Interview with Hans Reens, July 2015. Photo by Olaf Markmann. Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation
Interview with Hans Reens, detail, July 2015. Photo by Olaf Markmann. Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation
Interview with Katalin Shaw, November 2015. Photo by Olaf Markmann. Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation

Witness Interviews

In 1999, the Bergen-Belsen Memorial began conducting video interviews with survivors of the concentration and POW camps, former inhabitants of the DP camp and other witnesses as part of its academic and educational work and its exhibition-related research. 450 interviews totalling around 2,000 hours of footage have been recorded thus far. These videos are a key component of the Memorial's collection of historical documents.

Survivors of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp are the focus of these biographical interviews. Therefore, the majority of the interviewees are Jews or former political prisoners, as these were the largest groups of prisoners in the camp. A smaller number of interviews have also been carried out with Sinti and Roma former prisoners, Jehovah’s Witnesses, former Polish and Soviet POWs and Italian military internees as well as other witnesses, including British soldiers, members of the relief staff in the DP camp and local residents. Over seven decades after the liberation, it is no longer possible to speak with men and women from every prisoner category.

For example, there are no interviews with men who were imprisoned in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp for homosexuality, nor are there interviews with former prisoners categorised as being “anti-social elements” or “professional criminals”.

The biographical interviews document the experiences of individual prisoners and offer a personal perspective on historical events. They supplement the incomplete documentation from the time of the camp and address incidents and situations which are touched on only briefly or not at all in other historical sources. Without these personal accounts, it would not have been possible to document many aspects of the camp’s history and details about life in Bergen-Belsen. The biographical interviews cover the lives of the interviewees not only during their persecution and World War Two, but also during the periods before and after this.