Author Topic: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?  (Read 53101 times)

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Offline baccalieu

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Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« on: October 09, 2008, 19:44:28 »

April 15, 1945 in History British and Canadian troops liberate Nazi camp of Bergen-Belsen

Does anyone have information on this? Were there any Canadian units in the liberation?
the only thing i can dredge up so far is
"Mr Saul Laskin served in the Canadian Army with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders
in Holland and Germany and was part of the Canadian forces that liberated Bergen-Belsen".

I can find no info indicating the North Novas were there.

Offline Medic65726

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2008, 20:11:57 »
My Grand-father (Major, Royal Artillery, Retd.) was there at the liberation. I will try to ask him if he recalls any Canadian Units being there.

Online kkwd

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2008, 21:57:38 »
The British 11th Armoured Division were the ones involved in the liberation. The liberation occurred on 15 April 1945.
They were part of the Allied 21st Army Group which included the 2nd British Army and the First Canadian Army.
The 11th Armoured Division were a British only unit but they may have had Canadian soldiers attached as liaison and such.
When I checked on Saul Laskin I see you got your info from his obituary. It mentioned he was a member of The North Nova Scotia Highlanders.
At the time of the liberation they were involved in a battle in Ijsselmeer, The Netherlands from 15 April to 18 April 1945.
So it seems if he was not attached to a British unit it would have been impossible for him to be there at liberation.
That being said, it does not say that he or any other Canadian soldier may not have been present at the time seeing the international makeup of forces during this period. It would just take some deep research into unit war diaries and personal accounts.
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Offline TCBF

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2008, 22:32:03 »
- I am from Port Arthur/Thunder Bay.  Saul Laskin was the last mayor of Port Arthur and - after amalgamation with Fort William on 1 Jan 1970 - the first (and perhaps the best ever) mayor of Thunder Bay.  I was not aware of his WW2 service.  In a city of 100,000, full of Veterans from both world wars, I can't recall him campaigning on it.

 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081005.wlaskinobit1005/BNStory/National/home

"Disarming the Canadian public is part of the new humanitarian social agenda."   - Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axeworthy at a Gun Control conference in Oslo, Norway in 1998.


"I didn’t feel that it was an act of violence; you know, I felt that it was an act of liberation, that’s how I felt you know." - Ann Hansen, Canadian 'Urban Guerrilla'(one of the "Squamish Five")

Offline Blackadder1916

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2008, 23:51:01 »
There is some discussion of this topic on another forum http://discuss.50plus.com/ipb/index.php?showtopic=17353 .  Most internet sources (somewhat lacking in detail) usually seem to describe the liberators as "British and Canadian" but that may be more a general description of 21 Army Group rather than the specific nationality of the actual units that "first" arrived at Bergen-Belsen.  That some Canadian soldiers were at Bergen-Belsen following the liberation is without question; a notable example is the war artist Alex Colville who produced some works based on his experience there.  However, when they were there and whether there was any formal task is another question.  Of note, Colville got to Bergen-Belsen about two weeks following its liberation and the massive horror of the place was still evident.  (This may be purely coincidental, but) Colville had been attached to 3rd Canadian Infantry Division at the time he went to the concentration camp; the North Novas (Laskin's regiment) were in the 9th Infantry Brigade from that division.  It is conceiveable that a number of Canadian soldiers "visited" the camp just to see it, something that appears to have been not uncommon if one was in the vicinity.  Also (though I've not found any substantiation, just a faint recollection of something I read) it is possible that Canadian units (perhaps more at the Army level) may have provided some resources (medical, logistical) to evacuate or care for those found in the camp.
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Offline TCBF

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2008, 00:11:13 »
- Anyone have this book?

Details courtesy Amazon:

No retreating footsteps: The story of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders [IMPORT] (Unknown Binding)
by Will R Bird (Author)

Unknown Binding: 398 pages
Publisher: Kentville publishing Co. Ltd (1954)
ASIN: B0000CPMRZ

... and this from an Australian book seller (a bit pricey? Wot? Crikey...  )

