Stalag XI C (311) at Bergen-Belsen, 1941/42: Soviet POWs digging a mass grave. From a private collection.
The Wehrmacht takes over a camp of huts located around two kilometres south of the Belsen military base and uses it to house 600 French and Belgian POWs.
The camp is expanded to form a Stammlager (“base camp”) and hospital for Soviet POWs. It is named Stalag XI C (311) Bergen-Belsen.
The first transport arrives with 2,000 Soviet POWs. More than 21,000 POWs from the Soviet Union arrive by the autumn of 1941. Since very few huts have been completed, they are forced to sleep in the open, in earthwork dens or shelters made from branches.
From August 1941
A Gestapo Einsatzkommando (“task force”) carries out selections among the POWs, and at least 500 Jews and political functionaries are transported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and murdered.
Early April 1942
Between July 1941 and April 1942, 14,000 Soviet POWs die of starvation, disease and exposure.
The Wehrmacht hands over the southern section of the camp to the SS, who establishes an “exchange camp” there. This camp holds Jewish hostages whom the SS intends to exchange for Germans interned abroad. The exchange camp is part of the Nazi concentration camp system.
The POW hospital in the northern part of the camp remains under the control of the Wehrmacht.
Stalag XI C (311) is disbanded, and the hospital for POWs becomes a branch camp of Stalag XI B at Fallingbostel.
More than 2,300 Polish Jews are transported to the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp. At least 14,600 Jews, most of them from Hungary or the Netherlands, are taken to the camp by the end of 1944.
Around 1,800 Polish Jews are transported from Bergen-Belsen to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they are murdered immediately after their arrival.
From March 1944
A new section is established in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The SS uses this so-called men’s camp to hold thousands of prisoners from other concentration camps who are sick and no longer able to work.
Late June 1944
A transport carrying 222 Jews leaves the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp and heads to Palestine. Around 2,560 exchange camp prisoners are released by April 1945.
Late July 1944
The 500 patients in the hospital for Italian military internees at Fallingbostel-Oerbke, most of whom are suffering from tuberculosis, are transferred to the Bergen-Belsen POW camp.
From August 1944
A new section is set up for female prisoners at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Thousands of women arrive, primarily from Auschwitz. Most of them are transported on to other concentration camps or to three satellite camps of Bergen-Belsen to perform forced labour.
After the Warsaw Uprising is quelled, 1,000 female soldiers and officers of the Polish Home Army are taken to Bergen-Belsen as POWs.
Earlier in August of the same year, several thousand civilian women and children who had been involved in the Warsaw Uprising were taken to the women’s camp at Bergen-Belsen.
SS-Hauptsturmführer Josef Kramer, former commandant of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, is appointed commandant of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
From December 1944
The concentration camps near the front lines are evacuated and at least 85,000 prisoners are transported to Bergen-Belsen by mid-April 1945.
The Bergen-Belsen POW camp is disbanded after its prisoners are transferred to other POW camps.
Early April 1945
Three trains carrying around 6,700 prisoners leave the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp and presumably head to the Theresienstadt ghetto.
More than 15,000 prisoners from the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp and its satellite camps are imprisoned in the nearby Wehrmacht barracks.
15 April 1945
British troops liberate around 53,000 prisoners at Bergen-Belsen. From 1943 to 1945, at least 52,000 women, men and children died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp or of the immediate effects of their imprisonment. At least 19,700 people died in the Bergen-Belsen POW camp from 1940 to 1945.
More than 20,000 victims of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp are buried in mass graves. Nearly 29,000 survivors are transferred from the camp to an emergency hospital set up by the British in the nearby Wehrmacht barracks. The survivors are given the status of displaced persons (DPs).
To prevent the spread of disease, the British burn down most the wooden huts in the grounds of the former concentration camp.
June to October 1945
The emergency hospital is turned into a displaced persons camp, which is soon divided into separate sections for Polish and Jewish DPs.
September to November 1945
The first Belsen Trial is held before a British military tribunal in Lüneburg.
The First Congress of Liberated Jews in the British Zone takes place in the Bergen-Belsen DP camp.
The commander of the British military government demands that plans be drawn up for an appropriate memorial at the site of the former camp.
Until autumn 1945
Most the displaced persons from northern, western and southern Europe are repatriated. Soviet survivors are forced to return to the Soviet Union.
Polish survivors dedicate a large wooden cross in the grounds of the former concentration camp to commemorate the victims.
The Soviet military mission orders a monument to be erected in the Bergen-Belsen POW cemetery.
Early March 1946
The United Nations Relief & Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) takes over administration of the DP camp from the British Army.
Jewish survivors unveil a monument in the grounds of the former concentration camp in memory of the Jewish victims.
June to September 1946
The Polish DPs are transferred and the Polish DP camp is disbanded. Bergen-Belsen subsequently becomes the largest Jewish DP camp in post-war Germany.
1946 to 1952
Part of the grounds of the former camp are turned into a memorial, and an international monument is erected.
Once the State of Israel is founded and the USA and other countries have eased their immigration restrictions, most of the Jewish DPs are able to emigrate from Germany.
May to July 1950
The Bergen-Belsen DP camp is disbanded and its remaining inhabitants are transferred to Upjever.
The Bergen-Belsen Memorial is inaugurated and handed over to the state of Lower Saxony.
Extensive landscaping is carried out in the Memorial grounds.
1964 to 1968
The Bergen-Belsen POW cemetery is comprehensively redesigned.
The first Document Building opens with an exhibition on the history of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
A new permanent exhibition opens in the expanded Document Building at the Bergen-Belsen Memorial.
The new Documentation Centre of the Bergen-Belsen Memorial opens. It contains a permanent exhibition covering the POW camps on Lüneburg Heath, the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and the DP camp.