Photos Look Inside Nazi Prisoner of War Camp for Polish Officers
Airmen who had been shot down were hunted down in enemy territory after surviving a crash in which friends might have been killed. Sailors might be hauled out of the sea after watching their vessel sink.
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The Geneva Convention rules - which lay out protections and standards of treatment of POWs - were not always followed, but on the whole the Germans and Italians behaved fairly towards British and Commonwealth prisoners. Even so, conditions were tough. Rations were meagre. The men - but not officers - had to work, often at heavy labour. Prisoners tried to overcome this by staging entertainments and educating themselves. Contrary to the popular myth, most men were too weak from hunger and work to escape. Those who did get beyond the wire ran the very real risk of being shot.
Upon liberation there were more than 60, prisoners in the camp. Over 50, people died at the Bergen-Belsen during its time in operation, including the teenage diarist Anne Frank and her sister Margot. There were no gas chambers at Bergen-Belsen but prisoners died as a result of starvation, disease or, in some cases, medical experimentation.
Some were beaten to death by the guards. In its early years prisoners were not used as forced labour and they were given sufficient rations. However, due to the mass influx of prisoners from other camps during , the conditions rapidly changed.
Those that entered the camp were often given tents to sleep in that offered little protection against the weather. The main camp of Bergen-Belsen was liberated on 15 th April after Heinrich Himmler agreed to surrender it to the British forces.
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Many of the SS had already left and the camp was guarded by a skeleton SS force plus regular German and Hungarian troops outside the camp. The British met no resistance when entering the camp and one of the first people to reach the camp was Lieutenant John Randall. Dead bodies, mainly naked, were strewn around and such was the state of emancipation that it was difficult to tell whether they were male or female. The British found 60, inmates, many of whom were severely ill. They also found 13, unburied bodies around the camp.
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Kaplan's skill lies in informing the reader of the facts of this history with both honesty and reverence. Added to basket.
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