64765 Bird, Will R.
No Retreating Footsteps : The Story of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders
Kentville Publishing Co Kentville Nova Scotia nd (1955) Hard Cover GoodBlue cloth hard cover with gilt regimental crest on cover and no dj. Owner name on title page ow unmarked.. Moderate wear to edges of covers. Both hinges are cracked and appear like they may have bee...
Dustjacket Books and Treasures (Canada)     $665.64AUD
More details - Order - Enquire
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
64767 Bird, Will R.
No Retreating Footsteps : The Story of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders
Kentville Publishing Co Kentville Nova Scotia nd (1955) Dust Jacket Very Good Hard Cover Near FineNear fine Blue cloth hard cover with gilt regimental crest on cover in a vg original dj now in mylar. Clean tight and unmarked .Dj is worn on edges with some short tears ( repaired from inside) and a...
Dustjacket Books and Treasures (Canada)     $1174.66AUD
« Last Edit: October 10, 2008, 00:13:47 by TCBF »
"Disarming the Canadian public is part of the new humanitarian social agenda."   - Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axeworthy at a Gun Control conference in Oslo, Norway in 1998.


"I didn’t feel that it was an act of violence; you know, I felt that it was an act of liberation, that’s how I felt you know." - Ann Hansen, Canadian 'Urban Guerrilla'(one of the "Squamish Five")

Offline prairefire

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2008, 00:20:10 »
My Uncle was a medic in WW2, Landed at Juno Beach, where he received a medal, I believe an MC for bravery under fire. He was also at Bergen-Belsen. He would rarely talk about it. Once he told me that the time he spent there trying to save souls was tougher on him then the D-Day Landings and the fighting through Walchereen Island. I beleive he was detached from his Canadian Army unit to a British Medical Detachment because the incredible numbers of the near dead and starving survivors were overwhelming the initial medical releif effort.

Offline baccalieu

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2008, 00:30:51 »
There is some discussion of this topic on another forum http://discuss.50plus.com/ipb/index.php?showtopic=17353
Yes. I brought it forward from that site as I felt it would be an appropriate topic
for Military History and at the same time perhaps find the answer that would satisfy
my curiosity.

Offline stryte

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2008, 00:37:52 »
TCBF:

Yikes that is an expensive book if you want an early printing. One is even going for $1400.00 on kijiji in Moncton. However someone in Halifax has one for "best offer"
http://halifax.kijiji.ca/c-buy-and-sell-books-No-Retreating-Footsteps-By-Will-R-Bird-W0QQAdIdZ67436403

Otherwise and this is a long shot but maybe give this site an email. They carry some of Will R Bird's other works and might be able to help.

http://www.cefbooks.ca/

Offline Blackadder1916

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2008, 00:47:38 »
From a site titled Hohne - Witness to Infamy, a few more details about the liberation and the relief operation that followed.

Part II   Liberation Days ~ 15th April to 18th April 1945
Part III  The Relief Operation ~April 1945 - June 1945
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Offline Gasplug

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2008, 05:13:15 »
After Operation Varsity, (The crossing of the Rhine) 1 Cdn Parachute Battalion remained attached to the British forces for the remainder of the war. They eventually even reached the Baltic Sea.  Any book on the history of the Canadian Airborne forces by Col Bernd Horn would confirm whether tehy were in at the liberation of Bergen-Belsen.

Cheers,

Gasplug :salute:

Offline susseddm

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2008, 09:26:51 »
My Grand-father (Major, Royal Artillery, Retd.) was there at the liberation. I will try to ask him if he recalls any Canadian Units being there.


May I ask, what is your grandfather's name? And do you know the dates he was there?

Thanks.


Offline Michael O'Leary

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2008, 09:47:22 »

No mention of Bergen-Belsen in this reference:

Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War, Vol III The Victory Campaign: The Operations in Northwest Europe, 1944-45

http://www.dnd.ca/dhh/collections/books/files/books/Victory_e.pdf

Offline Medic65726

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2008, 12:03:12 »
He retired in 1953 as a Major, but IIRC he would have been an Lt. at the time (he referred to himself at the time as a 23 year old subaltern.
My Grand-father is Maj.T.D.J.Finnie RA (Retd.) but not sure of the dates he would have been there.
I'll let you know what he says. He also wrote an article on the liberation that appeared in "Gunner" magazine, the RA magazine.
He was in 13 Regt. RHA (Honourable Artillery Company).
I can't post the whole article here but if anyone is interested, just PM me, but here follows some correspondence of his from a couple of years ago to a USN Capt. doing reserach for a Holocaust Museum in Richmond, Virginia. It is not entirely on topic, but hopefully is of interest. It may ramble a little but I'm sure we all would in our mid-eighties and referencing things that happened over 60 years ago. But it is a bit of the memoirs of an old soldier.
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Altho' not a member/ex member I respond to your appeal to 113 LAA Regt in the Dec '04 issue of the 'Gunner' . I recall involvement, at Belsen,  of officers of the LAA Regt in 11 Armd. Div at the time, but don't remember the Regt ident.. Lacking an ORBAT, I accept your view that it was 113. I also accept your date. I was there - but keeping of diaries streng verboten !   
 
