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Gedenkstätte Bergen-Belsen (Bergen-Belsen Memorial)
Gedenkstätte Bergen-Belsen (Bergen-Belsen Memorial) Review
At the site of the infamous concentration camp on the Lüneburg Heath, the Gedenkstätte Bergen-Belsen pays tribute to the victims of the Holocaust. Diarist Anne Frank was among the more than 80,000 persons who died here.
Only the gruesome photographs on display will tell what the camp looked like. There's nothing left of it. The British liberators found thousands and thousands of unburied corpses all over the camp, so as a precaution against disease, all structures were burned to the ground. Volunteer youth groups have unearthed the foundations of the barracks.
Those who venture onto the site of the camp may be surprised at its pleasant, parklike appearance. Reminders of the horrors that once happened here include numerous burial mounds, mostly overgrown with heather and with stones with such inscriptions as "here lie 1,000 dead." Anne Frank probably lies in one of them. The SS officers had hoped to have the dead buried and out of sight before the British forces arrived, but the starving prisoners were too weak for the job. Under the direction of the British, the graves you see were dug and filled by the SS officers themselves. The British tried and executed the camp's SS commandant, Josef Kramer, the "Beast of Belsen."
Monuments and shrines include a Jewish memorial dating to 1946, with a commemorative stone dedicated by the Israeli president in 1987; an obelisk and memorial wall erected by the British; a wooden cross dating from only weeks after the liberation; and a commemorative stone from the German government. The main feature of the memorial is a permanent exhibition on the history of the camp and the Nazi persecution system. It's now located in a splendid building that includes a library and research facilities.
Though all signs are in German, there are supplementary guides in English and eight other languages. There are also regular showings of a movie on the camp in English, German, and French. Children under 12 are not admitted to the showings, and it's said that one of the British photographers who made the footage couldn't bear to look at his work in later years.
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