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Belsen


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Belsen (también conocido como Bergen-Belsen) era un campo de concentración en el noroeste de Alemania. Josef Kramer de Schutzstaffel (SS) fue puesto a cargo y el campamento fue atendido por miembros de las unidades SS Death's Head. Construido para 10.000 prisioneros, contenía 70.000 en 1945. Además del construido en Belsen, también se construyeron campos de concentración en Dachau y Buchenwald (Alemania), Mautausen (Austria), Theresienstadt (Checoslovaquia) y Auschwitz (Polonia).

El campo de Belsen fue liberado el 15 de abril de 1945 por la 11ª División Blindada británica. Uno de estos soldados, Peter Combs, recordó más tarde: "Las condiciones en las que vive esta gente son espantosas. Uno tiene que dar una vuelta y ver sus caras, su andar lento y tambaleante y sus débiles movimientos. El estado de sus mentes está claramente escrito en sus rostros, ya que el hambre ha reducido sus cuerpos a esqueletos. El hecho es que todos estos una vez vivieron limpios y cuerdos y ciertamente no son del tipo que hace daño a los nazis. Son judíos y están muriendo ahora a un ritmo de tres Cien al día. Deben morir y nada puede salvarlos - su final es ineludible, están lejos ahora para ser devueltos a la vida ".

Con la tropa estaba el periodista, Richard Dimbleby: "A la sombra de unos árboles yacía una gran colección de cuerpos. Caminé alrededor de ellos tratando de contar, había quizás 150 de ellos arrojados unos sobre otros, todos desnudos, todos tan delgados que su piel amarilla brillaba como goma estirada sobre sus huesos. Algunas de las pobres criaturas hambrientas cuyos cuerpos estaban allí parecían tan irreales e inhumanos que podría haber imaginado que nunca habían vivido en absoluto. Eran como esqueletos pulidos, los esqueletos que a los estudiantes de medicina les gusta hacer bromas pesadas. En un extremo de la pila, un grupo de hombres y mujeres estaban reunidos alrededor de una fogata; usaban trapos y zapatos viejos que se habían quitado de los cuerpos para mantenerla encendida, y calentaban sopa sobre ella. . Y muy cerca estaba el recinto donde se habían guardado 500 niños de entre cinco y doce años. No tenían tanta hambre como el resto, porque las mujeres se habían sacrificado para mantenerlos con vida. En Belsen nacieron bebés, algunos de ellos shru nken, cositas marchitas que no podían vivir, porque sus madres no podían alimentarlas ".

Me abrí camino sobre cadáver tras cadáver en la penumbra, hasta que escuché una voz que se elevaba por encima del suave gemido ondulante. Encontré a una niña, era un esqueleto viviente, imposible de medir su edad porque prácticamente no le quedaba cabello, y su cara era solo una hoja de pergamino amarillo con dos agujeros para los ojos. Estiraba el palo de un brazo y jadeaba algo, era "inglés, inglés, medicina, medicina", y estaba tratando de llorar pero no tenía fuerzas suficientes. Y más allá de ella, por el pasillo y en la choza, estaban los movimientos convulsivos de personas moribundas demasiado débiles para levantarse del suelo.

A la sombra de unos árboles yacía una gran colección de cadáveres. Eran como esqueletos pulidos, los esqueletos con los que a los estudiantes de medicina les gusta hacer bromas pesadas.

En un extremo de la pila, un grupo de hombres y mujeres estaban reunidos alrededor de un fuego; usaban trapos y zapatos viejos sacados de los cuerpos para mantenerlo encendido, y calentaban sopa sobre él. En Belsen nacían bebés, algunos de ellos encogidos, cositas marchitas que no podían vivir porque sus madres no podían alimentarlos.

Una mujer, angustiada hasta el punto de la locura, se abalanzó sobre un soldado británico que estaba de guardia en el campamento la noche en que llegó la 11ª División Blindada; ella le rogó que le diera un poco de leche para el pequeño bebé que sostenía en sus brazos. Dejó el ácaro en el suelo y se arrojó a los pies del centinela y besó sus botas. Y cuando, en su angustia, le pidió que se levantara, ella puso al bebé en sus brazos y salió corriendo llorando que le buscaría leche porque no tenía leche en el pecho. Y cuando el soldado abrió el bulto de trapos para mirar al niño, descubrió que había estado muerto durante días.

No había privacidad de ningún tipo. Las mujeres estaban desnudas al costado de la pista, lavándose en tazas llenas de agua sacadas de camiones del ejército británico. Otros se pusieron en cuclillas mientras se buscaban piojos y se examinaban el cabello. Los que sufrían de disentería se apoyaban contra las chozas, esforzándose impotentes, y a su alrededor y alrededor de ellos estaba esta horrible marea de gente exhausta, que no se preocupaba ni miraba. Solo unos pocos nos tendieron sus manos marchitas cuando pasamos y bendijeron al médico, de quien sabían que se había convertido en el comandante del campo en lugar del brutal Kramer.

Las condiciones en las que vive esta gente son espantosas. Deben morir y nada puede salvarlos; su fin es ineludible, ahora están muy lejos para volver a la vida.


La bella guardiana nazi del campo de concentración de Bergen-Belsen era famosa por su brutalidad

La mayoría de las adolescentes rebeldes que se rebelan contra sus padres harán cosas relativamente inofensivas como saltarse clases, salir con novios cuestionables o tal vez incluso fumar cigarrillos y beber alcohol con sus amigos. Pero a raíz del Tercer Reich de Alemania y Rusia, una joven con problemas llamada Irma Grese decidió que se uniría al partido nazi. Durante el tiempo que trabajó para los nazis, fue enviada a múltiples campos de concentración. Belsen golpeó y torturó a los prisioneros a una pulgada de sus vidas y permitió que miles de mujeres inocentes murieran bajo su vigilancia. Durante sus últimos días, fue etiquetada como una de las oficiales de las SS más malvadas de toda la Segunda Guerra Mundial, y fue una de las 45 personas que respondieron por sus crímenes en el juicio de Belsen. Pero durante años, su reputación la precede como & ldquoThe Beautiful Beast & rdquo.

Irma Grese, & ldquoThe Beautiful Beast & rdquo. Crédito: Wikimedia Commons


Una breve historia del campo de concentración de Bergen-Belsen, donde murió Ana Frank

Un lugar de horror inimaginable, unos 52.000 prisioneros de toda Europa murieron en el campo de concentración de Bergen-Belsen en Alemania durante el Holocausto, incluida la famosa cronista Ana Frank. Otros 14.000 reclusos, enfermos o heridos, murieron después de la liberación del campo en 1945. Antes del 75 aniversario de la liberación del campo por las tropas británicas, el historiador Jens-Christian Wagner revela cómo era la vida dentro de Bergen-Belsen ...

Esta competición se ha cerrado

Publicado: 14 de abril de 2020 a las 2:39 pm

Tenga en cuenta: este artículo contiene imágenes que algunos lectores pueden encontrar angustiantes

¿Cuándo se instaló por primera vez el campo de concentración de Bergen-Belsen?

Bergen-Belsen se estableció como campo de concentración en 1943. Sin embargo, había sido utilizado como campo de prisioneros de guerra (PoW) desde 1940, y cerca de 20.000 PoW soviéticos murieron en 1941-42 como resultado de la inanición y las enfermedades.

De hecho, el campo de concentración de Bergen-Belsen estaba compuesto por tres campos. En la primavera de 1943, las SS y el Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Alemania establecieron el llamado "campo de intercambio" (Austauschlager) para rehenes judíos junto al campo de prisioneros de guerra. En algunos casos, familias enteras fueron retenidas allí con la intención de cambiarlas por productos básicos, dinero de rescate o por alemanes internados en el extranjero. Sin embargo, se llevaron a cabo pocos intercambios.

Las SS también establecieron un campo en la primavera de 1944 para prisioneros varones enfermos y moribundos de otros campos que ya no podían realizar trabajos forzados. Muchos de los prisioneros varones en el campo de hombres (Männerlager) había sido encarcelado por motivos políticos (en abril de 1945, pocos días antes de la liberación de Bergen-Belsen, las SS establecieron un subcampo del campo de hombres en el cuartel vecino de Bergen-Hohne).