At the time I was a Troop Leader of the leading Battery of 13 (HAC) SP Fd Regt RHA armed with ' Sextons'  (25 pounders mounted on 'Sherman' tank chassis) supporting the leading tank Squadron of 29 Armd Bde. (15/19 Lancers?) in 'Shermans'.
The head of the Div column halted on the south side of the River Aller, opposite Winsen. Shortly afterwards a German 88 mm, 1 km east of the bridge,  lobbed a round 60 yds short of my half-track - and was rapidly silenced by one of our tanks.   
 
Increasingly perplexed by 'nothing happening' I did a local recce but found it impossible to get off the raised road or turn to put my troop in action. The left side was thick pine forest; the right a drop into open ground and in view of hostile troops, if any, on the other side of the river, less than 1 km away. The column was similarly stuck in front & behind. Impossible to move.
 
Always aware how useless guns are if unable immediately to deploy, my Troop Sergeant Major on his own initiative recce'd unsuccessfully to find a gun position the other side of the wood on the left. The wood continued for far too great a distance without promise of a suitable clearing.  On their return the driver of the TSM's  Bren carrier did not notice passing beneath  a low slung telephone cable across the forest track - which strangled the TSM. The driver of my half-track was the TSM's younger brother. (You may imagine his feelings and mine. The column ever to be ready to move, he could not leave the vehicle - in fact he just sat there uncomprehendingly anyway poor chap.  No further comment from me - and they should remain anonymous) 
 
After a long delay we were told that a cease-fire zone had been created on both sides of the road running north beyond the R. Aller. To the left an area of forest enclosed the concentration camp.To  the right, in a couple of square miles of mostly pine forest,  an enormous quantity of ammunition of all kinds, including gas shells,  had been dispersed and stored. We and the local German population could have been annihilated had a single round landed there.
 
Clearly we also wanted no friendly round either to fall in the concentration camp - nor break the wire and let the captives free to roam. They had to be contained - for their benefit and ours. 
 
When eventually we moved forward we found the Belsen camp guarded by Hungarian troops in light  mustard coloured uniforms - to keep us clear of inmates, despite our enormous natural sympathy.  (German troops did not stay -- presumably in case they were blamed for the camp  - and 'dealt with' ?) A few pathetic bedraggled inmates came to the wire, pleading to us in tongues not understood.. 12,000  others were dead or dying inside the camp. All operational troops were forbidden to go anywhere near the wire for fear of catching dread diseases. Despite the 'Cease Fire' in that limited area, we were still at war.   
 
Two officers of the divisional LAA Regt (which had had little to do at this stage of the war) were deputed to take charge (of whom?)  initially. I was later told the two or three days experience changed their lives. They were no longer the same hale and hearty men when relieved.  Presumably they were from 113 Regt. I do not know.
 
I suggest that, without valid confirmation, you treat any claims by British as to involvement inside the camp with scepticism. Clearing up and burials were done by Germans under high level GHQ control. Formations in the field were still operational at full complement and the war had not then ended.  Germans from Celle, 8 miles east were bussed out to witness the scenes.. A film of that was later broadcast (commentary by Richard Dimbleby ?) 
 
By chance, in March 1947 I was posted to 652 AOP Sqn stationed at Celle.. By that time the Belsen camp had been flattened and the dead decently buried - and I had no impulse to revisit the site, nor to take with me my young bride.  Although Belsen was clearly visible from a public road,  I had detected no trace of concern, let alone guilt amongst the local people. "That was nothing to do with us"  Even at that late stage I suppose few would argue with the NAZI party?  "I was only carrying out orders" was a mantra later heard repeatedly. There seemed to be no concept of personal responsibility or conscience.
 
History comes to haunt.
 
