"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.
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.
2.500 Jewish people, including 500 children and youths 14 days in 24 passenger cars and 22 freight cars
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, around 500 people died from the effects of the imprisonment or through typhoid fever.