Survivors meet Belsen liberator

August 14, 2014

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.

Last updated: 12:51pm, August 18 2014