I need more info on your Terms of Reference (and a more detailed area map than my old 1945  RAF 'half mill' scale air map) before agreeing to interview. The area remains vividly in memory.  Please ack.with your full identity to
David Finnie, Major
« Last Edit: October 10, 2008, 12:35:09 by Medic65726 »

Offline Shec

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2008, 16:21:16 »
On April 12/45 2nd Canadian Division  liberated the transit camp at Westerbork in the Netherlands, well to the west of Bergen Belsen which was liberated by the Brits 3 days later on April 15/45.

http://history1900s.about.com/library/holocaust/blmap.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westerbork

In  addition to the individual actions of war artist Capt. Alex Colville and the Canadians attached to RAMC units as mentioned above First Canadian Army's Jewish Chaplain H/Capt. Samuel Cass went to Belsen after it was liberated.   He stayed on the continent for almost a year after VE Day assisting Holocaust survivors.  (ref. Canada's Jews pp 398-399 by  Gerald Tulchinsky, 2008).

« Last Edit: October 10, 2008, 20:46:19 by Shec »
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Offline Medic65726

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #15 on: October 11, 2008, 00:15:32 »
Latest reply from my Grandfather. Answers things from his perspective.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The road north to and through Bergen-Belsen was the axis of advance of 29 Armoured Brigade of 11th Armoured Division, supported by my Gunner regiment.  There were no Canadian units as such  in the Divisional ORBAT (Order of Battle).  Whether there were any Canucks attached I really could not say.  I never met or heard of any.  I would not of course be surprised if Canadians and  other nationals did not visit the Belsen site on behalf of their own governments and/or armies after liberation.  (There are numerous web-sites on this topic – just go for ‘Bergen-Belsen’ – Bergen is the nearby small town)

Certainly a Canadian Division was strongly in evidence in Normandy.  I believe it ended up in west Holland.

In the period immediately prior to the assault on Normandy I came across a few young officers in a holding camp who had transferred into British infantry battalions, in British uniforms (Canadian khaki had a touch more green in it than ours) and were wearing appropriate regimental and formation insignia, without ‘CANADA’ on their shoulders, as worn by all Canadians in their own units.

Those in the British Army were there because we were short of junior officers, Canadian units were at full complement =- and these keen chaps wanted to get on and make their contribution !

 Some Canadians and Americans actually joined the RAF before the RCAF was in evidence and before the US entered the war!.

Sorry I can’t be more helpful.  Don’t hesitate to ask anything.  Meanwhile the straight answer is ‘none’ – unless there was a stray individual in a British unit.  In any case the liberators moved on; the war had not ended.  The clearing up was done by ‘who knows who’ as directed by Army HQ.

Offline Blackadder1916

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #16 on: October 11, 2008, 13:05:11 »
An exellent response from you grandfather.
Sorry I can’t be more helpful.  Don’t hesitate to ask anything.  Meanwhile the straight answer is ‘none’ – unless there was a stray individual in a British unit.  In any case the liberators moved on; the war had not ended.  The clearing up was done by ‘who knows who’ as directed by Army HQ.

These may be some of the "who".  Not only British Army but also civilian relief organizations and individual volunteers (perhaps including some Germans) had a hand in the clearing up.

http://historyofhohne.ghgrafix.co.uk/page_part3.htm
Quote
Part III

The Relief Operation ~April 1945 - June 1945

It became immediately apparent that the liberation of the two concentration camps at Bergen-Belsen would provide the British Army with a humanitarian problem of the kind it had never before encountered. In total the main concentration camp (Camp No.1) and the overflow camp in the Bergen-Belsen (Hohne) Wehrmacht barracks (Camp No.2) would provide 45,000 disease-ridden and starving prisoners for whom the British would need to provide immediate care. The very poor condition of the barracks in Camp No.1 meant that over the next few months the Wehrmacht barracks at Bergen-Belsen (Hohne) would need to become one massive hospital complex to accommodate the survivors.

Turning the barracks into a hospital was a task that would fall to the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC),various voluntary relief organizations, inmates with medical experience and to German doctors and nurses. Brigadier Llewelyn Glyn-Hughes, Deputy Director of Medical Services (DDMS), Second Army, was to take control of the relief operation. He had arrived at Camp No.1 with the liberating British Army units on 15th April 1945, and, realising that the situation was beyond the resources of these units, dispatched a message to VIII Corps Headquarters asking for immediate medical aid.

RAMC units were ordered to the camp and appeals were made to the Red Cross and United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association (UNRRA). The front line was still only a few kilometres away and it took a couple of days for the RAMC units to arrive. So it was on the 17th April 1945, 32 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS), 11 Light Field Ambulance (LFA) and 30 Field Hygiene Section (FHS) arrived to make a start on this huge task.

