Postcard of the construction workers' camp at Bergen-Belsen with handwritten commentary from the sender, 1935/1936. From the collection of Hinrich Baumann.
Belsen Military Base (1935-1945)
Around two kilometres from the Memorial, near the village of Belsen, there is a large barracks complex. Today it is known as the Hohne Camp, and British soldiers are stationed there. The complex was built between 1935 and 1937.
The Wehrmacht set up several troop training grounds in the 1930s as Nazi Germany was preparing for war. The largest project of this kind was the Bergen military training area, which covered over 280 square kilometres and was used to train armoured units. Large barracks complexes intended to hold 15,000 soldiers each were set up on the eastern and western edges of this expanse of land. The thousands of workers needed to build these bases were housed in specially constructed camps of huts near the town of Fallingbostel and the village of Belsen. Up to 3,000 workers were housed in the around 30 huts of the so-called Bergen-Belsen Army Construction Camp in the forest south of the construction site.
Once the military bases in Belsen and Fallingbostel were completed in 1938/39, the huts were mostly left empty. Some were used for storage, while others were demolished. After Germany invaded Poland, the Wehrmacht used the huts as a POW camp.