A sobering experience


Harder than Ronnie Pickering
Meanwood, Leeds
After much dithering - will we, won't we, Rohit and I took a detour to visit the Mauthausen Concentration camp memorial. It was primarily a work camp but it also had a small gas chamber and a crematorium. The we're many photographic displays and the German captions needed no translation. What was the most striking was the diversity of the ethnicity of the victims. I never expected to see Spanish and Chinese memorial plaques for example. It was a very silent descent from the hill top where the camp was situated.

Mad Doug Biker

Bikeoholics Anonymous
Craggy Island
I visited Aushwitz a few years back, and the place was full of tourists (including myself I hasten to add, although not in a bad way). I think I'll need to go back in the middle of winter sometime when it is deserted instead.

I have also been to Sachsenhausen, but even there, there were German families with kids who just would not shut up! :rolleyes: That said, I had just fallen off a small cliff a week beforehand, gaining some head injuries, so I don't really remember much about it anyway :blush:


Comrade Member
Limoges or York
Witness acount:

Whatever human sympathy we had with the plight of the ordinary German at that time was entirely changed by the discovery of the state of affairs at Belsen concentration camp between Rethem and Celle.

The advance of 15th Scottish Division was suddenly checked a few miles south of the camp (which we did not know existed at that stage). There were rumours of high-level Red Cross negotiations about a risk of typhus and then the advance continued the next day. I was travelling along the Corps route with the ground-party when we came to a crossroads outside a small village. There was obviously something unusual going on, with small groups of people standing beside the road. One or two wore blue and white striped clothing, like pyjamas. As we came up to them we saw that they were desperately thin, their skin a dull grey-green stretched tightly over the forehead, cheekbones and lower jaw, with the neck-muscles standing out.Their heads were shaved and they were scarcely able to shuffle. Others were sitting or lying by the roadside, with a group of German civilians some way off just staring at them or looking the other way as if they did not exist.
That was Belsen. We had been held up to allow the Swedish (or Swiss) Government to organise an orderly handover of the camp between the departing German guards and our forward troops (true to the great German maxim of 'alles in ordnung', with no doubt an exchange of receipts for the live and dead stock within the camp). The fear was that typhus might break out and be spread far and wide by the escaping inmates, if the camp was left unguarded. In fact there were few indeed with the strength to struggle beyond the gates when the German guards withdrew. As well as the civilian camp, there was also a Russian P.O.W. camp where 50,000 prisoners had died in captivity and not far away an SS tank-range. The people in the nearby village of Bergen preferred to ignore the whole matter, as they had done for several years past.
During the next few days we had to fly up or down the Corps axis over the camp. As the camp was cleared the dead were taken out of the huts and their bodies stacked like sacks in long heaps which grew bigger daily and could be seen from the air like big potato-clamps. The smell of putrefaction was so strong that it could be smelt a hundred feet above.


Smutmaster General
I also made a visit to Auschwitz some years ago, while working for a week in Krakow. It was,indeed,a sobering experience,and one I'll never forget.


Puzzle game developer
Witness acount:
Witness account said:
Whatever human sympathy we had with the plight of the ordinary German at that time was entirely changed by the discovery of the state of affairs at Belsen concentration camp between Rethem and Celle.
I remember watching the episode of The World at War dealing with the concentration camps with my father back in the early 1970s. Naturally, I was really appalled at what I saw. After the programme finished, my father told me that his unit had been one of the first into a concentration camp, and I think it might have been Belsen. The troops were so angry at what they found there that they went into a nearby village and forced its German civilians to come to the camp and help them bury the bodies in mass graves. The villagers kept muttering that they knew nothing, it wasn't their fault etc. etc. Apparently, none of them had ever noticed the stench of burning and rotting flesh, or the fact that thousands of people were being herded in there every week, yet none of them ever came back out ...

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