That evening, the first of the many conferences took place between the heads of the various medical units and organizations. Lt. Col. Johnstone RAMC, (CO 32 CCS), Lt. Col. Gonin, RAMC, (CO 11 LFA), and Major Fox RAMC, (CO 30 FHS) were to decide how the evacuation of those in Camp No.1 would proceed, and assign duties to the units involved.

It was decided that 11 Field Ambulance would be charged with seeing to the evacuation of the very sick from Camp No.1 to the new hospitalisation area in the Wehrmacht barracks, to nurse and feed all inmates in Camp No. 1 until ready to evacuate, and the removal of the dead from all hospital areas. 32 CCS would oversee the cleaning and setting up of the new hospital areas, and take care of the sick once accommodated in the new hospital areas. They would also recruit doctors and nurses from the inmates and oversee the Hungarian Army personnel who were present in the barracks when they were liberated.

Under the terms of the truce between the German and British armies of 15th April 1945, all Wehrmacht troops were to return to their own lines on 20th April, they were under instructions to leave the barracks in full working order. However, there was a deliberate attempt to sabotage the camp's water supply and this postponed the evacuation of Camp No.1 for 24 hours.

On 21st April 1945 the evacuation of Camp No.1 finally began. Inmates moved into the newly established hospital blocks or clean barrack accommodation. While the evacuation was in progress, efforts were made to improve conditions for the thousands forced to remain until space became available for them in the hospitals. As each hut was cleared it was burnt down in an effort to rid the area of Typhus.

The evacuation procedure began when inmates were picked by Medical Officers, who by sight would choose those they thought would be the most likely to survive. Those chosen had their forehead marked so that the stretcher-bearers would know who to take. Once chosen the inmates would be stripped naked and their clothes burnt. Then wrapped only in a blanket they would be taken from Camp No.1 by ambulance to the Wehrmacht barracks. On arrival, they were taken to what became known as the "Human Laundry". The "laundry" was set up in one of the former cavalry stables and was staffed by sixty German nurses and orderlies from the military hospital, all under the supervision of No.7 Mobile Bacteriological Laboratory. Here the inmates would be thoroughly cleaned in order to rid them of the typhus-carrying lice. Hair was shaved; bodies were scrubbed clean and then dusted liberally with DDT powder. Once this was completed, the inmates would be taken to the hospital accommodation. In the course of the twenty-six days it took to evacuate Camp No.1, over 11,000 patients were dealt with.

The barracks were designated Camp No.2 and Camp No.3. The main hospital area would be situated in Camp No.2, whose squares containing five blocks would accommodate approximately 700 patients. Each square was under the control of one RAMC Officer. Each block within the square would have one UK or Swiss volunteer, internee or German doctor in charge. Each square would have only one or two British nurses with the remainder being made up of internee or German nurses. The patients housed in these squares were in the main treated for starvation.

On 22 April, 1945, Colonel V P Sydenstricker, Head of the nutrition section of UNRRA Health Division, Dr C N Leach of the Rockerfeller Foundation and senior RAMC Officers from 21st Army Group visited Belsen to confer on the best way to organise the treatment of inmates suffering from starvation. Supplying food for the prisoners was not the main problem but supplying the correct type of food was. The normal diet of the British soldier was too rich for the inmates and in the very early days of liberation probably killed many of the prisoners.

It was decided that to deal with this problem, one team under Dr Janet Vaughan from the Medical Research Council and another led by Dr A P Meiklejohn of UNRRA were sent to Camp No. 2. Their solution to the dietary problem was to administer the patients with the Bengal Mixture. This had been used as relief during famines in India and consisted of dried milk, flour, sugar and molasses.

Camp No.3 was to accommodate 8000, made up of relatively healthy inmates who were able to walk and generally look after themselves. This was situated in the blocks towards the northern end of the barracks. Pregnant women and children were sent to the Children's Hospital that was located in the RB blocks. RB 5 was the gynaecological hospital, while RB6 and RB7 were used to house maternity patients, sick children and the many orphans that survived.

The building which housed the Offiziers Casino (Officers Mess) and which became known as the Roundhouse was pressed into service as a makeshift hospital. Once made ready it was used for the care of advanced cases of pulmonary TB patients who were suffering from Typhus. Packed into every spare space, the Roundhouse, including corridors, cloakrooms and even the Grand Ballroom became a 300-bed hospital ward.

