Today, 15th April, marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen by the 11th Armoured Division. Regional Ambassador Natasha Lyon has blogged on the importance of marking this significant anniversary.
"In the world of nightmare!"
This is the phrase that broadcaster Richard Dimbleby used to describe the unimaginable horrors that greeted him when he entered Bergen-Belsen concentration camp after its liberation in 1945. He was one of the first reporters allowed into the camp and his first-hand account was broadcast into households across Britain. This would have shocked a contemporary audience and even in the modern day the atrocities committed within the camps horrify us.
This is why we must ensure the horrendous crimes committed within the “barbed wire fences” of Bergen-Belsen are not forgotten and the testimonies of the “living skeletons” who survived within the camp are retold to prevent such harrowing events from happening again. As a Regional Ambassador for the Holocaust Educational Trust I have had the opportunity to meet Holocaust survivors and listen to them as they bravely shared their testimony. As an Air Cadet, I organised for Joanna Millan, a survivor of Theresienstadt concentration camp to visit our squadron and to deliver her testimony. I recognised the importance of the armed forces in liberating concentration camps and I wanted to relate the bravery of these men to the modern day airmen. There was a group of Royal Air Force Reservists, Air Cadets and Officer Cadets of the University Air Squadron in attendance. I believe the event was a huge success and the audience left with a new and interesting insight into life under the Nazi regime and a sense of admiration for the courage demonstrated by survivors such as Joanna, as well as the forces who liberated these camps and worked to bring victims back to full health.
Recently I was given the fantastic opportunity of speaking at a reception held by George Osborne in Number 11 Downing Street. I spoke of the importance of remembering the Holocaust, especially the survivors, but also the liberators who brought the suffering to a close. Gena Turgel was herself a survivor of Begen-Belsen and met her husband, Norman, during the liberation of the camp as he was a member of the 11th Armoured Division. This is an example of how happiness can be found in a place of immense suffering and they are to be admired. This year will be a significant anniversary as it is 70 years since Bergen-Belsen was liberated and may be the last time a large group of survivors group together to commemorate an anniversary and remember those who died within the camp. This is why the next generation must be educated about the Holocaust and the cruelty which occurred to allow us to learn from the mistakes of previous generations.