them died anyway after the liberation. It was not mentioned how many. (There were 13,000 who died in the six weeks after the liberation.) The film doesn’t say what these prisoners died of. Martin Gilbert, one of the foremost Jewish Holocaust writers, says that many of them died from being given too much rich food too soon by the British, and that the rest died from disease before the epidemics could be brought under control.

Next the narrator tells us that the prisoners who were from Eastern Europe didn’t want to return to their homes. The film doesn’t say why. The reason was that prisoners had been selected for the exchange camp because they were Zionists who wanted to go to Palestine. The prisoners who didn’t want to leave Bergen-Belsen stayed on in the German army barracks nearby where they were quartered in brick or stone buildings. This became the largest of all the DP camps, as the prisoners waited for years to get into Canada, Australia and Israel, according to the film. They had a long wait because Israel did not exist until 1948 and before that, the British were restricting Jewish immigration into Palestine.

The narrator then says that, 10 days after the British arrived, which would have been on April 25th, the local German people were brought to the camp to see the bodies which had not yet been buried. Since the burial had begun on April 18th, the bodies that were still to be buried were probably those of the typhus victims who had died after the camp was liberated. A British soldier speaks to these elderly German civilians in German telling them, “Your sons and daughters are responsible for these crimes.” Then we see scenes of the German SS guards who had risked their lives to stay behind and help, as they take the bodies off the trucks and put them into the mass graves. There is an audience of former prisoners, mostly healthy-looking women, who are screaming at the top of their lungs, in German, at the guards: “Who is responsible?” The German civilians were forced to watch this horrible scene in silence while the Jewish soldier filmed it for posterity. The narrator didn’t mention that some of these German civilians were now homeless because they were forced to move out so that Jewish survivors of Bergen-Belsen could live in their homes.

Then we see several of the German guards as they are forced to talk on camera. One man says he is 59 years old. Another says he is 38 years old. We see one of the women guards, named Herta Bothe. She was among the women guards who were photographed by the British just after the liberation of the camp. On the day of the liberation, she was overweight, but when she was filmed for this movie, she had lost a lot of weight and looked haggard. We are told that she was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to 10 years in prison. She was released after serving only 6 years of her time.

We are then told that some of the guards also died in the camp, but the cause of death was not given. Since the Germans didn’t have typhus vaccine, they probably died in the epidemic, but the words typhus and epidemic were never spoken in the film. One of the SS men who speaks on camera is 58-year-old Fritz Klein, the camp doctor, although his title of Dr. was not mentioned. Another is Franz Hoessler, an officer whose insignia had been stripped from his uniform, who said he was 33 years old. Wilhelm Dorr said he was 24 years old. Klein, Hoessler and Dorr were all hanged, after they were convicted of being war criminals, although I don’t recall that this was pointed out in the film.

We are then told about the trial of the Bergen-Belsen guards before a British military tribunal in the nearby town of Lüneburg. The narrator opines that the sentences were too lenient. He says that 45 members of the camp personnel were put on trial and 11 of them were hanged, including the Commandant, Josef Kramer. The narrator mentioned that Irma Grese was one of those who were hanged. (He pronounced her name GRAY-suh.) Grese was Kramer’s assistant and she was standing with the Commandant at the entrance of the camp to greet the British when they arrived, although this was not mentioned in the film.

The film then says that most of the guards had escaped before the British arrived, implying that the British had captured the camp and surprised the remaining guards before they had had a chance to escape. At this point, the film says that 200 of the 400 guards had stayed in the camp, but there is no mention of why only 45 were put on trial. Staff members from all the concentration camps were put on trial by the Allies under the concept of co-responsibility for everything that happened in the camps, even if they were not personally responsible for committing a war crime. If only 80 guards volunteered to stay behind in the camp, and 45 were put on trial, this means that the 35 remaining guards probably died from typhus or were killed by the inmates or the British soldiers.

The film then mentions that 2 million Soviet POWs died while in captivity, but there was no mention of how many German POWs died in Russian captivity, nor was there any mention of the fact that the Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention which governs the treatment of Prisoners of War. There was no mention of how many German soldiers died in American POW camps after the war, nor that German soldiers were forced to work as slave laborers in the Soviet Union for as long as 10 years after the war. There was no mention of the German soldiers who were forced to work as slave laborers in France and Great Britain after the war ended. There was no mention of the high survival rate of American POWs in German camps because they received typhus vaccine and Red Cross packages from America. The narrator said that 50,000 Soviet POWs died at Bergen-Belsen. The cause of death, according to the film, was freezing, general weakness or tuberculosis. There was no mention of typhus, nor any explanation of how the Soviet POWs had managed to avoid contracting this disease.

The film ends with some footage of the memorial site, which the narrator says is now “a landscaped park.” The film shows the Memorial Site in August when the heather planted on the mass graves is in bloom. When I was there, the memorial site was mostly covered with ornamental grass that had grown high enough to have seed pods. There were a lot of young blackberry plants just starting to grow and a few small yellow wildflowers.

The film was produced by Jurgen Coreleis, according to the credits at the end. I was completely and totally appalled by this disingenuous propaganda film that is being shown to young German students 60 years after the war.

After seeing the 15-minute film, I went through the small museum which is connected to the Document Center. It had only a few photographs and one showcase with an old striped uniform and some shoes with wooden soles. This was the first time I had seen such shoes, although I had read about them. There were only a few people in the museum, all of them very young.

I finished everything at the memorial site at 4:05 p.m. in exactly 3 hours. I purchased a few booklets at the Document Center, where most of the books were in German. Then I sat on a bench in the Document Center and waited for my bus to arrive, since there was no place to sit outside. I was the only passenger going back on the bus at 4:56 p.m. Other passengers got on and off but by the time we got back to Celle, I was the only person on the bus. School children as young as 6 or 7 were riding the bus alone. One of the bus stops was supposed to be on Anne Frank Street in the village of Belsen, but I never saw this street and the bus didn’t stop there. I asked the driver to let me off at the Neumarkt stop in Celle, which was before we got to the train station. The bus driver did not speak a word of English, so my limited German really came in handy.

The next day I left Celle and took a train to Gardelegen.