Un campamento de mujeres (Frauenlager) se añadió en el verano de 1944. Estas mujeres y niñas fueron utilizadas como mano de obra forzada en los campos satélites cercanos para la industria de armamento. Muchas de las mujeres eran judías y habían sido deportadas del campo de concentración de Auschwitz a Bergen-Belsen.

¿Cuántas personas estuvieron detenidas en Bergen-Belsen y cuántas murieron?

Alrededor de 15.000 hombres, mujeres y niños se apiñaron en el campo de intercambio judío en 1943 y 1944. Los campos de hombres y mujeres tenían cada uno más de 50.000 prisioneros. Aproximadamente 52.000 de los 120.000 prisioneros de toda Europa murieron en Bergen-Belsen, la mayoría de ellos en la primavera de 1945.

¿Cuáles fueron las condiciones?

Las condiciones de vida variaron enormemente según cuándo y en qué parte del complejo del campamento fue detenido. Hasta el invierno de 1944-1945, las condiciones en el campo de intercambio judío eran relativamente decentes en comparación con el campo de hombres o el campo de mujeres. Las peores condiciones fueron en el campamento de hombres, ya que los hombres alojados allí básicamente se dejaron morir.

A principios de 1945, llegaron grandes cantidades de transportes a Bergen-Belsen desde otros campos de concentración que habían sido evacuados cerca del frente, p. Ej. Auschwitz. Un total de 85.000 prisioneros más llegaron a Bergen-Belsen hasta abril de 1945. Como resultado, la comida escaseaba y las condiciones de hacinamiento llevaron al brote de enfermedades como el tifus y la disentería. Pronto, prevalecieron condiciones apocalípticas y las SS no hicieron nada para contener la miseria. Solo en marzo de 1945 murieron unos 18.000 prisioneros. Hacia el final de la guerra, hubo más de 1,000 muertes por día.

¿Bergen-Belsen era un campo de exterminio? ¿Cuál es la diferencia entre un campo de concentración y un campo de exterminio?

Bergen-Belsen no era un campo de exterminio, pero debido a la alta tasa de mortalidad en los últimos meses de la guerra, al final se podría llamar un campo de exterminio. Sin embargo, aparte de los 200 hombres que fueron envenenados con inyecciones de ácido carbólico en el verano de 1944, no hubo matanza activa en Bergen-Belsen. Las muertes masivas no se planearon como tal, no hubo cámaras de gas ni tiroteos. Sin embargo, las SS aceptaron conscientemente las altísimas tasas de mortalidad, especialmente en el campo de hombres, donde los reclusos murieron como resultado de una negligencia deliberada y organizada.

De hecho, Bergen-Belsen se diferenciaba tanto de los campos de exterminio --donde se producían asesinatos en masa en las cámaras de gas-- como de otros campos de concentración nazis, cuya función principal era detener a todos los 'indeseables' (raciales, políticos o sociales) y explotarlos. para la economía en tiempos de guerra.

El campo de mujeres de Bergen-Belsen podría considerarse el más cercano a un campo de concentración. Estos reclusos fueron utilizados para trabajos forzados en la economía de guerra, como fue el caso en otros campos de concentración, como Buchenwald o Dachau durante la segunda mitad de la guerra.

El campo de hombres, por otro lado, se estableció solo para prisioneros varones enfermos y moribundos, y el campo de rehenes judíos era fundamentalmente diferente de otros campos de concentración. Se suponía que los reclusos allí detenidos no iban a morir (pero eran necesarios para un posible intercambio) se les permitió usar ropa de civil en lugar del uniforme de prisionero a rayas, y un pequeño número de ellos fue realmente liberado (alrededor de 2.500).

¿Cuándo enviaron a Ana Frank a Bergen-Belsen? ¿Cuánto tiempo estuvo allí y cómo murió?

Debido a la popularidad de su diario después de la guerra, Ana Frank es probablemente la víctima más conocida del campo de concentración de Bergen-Belsen. Junto con su hermana, Margot, fue deportada de Auschwitz al campo de mujeres de Bergen-Belsen a principios de noviembre de 1944. En Bergen-Belsen, ambas hermanas, que ya estaban gravemente debilitadas por su paso por Westerbork y Auschwitz, contrajeron tifus. Según informes de otros reclusos, murieron a finales de febrero o principios de marzo de 1945 y sus cuerpos fueron quemados o enterrados en una de las muchas fosas comunes anónimas en los terrenos del campo.

¿Quién era el líder del campamento?

El primer comandante de Bergen-Belsen fue SSSturmbannführer (Mayor) Adolf Haas. Comenzó a trabajar en el sistema de campos de concentración en 1940 y se desempeñó como comandante del campo de concentración de Wewelsburg antes de su traslado a Bergen-Belsen en 1943. En diciembre de 1944, fue enviado a la batalla.

Su sucesor fue el SS-Hauptsturmführer (capitán) Josef Kramer. Kramer había estado trabajando en el sistema de campos de concentración desde 1934, más recientemente como comandante de Natzweiler y Auschwitz-Birkenau. Permaneció en Bergen-Belsen desde diciembre de 1944 hasta la liberación del campo el 15 de abril de 1945, cuando fue arrestado por las fuerzas británicas. En el juicio británico Belsen en Lüneburg, fue condenado a muerte y ejecutado en Hameln en diciembre de 1945.

Por supuesto, Haas y Kramer no fueron los únicos responsables de las catastróficas condiciones en Bergen-Belsen. Muchos otros miembros de las SS y la Wehrmacht, que eran guardias o comandantes en el campo de concentración de Bergen-Belsen, así como las autoridades militares y civiles de las SS, la Wehrmacht y el Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, también tenían mucha responsabilidad.

¿Por qué quedaron impunes tantos de los perpetradores del Holocausto? Escuche a Mary Fulbrook en una discusión con su colega historiador Richard J. Evans

¿Quién liberó a Bergen-Belsen y qué encontraron cuando llegaron? ¿Cuándo cerró oficialmente el campamento?

Bergen-Belsen fue liberado por tropas británicas el 15 de abril de 1945.

Debido a la rampante epidemia de tifus, las SS no evacuaron el campo de concentración de Bergen-Belsen cuando se acercaban las tropas británicas. En cambio, la Wehrmacht y los británicos negociaron un armisticio local, en virtud del cual el comandante del campo, Josef Kramer, entregó el campo a los soldados británicos sin luchar.

Los británicos fueron testigos de un horror inimaginable: 10.000 cadáveres insepultos en diversas etapas de descomposición yacían esparcidos por los terrenos del campamento, y otros 50.000 estaban enfermos y muriendo. Los soldados británicos y los socorristas civiles hicieron enterrar a los muertos en fosas comunes para detener la propagación del tifus. Trasladaron a los supervivientes a hospitales de emergencia en los cuarteles vecinos de Bergen-Hohne. Sin embargo, a pesar de la ayuda de los británicos, 14.000 reclusos liberados estaban demasiado enfermos para recuperarse y murieron entre abril y junio de 1945.

¿Qué pasó con los supervivientes?

Tan pronto como los supervivientes estuvieran en condiciones de viajar, podrían regresar a sus países de origen. Pero muchos judíos y supervivientes polacos en particular se quedaron en el cuartel de Bergen-Hohne y recibieron el estatus de “personas desplazadas” (DP).

Debido a las restrictivas regulaciones de inmigración, los sobrevivientes judíos tuvieron que esperar la oportunidad de emigrar a los Estados Unidos o Palestina. El campo de desplazados judíos (PD) en Bergen-Belsen se disolvió en 1950. Mientras tanto, el campo de desplazados polacos se disolvió en septiembre de 1946.

En este podcast, la historiadora Rebecca Clifford cuenta las historias de niños sobrevivientes del Holocausto que llegaron a Gran Bretaña después de la guerra:

¿Puedes visitar Bergen-Belsen hoy?

El sitio del antiguo campo de concentración de Bergen-Belsen es ahora un gran cementerio. Las fosas comunes y los monumentos de hace 75 años son un recordatorio del horrible pasado del sitio. Queda poco del campo físico. Los visitantes pueden conocer en profundidad la historia del campo de concentración y el campo de PoW, así como del campo de refugiados de Bergen-Belsen (personas desplazadas) en la amplia exposición permanente del centro de documentación. Se ofrecen visitas guiadas y seminarios en varios idiomas para grupos de visitantes. En 2019, una parte del antiguo campo de refugiados en el cuartel vecino abrió sus puertas a los visitantes.

