Historical sites in the surrounding area
There is a cargo loading platform around six kilometres from the former Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Between 1940 and 1945, tens of thousands of POWs and concentration camp prisoners arrived at this platform, and numerous transports to other camps left from there as well.
Part of this railway complex has been under a protection order since 2000 at the request of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Bergen-Belsen. This association had a replica goods wagon placed in a fenced-off area near the loading platform. There are also panels with information on the history of the platform and the route taken by prisoners to reach the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The Arbeitsgemeinschaft Bergen-Belsen holds a memorial ceremony there each year on the anniversary of the liberation.
The start of the access road to the platform is marked by a metal sculpture designed by the artists Almut and Hans Jürgen Breuste from Hanover.
After the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was liberated by the British Army on 15 April 1945, the survivors were taken to the nearby former Wehrmacht barracks, where they received medical treatment. The concentration camp prisoners and forced labourers who had been deported to Germany from all over Europe were given the status of “displaced persons” (DP) by the Allies. The Jewish DP camp in the grounds of the barracks held up to 12,000 survivors, temporarily making it the largest Jewish community in post-war Europe.
After 1945, the Wehrmacht barracks were turned into the Bergen-Hohne garrison of the British Army. When the British troops left in 2015, soldiers from the Bundeswehr and other NATO states moved into the barracks. The barracks are a secure military area and not open to the public, but the Learning Center M.B. 89 has been openly accessible since the beginning of August 2020 via its own barracks access.
In April 1945, shortly before the British troops arrived, the SS evacuated most of the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp. Around 6,700 Jewish women, men, and children were transported on three trains probably destined for the Theresienstadt concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic. Most of the prisoners were sick, and there was far too little food and water available for the long trip. Many prisoners died on the journey and after the liberation.
Only one train reached Theresienstadt. The other two trains were liberated by American soldiers in Farsleben north of Magdeburg and by Soviet soldiers near Tröbitz in the Niederlausitz region. Cemeteries, memorial plaques, and monuments commemorate the events at these sites.
The Bergen-Belsen POW Cemetery (Hörsten Cemetery)
Victims of the Bergen-Belsen POW camp are buried in a cemetery around 600 metres from the site of the former camp. Between 1941 and 1945, at least 19,580 Soviet POWS were buried there, mostly in mass graves. The majority of these prisoners died of starvation and disease in the winter of 1941/42.Additionally, 142 Italian military internees and nine Polish POWs are buried in individual graves in this cemetery.
The cemetery’s current appearance is largely the result of redesign measures carried out between 1964 and 1968. During this period, a new entrance was built, low mounds were created over the graves to give them all a similar appearance, and new paths were laid, some of them crossing the graves themselves. The Soviet monument was also moved to a remote area on the edge of the cemetery.
The Oerbke POW Cemetery
The cemetery for the victims of the Fallingbostel and Oerbke POW camps lies at the western edge of the Bergen military training area. This cemetery contains mass graves holding at least 14,000 Soviet POWs as well as individual graves for 232 soldiers from other countries, all of whom died in the two camps between 1940 and 1945.
The Wietzendorf POW Cemetery
At the southern edge of the Munster military training area is the cemetery where 16,000 Soviet victims of the Wietzendorf POW camp were buried between 1941 and 1943. During the mass deaths in the winter of 1941/42, around 14,500 Red Army soldiers died of starvation and disease in Wietzendorf.