Outside the camp on the west side was a military hospital. The 1200 German military patients found there on liberation were quickly evicted to other local hospitals. One wing was soon opened to care for the British and other medical personnel who contracted typhus in the course of helping the inmates. In time the other wards were opened up and held over 2000 patients, squeezed into every available space. This soon became known as the Glyn Hughes Hospital.

While the death rate continued at between 400 to 500 per day for the first couple of weeks after liberation, the hard work put in by the military medical units and civilian relief organizations soon managed to put this into reverse, and by the 11th May, 1945 the rate was down to below 100 per day. Evacuation of Camp No.1 was completed on 19th May 1945, all former inmates now housed in Camps No.2 and.3. A ceremony took place on 21st May 1945 at Camp No.1 where the last prisoners' barrack block was burnt to the ground marking the end of the first phase of the relief operation.

By June 1945 the Bergen-Belsen barracks had become a Displaced Persons' camp with a largely Jewish population. Over the following years, the barracks housed a self-governing Jewish community, which was the largest in the British Zone of occupied Germany. Part IV of this history of Bergen-Hohne will look at how these survivors lived and created a flourishing cultural life within the camp.

And consultation on the relief operations crossed army group/national lines.

MEDICAL DEPARTMENT, UNITED STATES ARMY
PREVENTIVE MEDICINE IN WORLD WAR II
Volume VIII
CIVIL AFFAIRS/MILITARY GOVERNMENT PUBLIC HEALTH ACTIVITIES
http://143.84.107.69/booksdocs/wwii/civilaffairs/chapter13.htm
Quote
The following fragmentary extracts of contemporary reports and a published account convey some idea of the magnitude of the effort which had to be made by public health and medical personnel of Military Government, Army organizations, and the Typhus Commission to cope with the situation. These examples relate to conditions and experiences at the concentration camps at Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau, and Mauthausen.61

Belsen.—Among the concentration camps, Belsen, in the area of 21 Army Group, became especially notorious because of the starvation of its inmates, the horror of the conditions imposed by the Nazis, and the epidemic of typhus fever.

This camp was taken by the British Second Army on 15 April 1945, at which time typhus had been prevalent for 4 months, and there were about 3,500 cases among the 45,000 inhabitants of Camp 1. Nearly all of the internees were heavily infested with lice. The deplorable situation was described as follows:

Camp 1 contained 40,000 political prisoners. There are unknown numbers of cases of typhus fever. The disease is quite wild but definitely diagnosed and confirmed. There are generalized gastroenteritic diseases, which in the early observations are considered to be all types, particularly typhoid and dysenteries. Malnutrition is advanced in practically all occupants; 50 percent of the 40,000 occupants are estimated to be unable to consume any food by mouth, that is of the normally available foods which could be furnished from Army stocks. There are 1,000 to 1,500 in advanced or acute stages of starvation who will require intravenous feedings. For these arrangements have been made to fly in 7,200 lbs. of protein hydrolysate from London. The handling of typhus has been placed under the direction of Captain William A. Davis, MC, Consultant from the United States of America Typhus Commission. The personnel of a British Field Hygiene Section are employed in delousing all individuals. There are adequate supplies at this time for handling the typhus situation.

Camp 2 at Belsen has approximately 15,000 individuals, 2,000 of whom are westbound Europeans. The remaining are individuals who should head east.—Camp 2 is typhus free.

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Offline baccalieu

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #17 on: October 11, 2008, 16:22:11 »
Here are two RCAF pers who claim to have been there, Matthew Nesbitt just shortly
after the liberation and Monty Berger.

NAME: MATTHEW NESBITT
INTERVIEWED BY: RUTH SCHEINBERG
CAMP: BERGEN -BELSEN
DATE: AUGUST 7, 1980
TRANSCRIBER: RUTH SCHEINBERG
www.library.gatech.edu/holocaust/transnesbitt.htm
 
Monty Berger
Trained first as a radar mechanic, then as an intelligence officer, Berger was posted to 126 RCAF
Spitfire Wing, which shot down 361 enemy aircraft during the war.
He was one of the first ground officers to land on the beaches of Normandy during the Allied invasion
of Europe in 1944 and helped set up mobile headquarters at various airfields in France, Belgium,
the Netherlands and eventually in Germany, where he was present at the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen
concentration camp.
http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=407d771f-2c17-4f4e-aaef-ddfc84c74a63&p=1

« Last Edit: October 11, 2008, 16:38:45 by baccalieu »

Offline ArmyVern

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #18 on: October 13, 2008, 16:21:58 »
Here are two RCAF pers who claim to have been there, Matthew Nesbitt just shortly
after the liberation and Monty Berger.