Jens-Christian Wagner es un historiador alemán que se especializa en la historia del nacionalsocialismo, particularmente el trabajo forzoso y los campos de concentración, y en política después de 1945. También es director de la Lower Saxony Memorial Foundation, que ha oficinas en el Bergen-Belsen Memorial.


Solo has rayado la superficie de Belsen historia familiar.

Entre 1974 y 2002, en los Estados Unidos, la esperanza de vida de Belsen se situó en su punto más bajo en 2002 y la más alta en 1994. La esperanza de vida media de Belsen en 1974 era de 81 años y de 74 en 2002.

Una esperanza de vida inusualmente corta podría indicar que sus antepasados ​​Belsen vivían en condiciones difíciles. Una esperanza de vida corta también podría indicar problemas de salud que alguna vez fueron frecuentes en su familia. El SSDI es una base de datos con capacidad de búsqueda de más de 70 millones de nombres. Puedes encontrar fechas de cumpleaños, de fallecimientos, direcciones y más.


Experimentar la historia de las fuentes del Holocausto en contexto

Desde las primeras etapas del gobierno nazi, a los judíos religiosos en Alemania les resultó difícil observar kashrut, un conjunto de directrices sobre la preparación y el consumo de alimentos. Una ley alemana introducida en abril de 1933, por ejemplo, prohibió efectivamente el sacrificio kosher, reduciendo en gran medida la disponibilidad de carne kosher. 1 Pero incluso donde las políticas estatales no se dirigieron específicamente a las prácticas rituales judías, el encarcelamiento en guetos y campos de trabajos forzados después de 1939 limitó la capacidad de los judíos para seguir las leyes kosher. 2

La fiesta de la Pascua, con su prohibición de comer jametz, 3 presentó una situación particularmente difícil. La escasez de ingredientes básicos y la falta de instalaciones para hornear matzá dejaron a muchos judíos incapaces de llevar a cabo una ceremonia adecuada del Seder. Las condiciones de privación extrema en los campamentos y guetos aquí implicaron una elección terrible: los judíos se vieron obligados a violar las leyes kosher o empeorar su declive físico. Con una dieta diaria que consta de solo unos pocos cientos de calorías, no comer jametz podría significar hambre y muerte.

Según el testimonio registrado después de la guerra, en vísperas de la Pascua de 1944, dos rabinos y mdashamong un grupo de judíos holandeses deportados de Westerbork al campo de concentración de Bergen-Belsen y mdash propusieron una solución. Citando un mandamiento bíblico de vivir y preservar la vida por encima de todo, los rabinos Aaron Davids y Abraham Levisson anunciaron que la prohibición de Chametz sería levantado para las vacaciones. El pan con levadura, acordaron, podría sustituirse por matzá durante la Pascua. 4 En preparación para el Seder, los rabinos escribieron una oración especial, que se presenta aquí, para ser recitada antes de comer. jametz en un Seder celebrado en el campamento. Un grupo de prisioneros distribuyó copias de la oración y sigue en circulación hoy.

Si bien esta lectura de la ley judía puede verse como un ajuste pragmático a circunstancias extremas, la oración también sugiere paralelismos con la doctrina de Kidush ha-hayyim o "la santificación de la vida" defendida por algunos judíos religiosos durante la guerra. En contraste con una tradición de martirio judío, conocida como Kidush ha-shem ("la santificación de Dios") & mdashin que judíos fieles murieron para permanecer piadosos & mdashKidush ha-hayyim coloca la supervivencia física por encima de la observancia de las leyes sagradas. 5 El conflicto entre estos enfoques complica nuestra comprensión de la "resistencia" espiritual durante el Holocausto. También sugiere una variedad de respuestas religiosas al sufrimiento.

Los rabinos Levisson y Davids murieron, probablemente debido a la inanición y el agotamiento, poco antes de la liberación en la primavera de 1945.

Si bien esta ley en realidad no se refería directamente a judíos o kashrut, prohibió la matanza de animales para el consumo sin antes aturdirlos o anestesiarlos. Debido a que la ley kosher requiere que los animales estén conscientes durante el sacrificio, las prácticas rituales judías ya no se ajustan a la ley. La prohibición, promulgada el 21 de abril de 1933, siguió a las prohibiciones anteriores sobre la matanza ritual y mdash introducidas antes del ascenso al poder de Hitler en los estados alemanes de Baviera, Turingia, Braunschweig, Oldenburg, Anhalt, Sajonia, Wüumlrttemberg, Baden y Hesse. Consulte el artículo relacionado, "¡Nuevo-kosher!"

Los legisladores alemanes a veces asociaron la "amenaza" del judaísmo y mdash arraigada en las concepciones de una raza judía y mdash con la influencia judía en la sociedad, en oposición a la religión judía como tal. Antes de la guerra, por lo tanto, a menudo emitieron leyes que tenían como objetivo perseguir a los judíos, pero hicieron poco para suprimir específicamente las prácticas religiosas judías. Ver Dan Michman, Historiografía del Holocausto, una perspectiva judía: conceptualizaciones, terminología, enfoques y cuestiones fundamentales (Portland, Oregón: Valentine Mitchell, 2003), 273.

Pan con levadura o cualquier producto que contenga levadura y cereales.

Aunque algunos sobrevivientes de Bergen-Belsen describieron la historia de la Pascua de 1944 en el campamento, los detalles de la composición de la oración siguen siendo apócrifos. Ver Esther Farbstein, Hidden in Thunder: Perspectivas sobre la fe, la halajá y el liderazgo durante el Holocausto, trans. Deborah Stern (Jerusalén: Mossad Harav Kook, 2007), 351, nota al pie. 56. El historiador Thomas Rahe le da crédito a Davids, Levisson y otro rabino holandés llamado Simon Dasberg por ser coautores de la oración. Véase Thomas Rahe, "Jewish Religious Life in Bergen-Belsen" en Jo Reilly et al, eds., Belsen en historia y memoria (Londres: Frank Cass, 1997), 108, nota al pie. 73.

Para más sobre ambos Kidush ha-shem y kidush ha-hayyim, ver las entradas relevantes en Israel Gutman, ed., Enciclopedia del Holocausto (Nueva York: Simon y Schuster Macmillan), 798-800. El rabino Shimon Huberband también escribió extensamente sobre los mandatos de Kidush ha-shem, abogando por una definición amplia de martirio. En opinión de Huberband, la muerte en defensa de otros judíos o el autosacrificio en nombre de otros también constituía la "santificación del nombre de Dios". Véase Shimon Huberband, Kidush Hashem: vida religiosa y cultural en Polonia durante el Holocausto, Jeffrey S. Gurock y Robert S. Hirt, eds. (Nueva York: Yeshiva University Press, 1987), 247-248. Vea el artículo relacionado en esta colección Rabbi Shimon Huberband, "Sobre la vida religiosa".

Hebreo: Pan con levadura o cualquier producto que contenga levadura y grano.

Referencia a un pasaje de la Biblia hebrea, Vaikrá 18: 5, que declara que los mandamientos de la Torá se emitieron sobre todo para sostener la vida en esta interpretación de la ley judía, el principio de Pikuach Nefesh& mdashla preservación de la vida humana & mdash anula casi cualquier otra consideración religiosa.


