Today we salute Britain’s role, on this very day 75 years ago, in liberating a notorious place of disease and death, to save the lives of others

“You…have moved well over 11,000 sick. To do this, sixty three of you have worked for a month amid the most unhygienic conditions inside huts where the majority of internees were suffering from the most virulent disease known to man”.

This letter is an artefact that we are privileged to say has just been entrusted to our collection. It was written by Lieut Colonel M. W. Gonin of the Light Field Ambulance, thanking the British and American forces who liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Unlike Auschwitz-Birkenau, the murder technique employed at Bergen-Belsen was not the gas chamber. It was to leave the captives to rot and die slowly from disease and starvation.

Two British Army chaplains, Rev Leslie H Hardman, Senior Jewish Chaplain to the 2nd Army, and the Roman Catholic Padre Father M C Morrison, conduct a service over one of the mass graves before it is filled in.

On this day, April 15th in 1945, British forces from the 63rd Anti-Tank Regiment of the Royal Artillery performed a quietly heroic act — as it happens, with parallels to the brave men and women in our NHS today. They risked lethal infection to rescue others.

To do so, they first had to disarm and place under arrest the remaining SS. They forced them to dig mass graves to bury tens of thousands of bodies.

Renee Salt, a survivor of this horror and a member of our cherished family of Holocaust speakers, recalls her time at Belsen:

“The stench was impossible.. I saw dead bodies littered all across the grounds. When I arrived, there was no organisation any more, there was no food being distributed and the water had been cut off.”

Here is a clip in which she shares her experience of being liberated:

Renee is one of ten Holocaust survivors who have taken part in our landmark initiative The Forever Project. Commissioned by the UK Government, we created a special online version of this unique interactive experience. For more information about #Belsen75 and interactive Q&A sessions with Renee Salt, go to the Belsen 75 website designed with the Holocaust Education Trust and University College London.