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18,000 Have Died in Belsen Camp Since Liberation, 50 Perish Daily; Jews Worst Off

June 6, 1945
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

More than 18,000 people have died in this camp since its liberation by British forces several weeks ago, and about 50 are still dying daily, despite the fact that the camp’s administrators and British soldiers are working as hard as possible to aid the inmates. The camp seethes with disillusionment, and the greatest number of complaints come from the Jews.

About 18,000 people remain here – housed in former Wehrmacht barracks to which they were moved when their former vermin-infested quarters were destroyed last week. Of the survivors, two-thirds are hospitalized, suffering, mainly from tuberculosis, malnutrition and other ailments. Efforts are being made to repatriate those who are healthy enough to travel, and, as a result, a good number, especially from western European countries, have already left, This has left a large percentage of Jews among those remaining. It is estimated that there are 12,000 Jews here, while 3,000 have been transferred to the Lingen Camp.

Indicative of the disorganized condition of the Jewish survivors is the fact that up till now, no proper census has been taken. Jews from Buchenwald and other camps arrive here seeking relatives and bringing complete lists of their camps to exchange. Those here avidly seize these lists, looking for the names of relatives, but they have not listed themselves. One mother here did not know that here child was in the camp for several weeks.


The confusion among the Jewish survivors is due to the excitement resulting from liberation and from the habits and suspicions developed during their imprisonment. These feelings are aggravated by the belief that their own people are not thinking of them, which is very unfortunate, since welfare teams of the Joint Diatribution Committee have been in Paris for weeks seeking permission to come to such camps as Belsen.

Those men who are most distressed are the Jews from Poland, who do not want to return there, but do not wish to be classified as stateless. The camp administretion desired to send all persons who did not wish to return to Poland to the stateless camp at lingen, but thousands refused to declare themselves stateless fearing that they would be doomed to endless world wandering. In preference to that, they indicated they would be willing to return to Poland temporarily. Eventually, 3,000 were persuaded to go to Langen, with the understanding that the question of their status would be left unsettled.


Joseph Rosensaft, chairman of the camp’s Jewish Committee, which was formed only this week, refused to make public a list of the Polish Jews, fearing that they would be declared stateless. Rosensaft also voiced the constant camp complaint that the food rations are inadequate. "When I walk through the hospitals," he told a correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, "from every side weak voices whisper ‘bread, bread.’ I have to go outside and round-up some bread for them," He exhibited two thin slices of bread, comprising the hospital ration. Yet, this ration has been ordered by the medical officers of the camp and the camp commander Major F. T. Hill.

Major Hill a few days ago increased by half the non-hospital bread ration, explaining that he realized that plentiful amounts of bread seem the only real symbol of food to the internees, although their regular diet, he added, already comprises the full 2,000-calory normal diet, and is superior to the average diet of an English civilian in the last five years. The daily diet includes eight ounces of bread, plus six of hiscuit, ten of meat, nine of fresh vegetables, nineteen of potatoes, one-half cunce of cheese, one quart of milk, fruit, vitamin tablets and other items. The pota-to ration is also being raised by one-half.


Two Jewish chaplains of the British Army provide the only link between the Jewish inmates and world Jewry. They have worked incessantly to reunite families and reestablish communications, but they are unable to cope with the tremendous needs here. Capt, Elisha Hardmann arived here within a few days after the camp was liberated and helped bury 20,000 in mass graves. He complains of needless deaths since the liberation, deelaring "either we save them or we don’t. I can’t understand why if oranges are needed, planes couldn’t bring them. I can’t understand why the doctors here are so shers-staffed, overworked, and are still unable to cope with the need. Why not bring in more doctors?"

Capt, Michael Etern, the other chaplain, stressed the need for some sort of Jewish liaison group between here and Dachau, Buchenwald and the other camps for interchanging of lists. He also suggests that reunions be arranged in the camps for those finding relatives alive in other camps.

Until this week, the persons who died here were still being buried naked in mass graves. Now, shrouds and grave markers are being arranged. Among those who recently died was Hirsch Liebman, a well-known Zionist from Sosnowitz. Among the survivor are Rabbi Klein from Budapest, Rabbi Helfgot from Yugoslavia and 500 children, of whom 140 are orphans under 15.

The orphans are now being well cared for in a separate nursery. A school has also been started by a Sgt. Deelaren, with the assistance of teachers found in the camps. Using five Languages, the school will conduct classes in writing, drawing, arithmetic, handicrafts and singing.

Rosensaft, who is a survivor of Oswiecim, said that 600,000 were shot while he was there. Among them was Isaac Bornstein, a JDC representative in Poland, and M. Edelstoin, who was a leader of the ghetto community in Theresienstadt before being deported to Poland.

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