Campo de concentración de Bergen-Belsen: fotografías

La secretaria militar alemana en Bergen-Belsen Fraulein Horra bajo detención británica Sobrevivientes en Bergen-Belsen caminando cerca de una gran pila de zapatos. Tropas británicas que supervisan la limpieza de Bergen-Belsen

Detención de Josef Kramer, último comandante de Auschwitz, que trasladó las operaciones a Bergen-Belsen a finales de 1944 cuando Auschwitz fue evacuado. Kramer se muestra bajo arresto por militares británicos. Fue juzgado como criminal de guerra y ahorcado. Un horno crematorio donde se quemaron los cadáveres de los prisioneros en el campo de concentración de Bergen-Belsen

Mass Grave en Bergen-Belsen Estas fotografías fueron tomadas por el sargento de la RAF. James Gunn, que estaba destinado en Europa en el momento de la liberación de Bergen-Belsen,
y fueron donados por su hija, Carly Jones. Estas fotografías fueron tomadas por el sargento de la RAF. James Gunn, que estaba destinado en Europa en el momento de la liberación de Bergen-Belsen, y fue donado por su hija, Carly Jones. Estas fotografías fueron tomadas por el sargento de la RAF. James Gunn, que estaba destinado en Europa en el momento de la liberación de Bergen-Belsen, y fue donado por su hija, Carly Jones. Estas fotografías fueron tomadas por el sargento de la RAF. James Gunn, que estaba destinado en Europa en el momento de la liberación de Bergen-Belsen, y fue donado por su hija, Carly Jones. Estas fotografías fueron tomadas por el sargento de la RAF. James Gunn, que estaba destinado en Europa en el momento de la liberación de Bergen-Belsen, y fue donado por su hija, Carly Jones. Estas fotografías fueron tomadas por el sargento de la RAF. James Gunn, que estaba destinado en Europa en el momento de la liberación de Bergen-Belsen, y fue donado por su hija, Carly Jones. Estas fotografías fueron tomadas por el sargento de la RAF. James Gunn, que estaba destinado en Europa en el momento de la liberación de Bergen-Belsen, y fue donado por su hija, Carly Jones. Estas fotografías fueron tomadas por el sargento de la RAF. James Gunn, que estaba destinado en Europa en el momento de la liberación de Bergen-Belsen, y fue donado por su hija, Carly Jones. Estas fotografías fueron tomadas por el sargento de la RAF. James Gunn, que estaba destinado en Europa en el momento de la liberación de Bergen-Belsen, y fue donado por su hija, Carly Jones. Estas fotografías fueron tomadas por el sargento de la RAF. James Gunn, que estaba destinado en Europa en el momento de la liberación de Bergen-Belsen, y fue donado por su hija, Carly Jones. Estas fotografías fueron tomadas por el sargento de la RAF. James Gunn, que estaba destinado en Europa en el momento de la liberación de Bergen-Belsen, y fue donado por su hija, Carly Jones. Estas fotografías fueron tomadas por el sargento de la RAF. James Gunn, que estaba destinado en Europa en el momento de la liberación de Bergen-Belsen, y fue donado por su hija, Carly Jones. Estas fotografías fueron tomadas por el sargento de la RAF. James Gunn, que estaba destinado en Europa en el momento de la liberación de Bergen-Belsen, y fue donado por su hija, Carly Jones. Estas fotografías fueron tomadas por el sargento de la RAF. James Gunn, que estaba destinado en Europa en el momento de la liberación de Bergen-Belsen, y fue donado por su hija, Carly Jones. Sobrevivientes en un cuartel en Bergen-Belsen en el momento de la liberación. Guardias de las SS trasladan los cuerpos de sus víctimas a una fosa común en Bergen-Belsen Mujeres de las SS que ayudan a enterrar cuerpos en Bergen-Belsen Mujeres sobrevivientes de tifus en el campo de concentración de Bergen-Belsen. Mujeres supervivientes en Bergen-Belsen pelando patatas.

Belsen en historia y memoria

David Cesarani nació en Londres, Inglaterra, el 13 de noviembre de 1956. Recibió una licenciatura en historia de la Universidad de Cambridge, una maestría en historia judía de la Universidad de Columbia y un doctorado en historia de la Universidad de Oxford. Fue un estudioso de la historia judía contemporánea. Enseñó en la Universidad de Leeds, la Universidad Queen Mary de Londres, la Universidad de Southampton y Royal Holloway, un colegio constitutivo de la Universidad de Londres. Escribió varios libros, entre ellos The Jewish Chronicle y Anglo-Jewry, 1841-1991 The Holocaust Justice Delayed: How Britain Become a Refuge for Nazi War Criminals Arthur Koestler: The Homeless Mind Major Farran's Hat: Murder, Scandal and Britain's War Against Jewish Terrorism, 1945-1948 y Solución final: el destino de los judíos, 1933-49. Eichmann: His Life and Crimes se publicó como Becoming Eichmann: Rethinking the Life, Crimes, and Trial of a 'Desk Murderer' en los Estados Unidos y recibió un Premio Nacional del Libro Judío en 2006. Fue nombrado miembro de la Orden del Imperio Británico en 2005 por su trabajo para ayudar a Gran Bretaña a establecer el Día Conmemorativo del Holocausto. Murió por complicaciones de una cirugía reciente el 25 de octubre de 2015 a la edad de 58 años.

El dramaturgo Tony Kushner nació en la ciudad de Nueva York y se crió en Luisiana. Además de sus obras de teatro, Kushner enseña en la Universidad de Nueva York y ha coescrito una ópera con Bobby McFerrin. Kushner es mejor conocido por Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, una obra de dos partes de siete horas que ha ganado muchos premios (dos premios Tony, un premio Pulitzer, dos premios Drama Desk, el Evening Standard Award, el New Premio del Círculo de Críticos de York y Premio del Círculo de Críticos de Drama de Los Ángeles). También fue seleccionada una de las diez mejores obras del siglo XX por el Royal National Theatre de Londres.


De Cracovia a Auschwitz

Gena Goldfinger tuvo una infancia feliz. Nació en Cracovia, Polonia en 1923, la menor de nueve hermanos. Su familia era de clase media y próspera y su mundo estaba seguro y protegido. Luego, cuando Gena tenía 16 años, su mundo comenzó a desmoronarse cuando comenzó la Segunda Guerra Mundial. El primer día de la guerra, el 1 de septiembre de 1939, la Luftwaffe bombardeó Cracovia. En poco tiempo, las fuerzas alemanas habían invadido Polonia. Se acabaron los buenos tiempos.

& ldquoNuestra libertad terminó abruptamente, y nos encontramos completamente aislados del resto del mundo,& rdquo Gena recordó más tarde. Los nazis cerraron escuelas judías y confiscaron negocios. Gena vio cómo arrastraban o ejecutaban a personas en las calles. Luego, en el otoño de 1941, los nazis y rsquos obligaron a los Goldfingers a abandonar su hogar. Gena, su madre y cuatro de sus hermanos se vieron obligados a abandonar la mayoría de sus posesiones y, con solo un saco de patatas y algo de harina, se mudaron al gueto de Cracovia y rsquos.

& ldquoTodos los demás judíos de Cracovia también estaban allí, pero no surgieron sentimientos de fuerza o unidad de este intercambio de experiencias, & ldquodijo Gena. & ldquoLa vida en el gueto era irreal. La principal preocupación de la gente y los rsquos se refería al próximo transporte y diablos, ¿sería su turno el próximo?& rdquo Fue en el gueto donde comenzó la pérdida de la propia familia de Gena & rsquos. Su cuñada y su sobrino de tres años fueron separados de la familia y enviados a Auschwitz, donde murieron. Mientras tanto, Gena presenció la ejecución de dos de sus hermanos en el gueto. Un alemán en la calle le disparó a uno, Willek cuando se paró en una silla junto a una ventana para sacar una maleta de un armario. Los nazis también dispararon al hermano mayor de Gena & rsquos mientras intentaba escapar por las alcantarillas para unirse a la Resistencia.

Campo de concentración de Plaszow, Polonia. Wikimedia Commons. Dominio publico.

En 1942, comenzó la liquidación del gueto de Cracovia, y el 1 de marzo de 1942, los nazis trasladaron a Gena y a su familia sobreviviente al campo de concentración de Plaszov. De día trabajaban y de noche dormían en un cuartel con otras 100 personas. Cuando la hermana de Gena & rsquos, Miriam, y su esposo intentaron pasar comida de contrabando al campo, los nazis y rsquos les dispararon. Gena, su madre y su hermana sobreviviente, Hela se vieron obligadas a quemar los cuerpos. & ldquoTuvimos que cargar leña para que los cuerpos fueran quemados,& rdquo ella recordó más tarde, & ldquoImagínense cómo se sentía mi madre cargando leña para quemar a su hija. & Rdquo Poco a poco, Gena se fue endureciendo ante su sufrimiento. & ldquoLa agonía creció profundamente dentro de mí, y me volví como una piedra, y rdquo ella dijo.

Luego, en el invierno de 1944, Gena, su madre y Hela se convirtieron en parte del último transporte de Plaszov a Auschwitz-Birkenau. Se vieron obligados a hacer el viaje de 41 millas a pie a temperaturas de 20 grados bajo cero. & ldquo Caminamos todo el día durante aproximadamente tres semanas, durmiendo en granjas o campos nevados, & ldquoexplicó Gena. En ese momento, Hela estaba extremadamente frágil. Los prisioneros solo sobrevivieron porque los residentes de las aldeas por las que pasaron les obsequiaron ropa y comida.


