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Rescue of the Remnants: The British Emergency Medical Relief Operation in Belsen Camp 1945
  1. Elly Trepman, MD, Associate Professor1
  1. 1Section of Orthopaedic Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of Manitoba, GF307 -820 Sherbrook Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3A 1R9

Abstract

The British Army liberated the German concentration camp at Belsen on April IS, 1945. The thousands of inmates (estimates range from 60,000 to 78,900 inmates), mostly Jews from eastern Europe, were dying at a rate of 500-600 per day from disease, and many more were being killed by the German guards and co-workers. Diseases prevalent included typhus, tuberculosis, nutritional and infective diarrhoea, severe malnutrition and starvation, and others. Despite huge obstacles including the ongoing war effort, shortages of supplies, and limited numbers of workers, a relict operation was rapidly organized to control the typhus epidemic and salvage as many inmates as possible. The 10,000 emaciated corpses which had been lying all over the camp were collected and buried in mass graves. Inmates were disinfected with D.D.T., scrubbed in a “human laundry,” and evacuated from the typhus-ridden Horror Camp (Camp 1) to a hospital organized in the barracks of the Panzer Training School (Camp 2). Feeding of the inmates was carefully regulated, and some basic medical treatment organized. The relief operation was performed by British Army units, detachments of the British Red Cross, British and Belgian medical students, and other volunteers including those from among the less debilitated inmates. Although 13,000 inmates died after the libération despite the relief operation, thousands of others were rescued.

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