The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment -

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

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