NAME: MATTHEW NESBITT
INTERVIEWED BY: RUTH SCHEINBERG
CAMP: BERGEN -BELSEN
DATE: AUGUST 7, 1980
TRANSCRIBER: RUTH SCHEINBERG
www.library.gatech.edu/holocaust/transnesbitt.htm
 
Monty Berger
Trained first as a radar mechanic, then as an intelligence officer, Berger was posted to 126 RCAF
Spitfire Wing, which shot down 361 enemy aircraft during the war.
He was one of the first ground officers to land on the beaches of Normandy during the Allied invasion
of Europe in 1944 and helped set up mobile headquarters at various airfields in France, Belgium,
the Netherlands and eventually in Germany, where he was present at the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen
concentration camp.
http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=407d771f-2c17-4f4e-aaef-ddfc84c74a63&p=1



Nesbitt also pops up here:

http://www.library.gatech.edu/holocaust/bergendes.htm

Quote
The camp of Bergen-Belsen, located near the towns of Bergen and Belsen in Saxony, northern Germany, got its start in 1940 as a P.O.W. camp for French and Belgian prisoners. In 1941, the camp was renamed Stalag 311 and housed some 20,000 Russian prisoners. Conditions were terrible, resulting by 1942 in the deaths of 16,000 to 18,000 prisoners from disease, starvation and exposure.

In April, 1943, the camp was converted to a concentration camp, primarily for Jews with foreign passports who could be exchanged for German nationals imprisoned abroad. The camp was renamed Bergen-Belsen. Few Jewish prisoners were ever exchanged for imprisoned Germans, although 200 Jews were allowed to emigrate to Palestine in exchange for German citizens, and more than 1,500 Hungarian Jews were able to purchase emigration to Switzerland.
 
 Bergen-Belsen was primarily a holding camp, a place where Jews with foreign passports awaited exchange, and where sick, debilitated prisoners were moved from labor camps. From 1944-45, the camp also served as an evacuation site for prisoners from the East, as the allies liberated Eastern Europe.

The camp was divided into eight sections: a detention camp, two women's camps, a special camp, neutrals camp, "star" camp, Hungarian camp and a tent camp. Polish Jews with citizenship papers from foreign countries lived in the special camp. The detention camp held prisoners brought from other camps to construct Bergen-Belsen. Approximately 4,000 Jewish prisoners, primarily Dutch, lived in the "Star" camp, so named because the prisoners wore the Star of David on their clothing instead of camp uniforms. The Hungarian camp housed more than 1,600 Hungarian Jews. The tent camp housed the overflow of sick, debilitated female prisoners from the hospital camp. Bergen-Belsen's most famous prisoners-Anne Frank and her sister Margo-lived in the tent camp.

 
From late 1944 to April, 1945, thousands of prisoners-many of them suffering from exposure and starvation from forced marches-flooded Bergen-Belsen from the East. Conditions, never good, deteriorated rapidly. Sanitary facilities were non-existent, food was scarce, the water supply grossly inadequate for the large influx of prisoners. A serious typhus epidemic erupted. In the first few months of 1945, up to 35,000 prisoners died, among them Margot and Anne Frank.

On April 15, 1945, Bergen-Belsen was liberated by the Allied 21st Army Group, a combined British-Canadian unit. At the time of liberation, the camp had been without food or water for three to five days. As Matthew Nesbitt, a Canadian liberator, recounted, "…the first thing we had to do when we got to camp. Prior to even distributing the food. And that was to make sure we used the guards to separate the living from the dead, from the huts, because first of all, if we are going to save anybody, we had to know who was alive and who had to be buried…The only way you could do that was to go into each individual hut and shake whoever was on that little slab…if they didn't move, they were dead."
Although the camp commandant, Josef Kramer, protested that there was no way to pipe water into the camp, the Allied 21st quickly constructed a makeshift piping system from a nearby river, to supplement army water carts. Despite the best efforts of Allied relief workers, more than 10,000 seriously ill inmates died after liberation.

