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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

Life Inside Belsen

Photograph of Belsen, 1945 (D/DLI 7/404/28/22) - Copyright © Durham County Record Office.
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This photograph shows Belsen from the entrance to the administrative area towards the internment area. The huts in which the internees were held can be seen. The smoke is from the huts set on fire by the liberating British Army.

'The Story of Belsen', p.4, Living conditions (D/DLI 7/404/10) - Copyright © Durham County Record Office.
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This extract from The Story of Belsen details the appalling conditions in which the prisoners were kept. '... huts which would normally accommodate 60 were housing 600. There were no sanitary arrangements, and both inside and outside the huts was an almost continuous carpet of dead bodies, human excreta, rags and filth.'

The inmates were starving, their 'clothes were in rags and teeming with lice.'

Photograph of women at Belsen, 1945 (D/DLI 7/404/68) - Copyright © Durham County Record Office.
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Women internees pictured at liberation, April 1945.

Statement by Jeanette Kaufmann, p.3 (D/DLI 7/404/12) - Copyright © Durham County Record Office.
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Statement by Jeanette Kaufmann, p.4 (D/DLI 7/404/12) - Copyright © Durham County Record Office.
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One of the prisoners in Belsen who gave evidence of her time there was Jeanette Kaufmann. She describes the physical suffering and how 'mental suffering exceeded even that of the body.'

This extract from The Story of Belsen confirms Jeanette Kaufmann's evidence. The treatment of the prisoners by the SS guards, both men and women, is also highlighted.

'The Story of Belsen', p.10, The atrocities (D/DLI 7/404/10) - Copyright © Durham County Record Office.
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'The Story of Belsen', p.11, The atrocities (D/DLI 7/404/10) - Copyright © Durham County Record Office.
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Even after Allied troops arrived in the camp, the SS guards continued to shoot prisoners. The camp commandant, Josef Kramer, made no attempt to stop them from doing so and it was only when the Allied soldiers threatened to shoot the SS guards in return that they stopped.

'The Daily Express', 21 April 1945 (D/DLI 7/404/27) - Copyright © Durham County Record Office.
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A newspaper cutting from the 'Daily Express', 21 April 1945, alerts the British public to the plight of the concentration camp internees.

See a full transcript of the extract from the 'Daily Express'.