Bergen-Belsen a través de los ojos de un recluso adolescente: una conversación con Bernice Lerner

Un recluso adolescente, un médico liberador y crímenes de lesa humanidad: una conversación con la Dra. Bernice Lerner sobre su nuevo libro: Todos los horrores de la guerra: una niña judía, un médico británico y la liberación de Bergen-Belsen

En abril de 1945, cuando la Segunda Guerra Mundial se acercaba a su fin en Europa, era obvio que Alemania estaba perdiendo. Sin embargo, muchos comandantes de campos de concentración y campos de concentración nazis estaban decididos a exterminar a tantos "enemigos del estado" como fuera posible antes del colapso del Tercer Reich.

En un extraño giro del destino a mediados de abril, los alemanes entregaron el campo de concentración de Bergen-Belsen, notoriamente brutal y superpoblado, a las tropas británicas por orden del Reichsf & uumlhrer Heinrich Himmler, el funcionario a cargo de la Solución Final, el esfuerzo nazi por destruir a todos los europeos. Judería.

Al entrar en el campo el 15 de abril de 1945, el general de brigada H. L. Glyn Hughes, subdirector de servicios médicos del Segundo Ejército británico, se sorprendió. No estaba preparado para el sórdido infierno que lo recibió: 60.000 prisioneros vivos pero extremadamente enfermos, hambrientos y debilitados, y 10.000 cadáveres putrefactos y sin enterrar, mientras las epidemias asolaban el campo. Hughes asumió la monumental tarea de establecer servicios médicos para esta ciudad de dolor, sufrimiento y muerte en medio de una zona de combate.

A highly decorated veteran of both world wars, Hughes served with the invading Allied forces in the bloody and costly campaigns through France and Belgium and into Germany. Once at Bergen-Belsen, he called for and coordinated medical units and employed innovative tactics to treat as many of the ill and injured prisoners as possible. Survivors admired his compassion.

The experience of witnessing the horrific conditions at Bergen-Belsen unnerved and profoundly moved Hughes. He testified about the horrors of the camp at the trial of accused Nazi war criminals from Bergen-Belsen: &ldquoI have been a doctor for thirty years and seen all the horrors of war, but I have never seen anything to touch it.&rdquo

When the British arrived at Bergen-Belsen on April 15, 1945, 15-year-old prisoner Rachel Genuth was critically ill. By then, she and her sister Elisabeth had survived deportation from their home in Sighet, Transylvania two months at the Auschwitz death camp where the rest of their family was murdered enslavement at the Christianstadt labor camp and then a death march to their last site of imprisonment and abuse, Bergen-Belsen. Rachel was near death by the time rescuers attended to her, days after the British arrived.

Author and scholar Dr. Bernice Lerner juxtaposes the stories of her mother, Holocaust survivor Ruth Mermelstein (ńee Rachel Genuth), and heroic British physician and liberator Glyn Hughes in her moving and compelling new book, All the Horrors of War: A Jewish Girl, A British Doctor, and the Liberation of Bergen-Belsen (Johns Hopkins University Press).

In this first Holocaust history to focus on a high-ranking liberator and a Holocaust survivor, Dr. Lerner traces the separate journeys of Hughes and her mother during the final year of the Second World War. She documents the Allied advances and costly setbacks that Hughes and the Allied armies endured as she intersperses the vivid story of Rachel&rsquos deportation from her home to her horrific and heroic journey through cruel incarceration and enslavement, from brutality and dehumanization to survival and renewal.

As Dr. Lerner stresses, although Hughes and her mother Rachel never met, Rachel was the beneficiary of Hughes&rsquos commitment to saving as many prisoners as possible at Bergen-Belsen. The book reveals harsh truths about war and atrocities and human suffering, but a story unfolds ultimately about empathy and courage and the will to live.

The book is based on extensive historical research and a trove of resources including the papers of Glyn Hughes, oral histories, interviews, and more. Dr. Lerner masterfully combines the fruits of her scholarly research with gripping and engaging storytelling.

Dr. Lerner is a senior scholar at Boston University's Center for Character and Social Responsibility. She also wrote The Triumph of Wounded Souls: Seven Holocaust Survivors' Lives, and co-edited Happiness and Virtue beyond East and West: Toward a New Global Responsibility. She earned her doctorate at Boston University's School of Education and her masters&rsquo degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary. A specialist in adult education, she has lectured extensively on ethics and character in the US and around the world. Among courses she taught at Boston University were Resistance During the Holocaust y Character and Ethics Education. She also designed and taught Ethical Decision Making for Education Leaders for Northeastern University&rsquos College of Professional Studies.

Dr. Lerner graciously responded to questions by telephone from her home. It was heartening to learn that her mother, Rachel Genuth&mdashnow Ruth Mermelstein&mdashis living in her own home and thriving at age 90. Ruth is also a frequent and popular speaker on the Holocaust, and especially enjoys talking with school groups. She finally learned the details of her rescue at Bergen-Belsen from her daughter&rsquos research.

Robin Lindley: Congratulations Dr. Lerner on your groundbreaking new book All the Horrors of War that interweaves your mother&rsquos Holocaust story with the story of British officer and physician, Brigadier Glyn Hughes, who supervised medical care during the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen, the last site where your mother was imprisoned.

Before getting to your book, I want to ask first about your background as a writer. You're also a scholar with the Center for Character and Social Responsibility at Boston University.

Dr. Bernice Lerner: I was a previous director of the Center at Boston University where I worked for seven years after completing my doctorate in the School of Education. Many of the scholars I worked with were philosophers, so I became steeped in Aristotle and Plato and contemporary writers on virtue ethics. The Center trained teachers on principles and methods of character education. We worked with educators from all over the world, helping them to think deeply about goals for their students--at all grade levels, from preschool to college.

I did a lot of teacher training stateside and I went as far as Indonesia and Singapore and Japan. Virtue ethics fascinated me because it provides a lens through which you can analyze any material that you're reading or viewing or teaching. It involves asking questions about people&rsquos choices. What is the right course of action in various situations? How do our habits and dispositions show who we are, our character? What does it mean to act out of character?

The study gave me a framework and a lens. And then of course, I was dealing with the most evil acts in the history of the world when doing my work on the Holocaust. And that subject has always been an interest&mdashmy parents are both survivors. I had a lot of questions, about what happened to them specifically, and what happened to my grandparents and my parents&rsquo siblings.

How did your new book evolve?

At first, I didn't tackle my parents or my own family at all. My first book was about seven Holocaust survivors who were very different from anyone in my family&mdashafter having missed years of schooling they went on to earn advanced or terminal degrees. (My relatives did not have much formal education.) Finally, I wondered what happened to my mother at the end of the war, after she fell unconscious. There was a hole in her memory&mdashshe could not tell me what happened. How actually was she saved? Why am I here? How am I here? That led me to more questions. What were the mechanics of it? What if the British had come in two days later? I wouldn't be here. My children wouldn't be here. And my grandchildren. None of us would be here.

Of course, the tragedy is that so many lives, so many generations were cut short. And Bergen-Belsen was a dumping ground for people who had survived the entire war until the end. They were the ones who had evaded the gas chambers at Auschwitz and were doing slave labor and endured the death marches. It took so much to make it to the end of the war, and then people died by the thousands in Bergen-Belsen.

It was a miracle that your mother survived as you describe so vividly in your new book. I admire your lively writing and extensive research. What inspired your book apart from your mother&rsquos story?

When I was trying to figure out exactly how my mother survived, that led me to Glyn Hughes. He was the man most prominently associated with the liberation of Bergen-Belsen.

I set out initially just to write a biography of Glyn Hughes. I was interested in what his character was like and what he was thinking and feeling when he entered and surveyed Bergen-Belsen. I wanted to know about his background and what he brought to the experience. And how it affected him.

Hughes was such an important figure to the Jewish survivors who knew him in Bergen-Belsen. He was a Schindler-type character in that he befriended survivors and he kept in touch with many of them for the rest of his life. He appreciated his role in their history. So who was this man? I tried to figure out who he was by meeting his surviving relatives and friends. So that was a journey, and that began almost 16 years ago.

What are a few things you'd like readers to know about Dr. Hughes?

