Freitag, April 15, 2005

AFP: Survivors meet again to mark liberation of Bergen-Belsen camp

BERGEN, Germany (AFP) - Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen, where 70,000 people died, gathered for a low-key ceremony to mark their liberation by British troops 60 years ago to the day.
The camp near Hanover in northern Germany was the first to be liberated by British troops on April 15, 1945, just weeks before Nazi Germany surrendered.
Soldiers discovered piles of naked bodies, mainly women, in the disease-infested camp which burned down shortly afterwards.

Officials from the state of Lower Saxony were to visit the site of the camp to talk with a group of young people from nine countries who have been meeting there for the past week.

The children from Germany, Israel, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Belarus and Norway will meet survivors, a statement from the regional authorities said.

The children have been trying to piece together evidence about the lives of the camp inmates, who numbered 70,000 by 1945.

An official ceremony will take place on Sunday.

In Britain, a ceremony of commemoration was to take place in London's Hyde Park on Friday in the presence of Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks while survivors and soldiers and medical volunteers who liberated the camp are also due to attend.

The Nazis opened Bergen-Belsen in 1940 and the first convoys of French and Belgian prisoners of war began arriving.

As World War II wore on, the Nazis used the camp to hold Jews from all over Europe whom they hoped to exchange in return for captured German soldiers.

Eventually only several hundred Jews were ever 'swapped'. Tens of thousands were killed or died of hunger and disease.

"People welcomed the liberation in every language possible," recalled one survivor, Adolf Gawalewicz, a Polish lawyer who was suffering from typhoid when the British troops arrived.

"At the actual moment of liberation, I recall I had a terrible thirst and my only thought was how to get rid of it," Gawalewicz recalled in his book about his experiences.

In the weeks that followed the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, British troops gathered and buried 10,000 bodies in mass graves.

Ceremonies are also planned this weekend in the camps of Sachsenhausen near Berlin and Buchenwald in eastern Germany.

A national memorial to the Jewish victims of the Nazis is due to open in central Berlin on May 10, two days after the 60th anniversary of Germany's capitulation.

New laws have been passed to prevent neo-Nazi protesters from being able to approach the site near the Brandenburg Gate on that day.