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Holocaust History: Concentration Camps

This LibGuide is a starting point for general research on the concentration camps, with resources on genocide, survivor memoirs, and primary sources.

Brief History

The Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was established in 1940 by the German military at a site south of the small towns of Bergen and Belsen, about 11 miles north of Celle, Germany. Initially, Bergen-Belsen was constructed to house prisoners of war, but subsequently, in April 1943, the SS requisitioned part of the camp to create a civilian detention center and later a concentration camp. At various times, Jews, both men and women; prisoners of war; political prisoners; Roma, criminals; Jehovah's Witnesses, and homosexuals were all imprisoned in the camp complex.

From late 1940 onward, prisoners received increasingly limited, essentially starvation, rations, and during the final days of the camp, they went for days without food and with very little water. Sanitation was totally inadequate for the huge number of prisoners who were essentially dumped at the camp in its last weeks. By the thousands, prisoners died from starvation and disease. Among these prisoners were Anne Frank, whose wartime diary would later become world-famous, and her sister Margot. Both died of typhus in March 1945, only a few weeks before the camp’s liberation.

On April 15, 1945, the British Army liberated Bergen-Belsen. Shocking photographs of dead and dying prisoners drew the attention of the world to the horrific conditions the liberators had found at the camp. Despite heroic British efforts to save people, some 13,000 prisoners died after liberation from malnutrition and disease.


The following summary derived information from the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.

Sala and Aron Samueli Holocaust Memorial Library

Leatherby Libraries

Archival Material