Sur­vivors meet Belsen liberator

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMUNITY - BY JC REPORTER

NINE HOLO­CAUST Sur­vivors Cen­tre mem­bers had an emo­tional meet­ing with a Ber­gen-Belsen liberator at the Soldiers of Ox­ford­shire Mu­seum in Wood­stock.

Gilbert King, 97, was in­tro­duced to the sur­vivors — five of whom were in Ber­gen-Belsen — who re­called their mem­o­ries of lib­er­a­tion. For Mr King, an abid­ing rec­ol­lec­tion was of some­one he freed kiss­ing his boots.

He spoke of how newer in­mates rushed to greet the lib­er­a­tors. But as they made their way through the camp, they came upon the grue­some sight of “piles of bod­ies ev­ery­where. You couldn’t de­fine male from fe­male and all you could see was skin and bone. Ev­ery dugout was full of bod­ies. It was too ter­ri­ble to de­scribe.” They did what they could, “lit­tle re­ally as we had no real med­i­cal sup­plies. It was like giv­ing a baby baked beans.”

Ber­gen-Belsen sur­vivor Su­san Pol­lack re­called be­ing moved by the kind­ness of the lib­er­a­tors. “They picked us up from death, they put us into beds and they brought am­bu­lances. Such true gen­eros­ity. That has been a can­dle all my life and I thank you.”

There was a sur­prise for Re­nee Salt when she saw an ear­lier photo of her par­ents. “Peo­ple don’t re­alise what we owe the lib­er­a­tors,” she said. “They also suf­fered in the camps and caught typhus. My hus­band was a liberator and he spoke very lit­tle about what he saw. He helped peo­ple to write to their fam­i­lies.

“I was un­con­scious when we were lib­er­ated and would have died if they had come a day later. We thought the lib­er­a­tors were be­ing cruel be­cause all they gave us was a quar­ter of a slice of bread and a spoon of stewed ap­ple. Later, when we saw oth­ers dy­ing from eat­ing too much, we re­alised they had saved us by giv­ing us tiny por­tions.

“My mother died two days af­ter lib­er­a­tion. To­mor­row, I will be 85. Meet­ing a liberator and see­ing the ex­hibit brings back very vivid mem­o­ries, although we have to live with this all the time. See­ing my par­ents in the ex­hi­bi­tion was a com­plete sur­prise.”

The group from Jewish Care’s Hendon cen­tre had been in­vited to see a new sec­tion at the mu­seum, which in­cludes a dis­play on Ox­ford­shire soldiers in­volved in the lib­er­a­tion. The Ber­gen-Belsen fea­ture has been cre­ated in an in­ner room, away from the fam­ily ar­eas, also pro­vid­ing a quiet space for con­tem­pla­tion.

PHO­TOS: MARK HEMSWORTH

Re­nee Salt points out a pic­ture of her par­ents and liberator Gilbert King kisses Taube Biber

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