50,000 prisoners died in Bergen-Belsen. 60,000 prisoners were liberated by the Allies in April, 1945. The Bergen-Belsen staff, largely intact at the time of liberation, were tried in 1945 by a British military tribunal in Luneburg, Germany. Among those tried were the camp Kommandant, Josef Kramer, and a 22-year old female S.S. guard, Irma Grese, who was accused by camp inmates of shooting prisoners and beating them with a homemade whip. Forty-five staff were tried; fourteen were acquitted.
 
 British troops burned the camp to prevent the spread of typhus. A graveyard currently exists on the site of the Bergen-Belsen camp. Somewhere on the grounds, Anne Frank is buried. A childhood friend imprisoned in the camp, Lise Kostler, recounted her reunion with Anne in 1945 in Bergen-Belsen, in the 1996 film, Anne Frank Remembered.

As Lise described the meeting, across barbed wire when the guard was occupied elsewhere, Anne told her that she had no one. She believed her father and mother were dead; her sister was very ill. Lise remembered, "After her sister died, she was just without hope. But she didn't know [that her father was alive], and so she had really nothing to live for."
 
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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #19 on: October 13, 2008, 16:40:03 »
I went to the site of the camp a couple of times when I was in Germany. It is an awful sight to see; large mounds with signs saying so many bodies are buried here. Believe me, you can feel the evil that still haunts the place.

It is the only place I have ever been that renders Canadian troops incapable of making smart *** remarks.

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #20 on: October 13, 2008, 17:33:20 »
Hmm,

Here's a page of pics from Belsen ...

I'm pretty sure that the first pic on the left side is of a Canuk, but the 2nd pic down on the left hand side most definitely is sporting a "CANADA" shoulder flash. Same with the last pic on the right hand side.

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/belsenphotos.html
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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #21 on: October 13, 2008, 17:38:05 »
The person with the Canada flash appears to be wearing the insignia of a RCAF flight lieutenant, that is two wide stripes like a CF captain.

I have a reference somewhere of 1st Polish Armoured Division being diverted there to assist in caring for the Polish prisoners. When I find it, I will post an extract.

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #22 on: October 13, 2008, 18:46:49 »
The person with the Canada flash appears to be wearing the insignia of a RCAF flight lieutenant, that is two wide stripes like a CF captain.

Maybe there is a connection to these guys.
Here are two RCAF pers who claim to have been there, Matthew Nesbitt just shortly
after the liberation and Monty Berger.
Whisky for the gentlemen that like it. And for the gentlemen that don't like it - Whisky.

Offline baccalieu

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #23 on: October 13, 2008, 19:21:27 »
Latest reply from my Grandfather. Answers things from his perspective.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
There were no Canadian units as such  in the Divisional ORBAT (Order of Battle).  Whether there were any Canucks attached I really could not say.  I never met or heard of any.  I would not of course be surprised if Canadians and  other nationals did not visit the Belsen site on behalf of their own governments and/or armies after liberation.
Sorry I can’t be more helpful.  Don’t hesitate to ask anything.  Meanwhile the straight answer is ‘none’ – unless there was a stray individual in a British unit.
Your grandfather pretty well sums it up and please give him my thanks
for his excellent input.
Monty Berger wrote a book,--available at local libraries-- the Story
of 126 RCAF Spitfire Wing titled "Invasions without tears" which may
not mention his Bergen-Belsen visit but his wartime service is likely
covered in a biography on file with the Canadian Jewish Congress archives
in Montreal.
As an intelligence officer he was part of the "ground forces" and as I
understand he was a member of a team that selected areas for landing strips.
He may have been doing a recce in that area, and as yet I have been unable
to determine whether he was attached to an Army unit.
http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/general/sub.cfm?source=feature/normandy/norm_bios/berger

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Re: Was Canadian Army unit at Bergen-Belsen?
« Reply #24 on: October 13, 2008, 19:38:57 »
Hmm,

Here's a page of pics from Belsen ...

I'm pretty sure that the first pic on the left side is of a Canuk, but the 2nd pic down on the left hand side most definitely is sporting a "CANADA" shoulder flash. Same with the last pic on the right hand side.

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/belsenphotos.html
Good research. I believe I was on that site, but didnt notice the
Canada flash.
blackadder and old sweat: perhaps this fellow is Monty Berger as he was
an RCAF Flt Lt.