He saw the humanity in the throngs of &ldquoliving skeletons.&rdquo His motives were moral&mdashimmediately, he vowed to save as many lives as possible. As a doctor, he would have wanted to treat more people, but he had such a big responsibility. He faced an absolutely impossible situation that was unprecedented in the history of humankind.

When he came into the camp, there were 60,000 people who were still breathing and there were 10,000 corpses. Many of the people were dying, emaciated skeletons. Inside barracks built to hold a maximum of 100 people, 600 to a thousand were crammed in and there were no sanitary facilities. Hughes described what he saw when he came into the camp, and he was totally unprepared, totally shocked.

In Bergen-Belsen, the British liberators settled on a triage system, a factory-like approach that would help them save the most lives possible. Medics went into the huts and marked the foreheads of people who were still alive, who might have a chance. And they were dealing with contagious diseases. Typhus was raging and its germ was in the dust.

I would never compare anything to that time and place, but we face a situation of medical rescue with COVID-19, and it&rsquos not over yet. Back in April, doctors in Boston wrote about how they might have to triage patients and treat only a limited number. They were using ventilators and they didn't have enough. And they were going to have to make decisions about who to try to save and who they couldn't&mdashwho was not worth the effort. This sounded to me like a wartime decision.

You describe Hughes&rsquo duties when he was in charge of dealing with mass casualties suffered by British troops after the invasion of Western Europe and during the Allied push into Germany. You do an excellent job of juxtaposing the Allied military advances and setbacks with your mother's experience. Perhaps some younger people think that the Allies landed in Europe on D-Day and then got into Germany and that was it. As you chronicle, there were many losses and setbacks for the Allies and months of brutal combat before they got into Germany. You do a commendable job of reminding people of just how incredibly bloody that Allied advance was.

I had read a lot about the Holocaust, but I felt very ignorant about the battles and what it took for the Allies to advance.

I traced Glyn Hughes&rsquos journey and his responsibilities because I wanted to know what he had already seen before he got to Bergen-Belsen. He was in charge of medical services&mdashfirst for the British Army&rsquos 8 Corps, and then for the entire British Second Army. He had to decide, for example, how to efficiently evacuate casualties. And how to lift men's morale and make them feel that medical care was near and that they'd be taken care of. And they were facing the most feared units of the German Army. The Panzer and SS units were ferocious fighters and completely dedicated to Hitler. So many young men were maimed, so many died on the way to my mother's rescue. That's a personal way of putting it, but the sacrifices were enormous.

So Hughes had big responsibilities and he was always looking at the mega-picture. Where can I commandeer a hospital? How should the transportation work? And he was always liaising with higher-ups and meeting with his assistant directors of medical services.

Hughes had overall responsibility for treatment of the wounded and sick and setting up hospitals and all sorts of logistics. So, this was far beyond what we see in a movie or television program like MASH.

Yes. It was fascinating how he instituted down-to-a-science protocols and was also very innovative. His units had to learn to set up and take down casualty clearing stations and regimental aid posts very quickly. Everything had to be movable and they had to figure out ways of treating those who suffered wounds of various types and degrees. They computed exactly how long each surgical case would take. That was 48 minutes and 32 seconds or so. Attention was paid to every conceivable detail and there was a lot of practice and preparation. Finally, at Bergen-Belsen, he and his men met an unfathomable situation for which they were totally unprepared.

And you describe vividly Hughes&rsquo impressions when he entered Bergen-Belsen, and how this horrid experience changed his life.

That was where you really saw his humanity because Hughes had seen every horrific aspect of military combat. He was a highly decorated veteran of the First World War. When he was a Regimental Medical Officer he would run onto the battlefield to try to save wounded men. He saw the bloodiest aspects of war, and he displayed great courage.

When he arrived at Bergen-Belsen, he had seen nothing like it. He said that he had seen all of horrors of war, but nothing to touch Bergen-Belsen&mdashit was so obscene and perverse. Many who were there describe it as being like Dante&rsquos Hell with the gruesome visions inside and outside the huts. And the stench. Hughes broke down crying, and I think that says so much because he was a tough, hardened, military man. And he cried. He did not initially know how he would go about creating order.

Hughes didn't follow Army protocol and file reports. He just immediately went into action to find help and impress upon the Second Army that, even though there were ongoing battles in northwest Germany, this was a humanitarian disaster and they needed to divert some units to assist at Bergen-Belsen. And he put very good people in charge of procuring resources and readying a hospital, and brought in experts in typhus control and feeding the starved. He tried to get help from wherever he could.

And the way people deal with disasters, as we see now with COVID-19, is to track numbers. Numbers are a way to get on handle on things, so that's what the British were trying to do when they arrived at Bergen-Belsen. More than 500 people were dying every day after the liberation for several weeks.

At the beginning of our current pandemic, not-yet-graduated medical students were pressed into service. In early May 1945, Hughes brought 97 medical students to Bergen-Belsen. They had been scheduled to do famine relief work in Belgium, but instead were diverted to Bergen-Belsen. And these young men did a very good job treating the backlog of patients remaining in the huts.

There were criticisms and questions about whether more could have been done.
If you put yourself in Hughes&rsquos shoes, it was just an impossible situation.

By a month or two after the liberation, some people began to recover. Some, who had been active in Zionist groups before the war, emerged as leaders. They started to organize the survivors, to build a community of &ldquodisplaced persons.&rdquo Many, in their twenties and thirties, paired up. There were a record number of weddings, and then, within a few years, of babies&mdash born in the Glyn Hughes hospital. (Survivors who observed Hughes witnessed his compassion. They named the hospital that was set up near the camp for him.)

Hughes saw this forlorn group of people organizing themselves. They brought in entertainment. They had a theater. They had their own police force. They had their own newspaper. And once people had food and clothes and some supplies, they started to show their true personalities and all this captivated Hughes. So even when he didn't have to go there anymore, he kept going every day to the Belsen DP (Displaced Persons) camp. He witnessed a remarkable transformation. The summer of 1945 was a watershed in his life.

So the Glyn Hughes hospital was built at Bergen-Belsen?

No, it was a short distance from the camp. It had formerly been a hospital for the Wehrmacht, the German Army, and there was also a nearby complex that had been used for German soldiers. There was a &ldquoroundhouse,&rdquo a large hall adorned with portraits of Hitler. All these facilities were taken over for use by the Jewish DPs.

It&rsquos striking that liberation didn't occur at the moment the British arrived. And the statistics you mention are staggering with more than 10,000 unburied dead when the British entered on April 15, 1945. And then 2,000 people died right after their first meal.

Yes. The British soldiers saw these starving people begging for food, and they gave them their rations. They gave them Spam and other foods that the digestive systems of the prisoners could not handle. Their intestines were all shriveled their bodies were dried out and dehydrated. They were eating this very rich food and they had cramping and diarrhea and they died. They just died. That was very tragic.

The British liberators did not initially know what kind of food to feed these people. They didn't have experience with this level of starvation and abuse. In India, the British gave starved people &ldquoBengal Famine Mixture,&rdquo some kind of gruel that proved too sweet for the European palates of Bergen-Belsen survivors. Hughes eventually worked up five different diets for people in various stages of emaciation and starvation, with very gradual increases in nutrients.

And one would expect the killing to stop with the arrival of the British, but it continued for days. Not just the Germans but also the Hungarian guards were shooting survivors. And didn&rsquot Dr. Hughes witness shootings of prisoners by either the SS or the Hungarians guards?

Yes. When he first came into the camp he saw some inmates running to a potato patch and the SS guards were shooting them. He saw it. He and the British officer he was with had to put an end to what was a matter of habit.

People think that the liberation happened in one day and prisoners were cheering when the Allied soldiers came in, but it didn't exactly happen that way. It was really a process.

I would say that the liberation took place over an extended period. For the first couple of days in Bergen-Belsen, Hungarian guards were left in charge-- the British didn't have enough personnel to keep order and make sure contagious prisoners didn&rsquot leave the camp. The Hungarian guards in watchtowers were shooting those who ran to the potato patches because they were starving.

There was chaos. The liberators faced problems you might not think of: trying to bring in food and water, repairing the water main break, restoring the electricity that had gone down. The Germans sabotaged camp operations before they left. It was a crazy interim period and the British were struggling to set up the facilities.

The cruelty you describe was horrific. You write that, shortly before liberation, SS guards baked ground glass into bread and fed it to prisoners as a way of eliminating more people before the Allies arrived.

