The Liberation of Bergen Belsen 

 

Eugene and his daughter Lilian at Rudding Park on 15 April 2015

 

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation at Bergen Belsen on 15 April 1945,

Eugene Black, Prisoner 55546, remembers his time in the camp:

"It was in March 1945 that they put us on a train again, into the cattle wagons. There were about 3000 of us and the train set off. We did not know where we were going. By this time we were already starved and in a bad condition. The train took us all over Germany and they tried to off load us many times but nobody would take us. We were seven days and seven nights on that train, with no food, no water and every now and again they would stop and the dead bodies would be thrown off. Eventually we arrived at a siding in a forest and we were offloaded and made to march about 7km through a forest until we arrived at a gate which said Bergen Belsen. Anyone who could not go on was shot - only 500 of us marched through those gates. We were put into Camp No 2, into barracks which had been for the Wehrmacht. There were no beds, we just sat on the concrete floor. If I thought Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Dora-Mittelbau camps were bad then this was a living hell. We still had to go on Appell to be counted. This time there were seven people who shared a loaf of bread and then there was no bread. In the last week there was no water, no food, people were eating grass. People were just dropping down dead, like flies. I saw things that no human person should see - people biting into the flesh of others. I could not do this but what I did do was take the clothes from people because they were better than mine and I searched the pockets of dead people, just for a crumb.

On that Sunday 15 April 1945, I will never forget it, it was a sunny day and we were called out on Appell. It was 3pm. Those who could stand up were at the muster parade, with Kramer and his entourage. We didn't know what was happening. Then the gates opened and a jeep drove in with some other vehicles and pulled up in front of Kramer. We did not know who they were - we just looked and suddenly this major jumped down, went up to Kramer and took his weapons along with those of the other soldiers. They were bundled into a barrack and then they came out about 20 minutes later. Kramer was in his britches, no shirt on, looking dishevelled and then they were made to immediately start collecting the dead bodies. Some of the prisoners went mad and they attacked the Kapos, took about 80 of them into a barrack and threw them out of the top floor windows. It was terrible. Shortly afterwards some lorries came in and started throwing us bread, white bread we hadn't seen since home. Of course we couldn't take the food, it just went straight through us. You know there were 30,000 of us liberated and 15,000 died after liberation, we were so starved. The British did everything for us. If they hadn't arrived when they did, we would have all been dead. I will never forget this day, it was my second birthday. Eventually they took us to a hospital in Celle to recover and I met a Captain Basil Ellenbogen who was a doctor with the British Army and he was wonderful to us. He later helped me when I came to Britain in 1949. Eventually I got better and became an interpreter with the British Army in Germany. They fed me, clothed me and looked after me. I was 17 years of age, stateless, an orphan, with no-one and nowhere to go. They were marvellous and I will never forget what the British did for me".

 

Eugene Black