HEROES OF THE SHOAH
Last Sunday, as well as being the centenary of the sinking of Titanic, also marked the 67th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-belsen. A colleague told me that at a recent lecture an elderly man introduced himself as having been a British Army liberator of Bergen-belsen.
For years when I travelled the country as organiser of the Anne Frank exhibition, as often as not at least one man in each city would introduce himself as a liberator. This was poignant as Anne and Margot succumbed to their deaths of starvation and typhus just three weeks before the British Army arrived.
In Glasgow once, Rev Ernest Levy told me that by March 1945 very few inmates in Bergen-belsen were physically up to digging the mass graves. Rev Levy was one of them and told me he may have buried Anne and Margot. He died last year, a remarkable man, scarred forever by his experiences.
At one point I almost became complacent about meeting these men. We sometimes forget that many liberators also died of the diseases they picked up in Bergen-belsen. In the 1970s I worked with a man of whom I was a little afraid. After many months I found out why. He had been a liberator and never got over the shock of the sights, smells and sounds he encountered. It had ruined his life.
I have not met a Bergen-belsen liberator for many, many years now. Let the anniversary, as well as last night’s Yom Ha’shoah memorials, remind us of their sacrifice and heroism. Gillian Walnes MBE Co-founder, The Anne Frank Trust UK Grafton Road, London, NW5