Yes, and those who got the bread were so hungry that they ate it. I thought maybe that was a rumor that my mother heard, but I came across a survivor account and he said that's exactly what they did. It destroyed people's intestines, and so many died that way. The man who survived said he could feel the crunch of the ground glass between his teeth.

And then to your mother&rsquos harrowing story. Have you been collecting your mother&rsquos stories and those of other survivors since your youth?

Yes, since I was maybe 13 or 14 years old, but not intentionally or consciously. When I was a kid, maybe six or seven years old, I would ask my mother about her childhood because it was so interesting and different than how I was growing up on Long Island. She grew up in Romania, which seemed exotic and romantic to me. And then she would tell me about her postwar life in Sweden.

She was smart in sharing her stories. She's just such a positive person. She never wanted to tell me how hard things were: how poor she was in Romania or how sick she was in Sweden. Mostly she told me about her adventures, the fun and daring things she did. And she talked about how kind the Swedish people were, and what a wonderful country it was.

But when I was about 14, the age she was when she had been taken away, she started to tell me what happened during the war. What happened in Auschwitz. What she experienced as a 14- and 15-year-old. She said, What would it be like if someone were to tell you that in two months your family would be killed and you would lose your friends, your entire community, everything you ever had or owned? You'd think they were crazy. You couldn't imagine that happening.

And she would tell me all this before the word Holocaust was out there. This was what happened during the war, and she wasn't talking about it to other people. She wasn't even talking about it with my father, who was also a survivor. But late at night, we'd be down in the basement laundry room, and she&rsquod tell me. She was ironing one night and she put down the iron and she stretched her arms out behind her and knelt over. She said this was how she, then 50 percent dead, had to drag the dead to a mass grave. Some were not even dead-- they were still breathing.

And I couldn&rsquot shake that image from my mind. I was going to high school then and I wasn&rsquot hearing anything like that in my history classes. Later, I studied and taught the Holocaust. But I knew little about the war. Finally, I started to research events&mdashlarger contexts&mdashthat bore on my mother&rsquos fate. But I also held her particular story. By following an individual, one can begin to grasp the wider story. Writers and film producers understand that.

The story of your mother and Glyn Hughes would make a gripping movie. Her odyssey was incredible. She and her sister Elisabeth were rounded up by the Nazis. They were taken to Auschwitz first and then to a labor camp and then marched to the horrific Bergen-Belsen. She experienced different forms of incarceration. Each was brutal and dehumanizing, but younger readers may not understand the different forms of imprisonment used by the Nazis.

Yes. She was captured in the last year of the war. The Germans were losing the war, and already millions had been murdered. My mother and her family were taken in the massive Hungarian deportation in the spring of 1944 and deported to Auschwitz&mdashthe largest death camp where one and a half million people were killed.

My mother was shocked and she might have been numb. In Auschwitz, those who were temporarily spared were given ersatz coffee or &ldquofood&rdquo laced with bromide, a drug that numbed their senses.

There was a chance&mdashfor those who were fit&mdashof surviving Auschwitz. There was this tension among German higher-ups between needing slave laborers and wanting to kill as many Jews as possible. About ten percent of the more than 424,000 arrivals from the Hungarian provinces who were deemed strong enough were siphoned off&mdashthey could be worked to death slowly.

Some were tattooed&mdashthey were meant to be around for a while and given a number. My mother was not tattooed. She was among thousands of &ldquodepot prisoners&rdquo who were being held to see if they might be needed for the war effort or sent to the gas chambers, which were operating day and night. It must have been hell seeing the smoke from the ovens and the red sky and smelling the stench of burning bodies. When my mother asked a longtime prisoner where her parents were, the woman told her to look at the smoke. That&rsquos where they are.

It was just horrific. And to think she was a kid who had never been outside her little town. She had never traveled anywhere away from home. She had never slept anywhere else. And here she was in this inconceivable place called Auschwitz&mdasha death camp. And everyone around her was in the same terrifying situation.

She missed her parents&rsquo protection, but she was the type of kid who could fend for herself. She had had big responsibilities at home&mdashheavy chores and helping with her grandmother&rsquos butcher business. She had to deliver orders of poultry to distant parts of town, and made her way back in the dark after curfew. And so, once she somehow acclimated to Auschwitz-Birkenau, she looked to what she could do to survive.

And she volunteered for different duties. She took out the pail of excrement at night to see if there was something useful she might find. She volunteered for work that would earn her a piece of bread. She dared to beg privileged prisoners for a bit of something they might have on them.

For the two months she was in Auschwitz, she did not know whether she would die the next day. I describe in the book the various &ldquoselections&rdquo&mdashto think that some SS officer would determine whether you would live or die by looking you over for a second is crazy making. Harrowing. And so difficult for we who were not there to imagine.

Bergen-Belsen, this center of one of the most horrific atrocities in human history, had to also seem insane to an innocent young teen.

Yes. And no matter where you came from, no matter what your background or profession, everybody was equal there. It didn't matter if you were rich or poor or had an education or not. Everyone was in the same horrifying boat. But some people knew better than others how to cope with hardship. I would ask my aunts and uncles&mdashall survivors&mdashabout their experiences. They told me that those who were not used to hard work at home, those who had maids and had been pampered, had a harder time than people who had not been coddled.

That my mother and her sister Elisabeth managed to leave Auschwitz together was a miracle. They were selected to work in one of the thousands of labor camps because again, the Germans needed slave laborers.

Conditions varied by camp and much depended on the type of work that you were forced to do, the dispositions of the overseers, the rations that you were given&mdashthe Germans realized they had to feed prisoners if they wanted them to produce before dropping dead.

At the Christianstadt labor camp, my mother was picked to work in the kitchen. This was like winning the million-dollar lottery. She could eat the SS officers&rsquo leftovers. And that's probably the reason she survived ultimately because she had six months in this environment. It was still a very dangerous place, but she could take chances and get nourishment.

But at the beginning of February 1945 came the death march. During the final chaotic months of the war the Nazis evacuated camps in the paths of would-be liberators so no inmate would fall alive into Allied hands.

That was the Nazi plan. You vividly describe the death march of your mother and her sister to the camp. So many people died or were killed by guards on that brutal trek to Bergen-Belsen.

Yes. My mother and her sister were on this death march. After five weeks on the road and one torturous week in a cattle train they arrived in Bergen-Belsen. It was mid-March, about two weeks after Anne Frank died there. She was older than my mother. And death was the norm. About 17,000 people died in March in Bergen-Belsen.

Didn&rsquot Anne Frank die of typhus?

Yes. And probably of other things as well.

Many people don't understand the difference between Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz. Auschwitz was a killing factory. You didn't see emaciated people there because people had come (in the case of the Hungarian transports) straight from their homes. Most inmates didn't last long. They were killed right away or within a short time.

Bergen-Belsen was a camp of the war ravaged. It had the largest number of inmates at the end of the war. They had been through so much. Many were but musselmanner, living skeletons. And disease was rampant. At least three epidemics were raging in the camp at the time the British came in.

Tens of thousands of prisoners congregated at Bergen-Belsen. Didn&rsquot the Nazis disagree on whether these people should be exterminated or still used as slave labor? And didn't Himmler suggest keeping the camp intact because he knew that the war was nearly over and he didn't want to be responsible for more extermination?

Yes. At that point in the war, there wasn't a question of using the prisoners for slave labor. The focus was on getting them away from the liberators, on following Hitler&rsquos orders: no inmate was to be left alive. That's why they were dumped in Bergen-Belsen and other camps inside Germany.

In early April, Himmler ordered the killing of all the inmates in certain camps. Then, he turned Bergen-Belsen over to the British Army intact. This is a &ldquotruth is stranger than fiction&rdquo story. His masseuse played a part in it. As I describe in the book, it&rsquos just an unbelievable story about how he was convinced to hand over this camp to the British Second Army rather than kill everybody. Maybe he thought that a show of humanity would somehow save him. But he killed himself when the British found him.

Anyway, in this unprecedented move, the Germans handed over Bergen-Belsen to the British. It was a crisis situation, because if they bombed the camp or there was fighting in the area, some prisoners could escape and spread disease throughout the countryside and that was a risk for the people fighting in the area, the Germans and the British, as well as civilians.

The handover occurred just three weeks before the end of the war. If that had not happened, my mother wouldn't have survived. I wouldn't be here. It was a race against time for her and other of the inmates to &ldquohold on.&rdquo Tragically, the race was lost for too many. Thousands kept dying even after the liberation.

