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Bergen-Belsen

PATRICK GORDON WALKER: This is London calling North America.

The day I reached Belsen concentration camp, the fifth day of liberation, was a Friday, the day before the Jewish Sabbath.

Something like half the surviving prisoners at Belsen were Jews, and the Jewish chaplain to the British second army, the Reverend L. H. Hartman, held an eve-of-the-Sabbath service in the open air in the midst of the camp. It was the first Jewish service that many of the men and women present had taken part in for six years. And Probably the first Jewish service held on German soil in absolute security and without fear for a decade.

Around us lay the corpses that there had not been time to clear away, even after five days. Forty thousand or more had been cleared, but there were still one or two thousand around, and people were still lying down and dying in broad daylight in front of our eyes. This was the background to this open-air Jewish service.

During the service, the few hundred people gathered together were sobbing openly, with joy of their liberation and with sorrow of the memory of their parents and brothers and sisters that had been taken from them and gassed and burned.

These people knew they were being recorded. They wanted the world to hear their voice. They made a tremendous effort, which quite exhausted them. Listen:

Singing of "Hatikvah."

L.H. HARTMAN: The children of Israel still liveth!


Producers: David Isay and Henry Sapoznik. / Funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and The Righteous Persons Foundation.

"Bergen-Belsen" premiered April 20, 2002, on Weekend Edition Saturday. Copyright © 2002 Sound Portraits Productions. All Rights Reserved.

 

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