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Introduction

This article provides, in table form, a history of the Belsen Concentration Camp from its establishment until the last group of former prisoners left in 1950.

Belsen Concentration Camp

March 1943 SS Hauptsturmführer Adolf Hass is appointed Kommandant of a new special camp, designed to hold prominent European Jews or Jews from neutral countries, who could then be used to exchange for German citizens interned overseas. 
July 1943-4 Stalag 311, a POW Camp near a village called Belsen, is selected as the site for this new camp. The camp is divided into sections:

Neutralenlager (Neutrals' Camp): Jewish citizens of neutral countries. Food and sanitation are reasonable, and the prisoners don't have to work.

Sonderlager (Special Camp): Contains Jews who, although of Polish origin, are citizens of neutral countries and hold Palestine emigration papers.

Ungarnlager (Hungarians' Camp): Opened in 1944 for Hungarian Jews due to be sent to Switzerland. Conditions are reasonable and the prisoners don't have to work.

Sternlager (Star Camp): Named after the "Star of David" worn by the prisoners. Contains exchange prisoners who have to work, although they are allowed a degree of autonomy.

Haftlingslager (Prisoners' Camp): Contains the prisoners previously held at Buchenwald and Natzweiler who built the camp. They have to do hard labour and are badly treated by their guards.

March 1944 Belsen is redesignated an Ehrholungslager (Recovery Camp) for prisoners from other concentration camps, who are considered too weak to work. No additional medical provision is made for these ill prisoners.
July 1944 A Frauenlager (Women's Camp) is established to contain women and girls moved here from camps located in the face of the Soviet advance from the east.
2 December 1944 SS Hauptsturmführer Josef Kramer replaces Hass as Kommandant. He immediately ends the privilege regime enjoyed by the prisoners in the Sternlager. An official census shows that there are now 15,257 prisoners in Belsen.
January 1945 The numbers of prisoners moved to Belsen from the east continues to rise. To accomodate the new prisoners, the remaining portion of Stalag 311 becomes the new Frauenlager. The old Frauenlager becomes a second prisoners camp called Haftlingslager II. There is still insufficient space for the numbers of prisoners.
February 1945 Belsen approximate population is now 22,000 prisoners. During this month 7,000 prisoners die. Many of the prisoners, already seriously ill, are kept in overcrowded huts. Typhus and other diseases begin to break out.
March 1945 Belsen now contains 41,520 prisoners, of which 18,168 die during this month.
4 March 1945 105 Turkish citizens in the Neutralenlager leave for Sweden. Steps are taken to begin clearing the Neutralenlager, Sonderlager and Sternlager.
1 April 1945 There are now approximately 44,000 prisoners in Belsen. In the period 1 - 15 April 1945, approximately 9,000 prisoners die of disease and malnutrition.
8 April 1945 Another 25,000 - 30,000 prisoners arrive at Belsen, from other cocentration camps in the Neuengamme area. There are now over 60,000 prisoners at Belsen. Some are housed in nearby army barracks.
11 April 1945 3 transports containing the remaining 7,000 prisoners from the Neutralenlager, Sonderlager and Sternlager leave Belsen for an unknown destination. One reaches Theresienstadt, the other two are liberated by Allied troops.
12 April 1945 A truce is established by the local German Army Commander, which covers a 48 square kilometre around Belsen. There is no indication of the state of affairs at Belsen.
15 April 1945 A loudspeaker van from 14 Amplifier Unit, Intelligence Corps, and 63 Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery, become the first British units to enter Belsen. Kramer is arrested. Brigadier Llewelyn Glyn-Hughes, DDMS 2nd Army, takes control of the relief operation. Appeals are made to send extra RAMC units, to the Red Cross and the United Nations Relief & Rehabilitation Association (UNRRA).
17 April 1945 RAMC units arrive at Belsen. It is decided to create a vast hospital area in the nearby German army barracks.
18 April 1945 The burial of the dead begins. At first the guards were ordered to collect the bodies and bury them. Due to the numbers of dead, and the risk of more disease outbreaks, it is decided to use bulldozers to push the piles of bodies into mass graves. A Jewish Camp Committee is established by former prisoners, under the chairmanship of Josef Rosensaft.
20 April 1945 Evacuation of the camp is delayed by 24 hours, after the Germans who were clearing the barracks under the 12 April truce, sabotaged the water supply.
21 April 1945 Evacuation of Belsen begins. After being deloused, the former prisoners are moved into either newly-established hospitals or clean barrack accommodation. During the period 21 April to 9 May 1945, 1,100 former prisoners are evacuated from the camp.
23 April 1945 Six detachments of the British Red Cross arrive at Belsen.
25 April 1945 The daily death rate in Belsen is estimated at between 400 and 500 former prisoners.
28 April 1945 The mass graves are completed.
29 April 1945 The remaining guards are transferred to Celle Prison.
30 April 1945 97 medical students from various London teaching hospitals arrive at Belsen, to help with the relief operation.
4 May 1945 More RAMC units arrive at Belsen.
8 May 1945 "Victory in Europe" Day. The Second World War in Europe ends.
11 May 1945 The daily death rate among the former prisoners falls to below 100.
19 May 1945 The evacuation of Belsen is completed. All the former prisoners are now housed in either the  nearby former army barracks or in hospitals.
21 May 1945 The burning of the last hut at Belsen concludes the first stage of the relief operation.
28 May 1945 The British medical students return to London. They are replaced by volunteers from Belgian hospitals.
July 1945 6,000 former prisoners are taken by the Red Cross to Sweden for convalescence. UNRRA officials begin to arrange the task of repatriating the former prisoners.
17 September 1945 The trial of Josef Kramer and 44 other former guards begins.
17 November 1945 The trail of Josef Kramer and 44 other former guards ends. Josef Kramer and 10 others are sentenced to death by hanging. 14 defendants are acquitted while the rest receive various terms of imprisonment.
13 December 1945 After their appeals for clemency were rejected by Field-Marshal Montgomery, the 11 people sentenced to death by hanging were executed at Hameln Prison.
6 September 1950 The last former prisoner leaves Belsen for Palestine, and the camp is closed.
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