There are so many strange twists to the story. You write that the Bergen-Belsen Commandant Josef Kramer and a brutal SS guard Irma Grese conducted a tour of Bergen-Belsen for the first British troops who arrived on the morning of April 15. Kramer and Grese seemed quite proud of this hellscape they&rsquod created.

It was bizarre. They were in the habit of killing. This was what they did for their jobs. And they believed in what they were doing. They regarded the inmates as subhuman.

And in the meantime, your mother registers the liberation and she was elated but, within a couple of days, she's very ill, and then some fellow prisoners beat her mercilessly. And so, your mother was actually dying?

Yes. In telling the story, I wanted to show what was actually happening on the ground, behind the scenes. My mother was beaten to a pulp by her fellow inmates days after the British arrived. People treated so poorly had been reduced to this animalistic state, and they didn't just snap out of it on the day of the liberation. It was a long process to come back to life. My mother was near death after having been beaten so badly. I explain that in the book.

My mother was placed in a makeshift hospital room for dying prisoners. Every day for three weeks, 11 of the 12 people in her room died and 11 nearly dead were brought in to fill their beds. She hung on. She described those details to me when I was a teenager. Later, when I wrote her story, I could calculate practically the day that she was evacuated to the hospital because I had read accounts of the evacuation. The bits of information she told me were windows into larger contexts.

It&rsquos an amazing survival story&mdasha story of the narrowest escape. The rescuers presumed your mother would die, yet she hung on for weeks. If they used triage, then she was grouped with those who weren&rsquot expected to survive.

Yes. And she was unconscious when she was taken to &ldquothe human laundry.&rdquo She didn't know it was called that until I researched the rescue.

Before she was beaten, but after the British arrived, she wandered to this warehouse that contained tons of clothing and she picked her way through seams and lapels and found all these treasures&mdashgold pens, rings, currency&mdashthe deportees had brought with them. And her greatest heartbreak was the moment she came to and realized her precious stash had been taken away from her. There were all these heartbreaks. And then, when she came to full consciousness she thought, &ldquoI survived, but how lucky am I? I lost my home, my family, and my health.&rdquo

Her sister Elisabeth also survived and Elisabeth was with your mother for much of the time? Helping each other must have had a role in their survival.

Yes. It was very important to have a partner in one&rsquos struggles. Elisabeth sacrificed her life for my mother at Auschwitz. She was ready to die with my mother when she herself was picked for possible labor. At that moment, Elisabeth showed her love and deep compassion for her sister. From that point on, my mother did everything in her power to help my aunt survive whatever trials they went through. She would &ldquoorganize&rdquo food for the both of them. They helped each other. And when my mother was in that makeshift hospital, knowing that her sister was alive and in decent shape was a real driving force for her because, if she died, she would be leaving her sister all alone in the world.

My mother mustered her will to live because of Elisabeth and because she was only 15 and felt she had not yet lived much of life. She didn't know how very sick she was or how long recovery would take, but she fought to have a chance. And her father's parting words to her in the cattle car before they got to Auschwitz came back to her&mdashhe had confidence that she would make it. She had to live up to his words.

Your mother was eventually evacuated from Bergen-Belsen to Sweden. What was the role of Sweden in helping survivors of the camps, and how did your mother, unlike many other people, wind up there and then live there for ten years?

The Swedes led a humanitarian mission to save these people and help them get back on their feet. Perhaps they felt guilt over their neutrality or how they helped Hitler during the war. ¿Quién sabe? But they took in about 7,000 really sick people from Bergen-Belsen. The idea was to rehabilitate them and, after about six months of medical treatment, they would go on their way and maybe be repatriated in their home countries.

When my mother got to Sweden, she was very sick. She had tuberculosis, and she was in various TB sanatoriums and rest homes in Sweden for ten years. I don't know any survivor who went to Sweden who didn't say that Sweden was wonderful and the Swedish people were kind, and that meant so much. These people had seen the worst of humanity and then in Sweden they were so well cared for. My mother had certain post-war experiences that showed her that there was still humanity in the world.

My mother loved Sweden. When we (my sister and I) were growing up, our house was a mixture of cultures, with certain traditions and foods from Hungary, Romania, and Sweden. Though my parents wanted to be American, they couldn&rsquot help but transmit what they carried from Europe.

Robin Lindley: You describe many moving moments in your writing. I can&rsquot recall if this scene was from your new book, but after the liberation there were thousands of displaced persons left at Bergen-Belsen. One drop of supplies included a large shipment of lipstick. The soldiers thought that this shipment just useless, but women survivors were thrilled and eagerly accepted the lipstick. It was almost part of their resurrection&mdasha restoration of human dignity after being dehumanized for months and years. That story was so moving.

Humanitarian organizations, such as the Red Cross and Jewish organizations, were sending shipments to Bergen-Belsen. And they got this huge box of lipsticks and whoever opened it thought that was ridiculous and completely useless. And then they distributed the lipsticks and that was the best feeling for the women when they started to put on lipstick. They felt like human beings again. And when they were given clothes or a needle and thread and some old garments that they could tailor, life came back to them. They wanted to make themselves look presentable and attractive to the opposite sex. Little things that you might not think about really mattered.

Yes. A marvelous story of the renewal.

And becoming human again. There are so many of those little stories. In one instance, a soldier turned to Jewish leader and said, &ldquoLook at that woman. She's crazy. She's combing her hair with a broken piece of a comb.&rdquo And the leader said, &ldquoYou give her a real comb and see which she would choose. Then you could see if she were crazy.&rdquo

These people were so deprived and they didn't have the basic supplies that we take for granted. If they had a choice, and they were given the real thing, they wouldn&rsquot have looked crazy. And they were used to saving every little thing they could get their hands on&mdasha piece of string had uses.

Adjusting to life after the war had to be challenging. How is your mother doing now?

She's doing well. Thank you for asking. I worry about her because of the pandemic. I can't visit with her and she normally has a lot of speaking engagements. She&rsquos really wonderful. She has such a great message when she speaks to kids, and she speaks to a lot of middle and high school students about the Holocaust.

What did she think of your book?

She read drafts of it, and I kept her abreast of the entire publishing process, so she learned a lot. She is happy that I achieved the goal of writing her story, and we are both happy to have saved members of our family&mdasha few of the six million&mdashfrom oblivion.

She must be really proud of you.

We are proud of each other.

Does she live in a senior facility?

No. She&rsquos going to be 91 in a few weeks, and she lives in her own home and takes care of everything in the home herself.

That&rsquos amazing. She&rsquos still doing well after all of those narrow escapes. Please give her my best regards.

I will. Thank you so much for your interest and this interview.

It&rsquos been a pleasure talking with you Dr. Lerner. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful and moving comments. And congratulations on your compelling and illuminating new book All the Horrors of War on the journeys of your mother and the liberator Brigadier Glyn Hughes, MD.


Belsen 92

The importance of this imagined site “Belsen” in the public discourse has shifted a number of times since the end of World War II. There were periods when “Belsen” was almost marginalised, but at other times it was very much present again. This was so in the 1990s during the wars in former Yugoslavia and the discussions about a “liberal interventionist” approach to foreign policy which sought to justify military intervention in cases of a humanitarian crisis or gross violation of human rights.

A compelling example is the news coverage of the Serbian policy of ethnic cleansing during the first months of the Bosnia conflict. On August 7 1992 the front page of the Daily Mirror was dominated by the headline: “The Picture That Shames The World – BELSEN 92”. The photo showed emaciated men behind a barbed-wire fence in Trnopolje camp in northern Bosnia – and, in case any reader did not make the connection with “Belsen 1945”, the article set out explicitly:

The haunting picture of these skeletal captives evokes the ghosts of the Nazis’ Belsen concentration camp during the Second World War.

A number of controversial military interventions in the past decade have discredited this interventionist doctrine – and the image of “Belsen” has somewhat faded away. But there’s no doubt that this imagined site still exists in the British memory landscape, ready to be brought to the fore when it becomes useful. The anniversaries of the liberation of the “real” Bergen-Belsen concentration camp serve to re-affirm the origins of this imagined site and its parameters.



Comentarios:

  1. Moogular

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  2. Shashicage

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  3. Kaiden

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  4. Scirloc

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  6. Mathias

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  7. Babafemi

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