The liberation of this prison camp in April 1945 was an absolute freaking horror show.
Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Thousand of dead bodies lying around (around 13,000) unburied. They were eventually moved into mass graves. Most of the rest of the prisoners (over 50,000), were starving and sick, and many more of these died.
Long used as images of Nazi atrocities, these deaths were actually the result of massive chaos in Germany due to them losing the war coupled with an epic typhus epidemic.* Not to say that the Nazis weren't responsible for the deaths, at a basic level. But the key point is that these people were not intentionally slaughtered. Note, thousands of healthy prisoners were also liberated despite the thousands and thousands of deaths. Also, note, Bergen-Belsen was where Anne Frank died of typhus.
Interestingly, Bergen-Belsen was a different type of concentration camp-- neither a labor nor a transit camp nor an "extermination" camp. It was an "exchange" camp, where prisoners were held for exchange with enemy prisoners.
But Bergen-Belsen is an example of how something that is horrible already, can be completely propagandized into the worst sort of atrocity imaginable, and the images of Bergen-Belsen figured heavily into the whole Holocaust legend.
*There is a claim that Hitler ordered all the prisoners at Bergen-Belsen to be killed rather than have them surrendered, and that Himmler was actually persuaded into saving the prisoners over Hitler's orders. This story is from a book by Gerald Fleming called "Hitler and the Final Solution," and I suspect it is heavily propagandized.
Dec 5, 2012