Today was our very last day of the road trip and we ended with a very serious visit. We started our road trip at Westerbork transit camp, where Anne Frank was sent after they had been discovered. Halfway through our trip we visited Auschwitz where Anne was sent after only a short while in Westerbork transit camp. And our very last visit was Bergen Belsen.
|The little square in the top photo shows how much room each person got on the cattle car.|
Enough room for a little orange teddy, but for 60-80 grown men and women it was not enough
As I told you Anne and her big sister Margot left Auschwitz by train probably in late October of 1944. After an unknown amount of time (likely about a week) they arrived at a small train platform on the 3rd of November. They were told to get out of the train and then forced to walk approximately 5 kilometers (three miles) to the camp.
|We are not seventy yet! (art by Zsuzsa Merényi, a Hungarian Jew who survived)|
People were ill, underfed, cold, underdressed. They had to march, but basically could only drag themselves forward. It was a long slow procession to the camp.
The camp was originally built to house the German workers who were building the military camp a short distance away. Once the war broke out, French and Belgian prisoners of war were sent there. Soon followed by Russian prisoners of war. The difference in treatment was terrible. The French and Belgians got food, a roof, medical care. There were only 600 of them. There were 21,000 Russians, surrounded by barbed wire and not much else. No shelter apart from the shelter they dug themselves, hardly any food, and no medical care.
|Even though the camp is mostly known for the Jews who were killed,|
they 'only' numbered a few thousand. Many more Russians (25,000), Poles (15,000),
resistance fighters and political opponents were killed here.
More people arrived: political opponents and resistance fighters. Thousands from all over the occupied territories were killed. Jews were there too: those who might get exchanged for imprisoned Germans in allied countries, those with 'foreign' passports or papers: Spanish, Portugese, (South) American and eventually those coming from other camps.
|Anne wrote this while in hiding|
As we know Anne had scurvy before leaving Auschwitz. Overcrowding, underfeeding, lack of medical care, bad sanitation and bad housing (like tents and bad baracks) wouldn't help her get better. And she didn't. In fact, she and her sister probably contracted typhus due to the lack of everything.
|NOT their grave, only a memorial stone|
Their exact resting place is not known
I think the only thing that kept them going was being there together. In April 1945 the British arrived to horrifying scenes of dead and dying people. In fact, in the month after the liberation 13,000 people died, their only solace probably that they died as free people. Anne and Margot never saw the British soldiers or freedom. They were killed in February 1945, two months before liberation. Anne was 15, her sister Margot was 18 or 19.
|One of the 13 mass graves in Bergen Belsen|
Only ten thousand or so names are known of all the victims.
Many more found their last resting place here.
Of the eight people hidden in the 'Achterhuis', only one survived, Anne's father Otto. Anne's mother was killed in Auschwitz in January 1945, her sister Margot in Bergen Belsen in February 1945. Hermann van Pels was killed in Auschwitz in October 1944, his wife Auguste was killed while on her way to Theresienstadt (Terezin) in April 1945, their son Peter was killed in Mauthausen in May 1945, only three days before liberation. Fritz Pfeffer was killed in Neuengamme in December 1944.