"I was an expert on whether someone was already dead ..."

Moshe Nordheim, in 1945 eleven years old, 2001

The concentration and death camp Bergen-Belsen

Bergen-Belsen was located near the city of Celle, some 50 kilometers north of Hanover. From May 1943, the SS detained Jews of non-German citizenship in separate camp areas there. Among them were many families with hundreds of children of all ages. The SS saw them as hostages that were to be exchanged for Germans detained in foreign countries or for money. Due to massive over­crowding, lack of care, and epidemics, in 1944 the Bergen-Belsen camp became a place of mass death. Death was ever-present for children as well. Every day they had to see how their fellow inmates died of exhaustion and hunger.

Child survivor Sieg Maandag in the liberated Belsen-Bergen concentration camp, April 1945

During the Holocaust, the National Socialists murdered around 1.5 million Jewish children.

"Every morning we had to stand at attention. Then the SS marched back and forth and we were counted. Every morning. These line-ups sometimes lasted hours. No idea how I endured it."
Celino Bleiweiß, 2013

“We got on the train with fear.”

Steven Hess, in 1945 seven years old, 2011

The "Lost Transport"

In April 1945, the SS began to clear out the prisoners in parts of the Belsen-Bergen concentration camp. Three trains were to bring Jewish inmates to the Theresienstadt concentration camp north of Prague. Only one transport reached that destination. Another was liberated by the US troops. The whereabouts of the third transport was at first uncertain – this gave rise to the term "Lost Transport". There were some 2,500 Jews in the train, among them around 500 children and young people. For 14 days, the train made its way eastwards with the hostages. Certain routes were impassable; the war was raging in cities like Berlin. The train was also in danger of being attacked.

The first of the three evacuation transports, shown here after its liberation by US troops in Farsleben (Saxony-Anhalt) on April 13, 1945
Route taken by the "Lost Transport"

2.500 Jewish people, including 500 children and youths 14 days in 24 passenger cars and 22 freight cars

Excerpt from the “Picture diary” of Zsuzsa Merényi (formerly Susanne Schuller), April 1945.
All drawings were made in Tröbitz, where Zsuzsa was able to get the colored pencils. [1] The cannibals [2] Chicken thigh discarded by the dominions [3] The siege of Tröbitz [4] Ms. Arató can no longer take it [5] We are moving Twenty-year-old Susanne Schuller sketched the experiences she had during the transport and after the liberation with colored pencils in a small notebook.

The "Lost Transport" | Video 12 min

"They were skeletons, draped in cloth."

Karl Bardehle, station master in Beutersitz, 1990

Liberation in Tröbitz by soldiers of the Red Army, April 23, 1945

Around April 20, 1945, the transport of prisoners stopped near Tröbitz, a German mining town in the region of Lausitz (Lusatia). A railroad bridge across the Black Elster River was no longer passable. The SS guards on the train fled from the advancing Red Army. When Soviet soldiers discovered the train, they ordered that the survivors be accommodated in the houses of the villagers. In the following period, the liberated Jews and the local population were more or less forced to live together. Even after the liberation, more than 300 Jews and 26 villagers died as a result of imprisonment or typhus.

Liberated prisoners next to the first transport train near Farsleben (Saxony-Anhalt), April 14, 1945
Notebook of a prisoner on arrival in Tröblitz.
Entry from April 23, 1945 "Morning around 6:30 liberated by the Russians before the town of Tröbitz N. Laus". Entry from April 24, 1945 "From evening of 23rd stay in village Tröbitz district of Luckau – Gov. distr. Frankfurt/Oder N.-Lausitz".