60 years ago today: The liberation of Bergen-Belsen

As the Allies marched east across Germany, they encountered more and more evidence of Nazi brutality. A few days ago, I chronicled the liberation of Buchenwald. 60 years ago, today, another Nazi camp, Bergen-Belsen was liberated, this time by the British, with equally horrific scenes. A detailed account is here; a survivor's account is here; and the account of one of the liberators, who was a young medical student at the time, is here. I also note that Bergen-Belsen is the camp where Anne Frank ultimately met her doom in a typhus epidemic not long before the British arrived. For the British and American public, this was the camp that provided the first detailed account to them about the true horror of the Holocaust, brought home to them by their own forces and own reporters, rather than the Soviets, who had liberated Auschwitz two and a half months before.

More evidence of Nazi brutality was to come, as Allied troops would find more such camps. Unfortunately, as the survivors with first-hand experience of these horrors inevitably age and die off in increasing numbers, Holocaust denial by those who either shared Hitler's anti-Semitism or who have other reason to want to rehabilitate the image of fascist political belief systems is becoming more and more of a problem. I wish I could be as optimistic as eminent historian Sir Martin Gilbert, who believes that "the tireless gathering of facts about the Holocaust will ultimately consign the deniers to history." According to Sir Gilbert:
The number of deniers and the amount of denial literature is miniscule compared with the serious literature, not only the memoirs but the history books, the specialist books, and books which cater for every age group on the Holocaust.

There is a tremendous range of stuff and some of it is written for young people and teenagers - in that sense the Holocaust deniers have totally lost out.
He's absolutely right about the enormous amount of serious literature about the Holocaust that utterly overwhelms the weak and distorted attempts at "historical revisionism" by Holocaust deniers. I hope he's right that this literature will ultimately consign Holocaust deniers to a status as historical oddities. However, I fear that it is more likely that, as survivors inevitably die, there will be fewer and fewer with the personal commitment to refuting their lies and more people who do not know enough about the Holocaust to recognize their lies for what they are. Given how poor the average American's knowledge of history is, most people don't have the background to recognize denier lies for what they are. To them, unfortunately, the lies can seem plausible.


  1. Orac, I would like to believe more strongly in that optimistic quote about tireless gathering of the facts being sufficient to put the Holocaust deniers to bed once and for all. Sadly, it doesn't work that way.

    Holocaust deniers are, basically, ideological fetishists. And just as tends to be the case with sexual fetishists, these ideological fetishists pursue their particular fetish compulsively. The difference being of course that most sexual fetishists content themselves with mutual pleasure, rather than poisoning the minds of future generations.

    Of course Holocaust deniers are not the only ideological fetishists in circulation, but they're among the most florid. And with ideological fetishists of all kinds, facts make not the slightest bit of difference.

  2. Sorry to nitpick such a great post, but English knights and baronets are referred to as "Sir [firstname]" not "Sir [surname]" if you don't want to write the full name ("Sir Martin", not "Sir Gilbert"). I keep seeing this in non-British books dealing with British characters, and it annoys me.


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