I woke up this morning at nine twenty-two exactly, and in true student style, thought about how early it felt, and really, shouldn’t I be allowed another couple of hours? However, I had business to attend to; I had to wait for the Asda delivery truck to arrive with my boatload of food for the next two weeks. I did however forget to buy cheese. But, I digress.
I was trawling the internet, after I managed to pack away all my shopping, for information, just flicking through articles, websites, etc. And I stumbled across the page on Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, which brought me sharply back to my A level research on the camp itself and more specifically, the sequence of events that constituted its liberation. I found myself scanning through the photographs, and being horrified, repeatedly, at the atrocities these people suffered. You see, despite having seen the photographs already, a hundred times perhaps, they are no less shocking; a picture is worth a thousand words.
The horrors of the concentration camps are perhaps only equalled by Mao’s cultural revolution, or Stalin’s ideological genocide, which in figures, suggest more lives were lost (primarily due to starvation) however these tragedies lack the central idea that it was an entire race of human beings that was being destroyed; Mao attempted to destroy ‘detrimental’ elements of his country’s culture that would politically harm him, however the Holocaust went far further; to literally destroy a race of people purely for existing, and being who they were. When one considers also that this event began only seventy-eight years ago, which is a relatively small period of time to have passed, and only sixty-six years have passed since the Allied victory over Germany, then the event suddenly seems very close and present, despite the measures that have been taken to try to prevent such an event ever recurring.
What strikes me most profoundly, is that people actually managed to live through such events. That they keep their tattoos of their prisoner numbers. That they write books about the most horrible nightmare that humanity could perhaps ever experience. And this, more than anything, shows the strength of the human mind, and the potential for the mind to convert a tragedy into something productive and meaningful, and almost beautiful, in the purest sense of the word.
Elie Wiesal was one of the few survivors of Auschwitz concentration camp; for the subsequent ten years after the liberation of the camp he refused to speak, or even attempt to verbalize his ordeal. However in the late 1950’s, Wiesal wrote a nine hundred page memoir of his ordeal, and in 1960, the manuscript was cut down in size, and published in America, arguably beginning to bring the truth of the inside of Auschwitz to the national consciousness. As his career progressed, he became a prominent public speaker on humanitarian crisis and the Holocaust, and in 2004 spoke out against the Darfur crisis alongside actor, George Clooney. Wiesal, at least in my opinion, exemplifies the strength of human spirit that exists, and how a truly abhorrent event can be overcome by the sheer will of one man, and such strength is unfathomable to us mere mortals, who have no understanding of such an event.
Aside from this, I have chosen to include in this post, my research piece that I prepared for a friend of my parent’s on the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. His grandfather was involved in the first stages of the liberation and therefore I prepared as close as I could to a blow-by-blow account of the liberation. The account is included on