Former Wehrmacht barracks in Belsen: Open-air emergency hospital, 27 April 1945. Photo by Sgt. Oakes. Imperial War Museum, London, Photograph Archive, BU 4844.
The Emergency Hospital
When British soldiers reached Bergen-Belsen, they were not prepared to deal with either the typhus and typhoid fever epidemics that were raging through the camp or the extreme malnourishment of the prisoners. Even as the troops buried thousands of bodies in mass graves and burned down the contaminated huts in the grounds of the former concentration camp, the British Army set up an emergency hospital in buildings at the nearby former Wehrmacht barracks. Over 11,000 ailing survivors had to be treated there as late as June 1945. Since the emergency hospital did not have the capacity to handle so many patients, a number of survivors were moved to hospitals and emergency sick bays in nearby cities like Celle.
Just one week after the liberation, several British Red Cross units and other civilian relief personnel arrived at Bergen-Belsen to assist the military. The British Red Cross took over responsibility for providing civilian medical care. The Red Cross staff consisted of doctors and aid workers from many countries, including numerous liberated prisoners. German doctors and nurses were also pressed into service by the British authorities.
As the number of patients decreased, the barracks buildings were turned into living quarters and the emergency hospital was transformed into the Bergen-Belsen DP camp.