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Cannibalism Rampant in Bergen Belsen, Newly Unsealed Records Show

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avatar by Lea Speyer

Memorial at the site of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Photo: WIkimedia Commons.

Memorial at the site of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Photo: WIkimedia Commons.

A trove of newly-released documents from the British National Archives reveal how some prisoners in the Nazi concentration camp of Bergen Belsen resorted to cannibalism to stay alive, British media reported on Thursday.  

Harold Le Druillenec — who, according to The Independent — was the only British survivor found at Bergen Belsen at the conclusion of the Second World War, recorded the brutality of the Nazis in a detailed, handwritten document sent to the British government in 1964.

This was part of his effort to receive disability compensation after surviving “three concentration camps by a lot of luck and the ability to ‘live outside the carcase [sic],’” according to The Independent. He sought reparations, with the help of the British government, from a West German fund.

According to his account:

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All my time here was spent in heaving dead bodies into the mass graves kindly dug for us by “outside workers” for we no longer had the strength for that type of work which, fortunately, must have been observed by the camp authorities. Jungle law reigned among the prisoners; at night you killed or were killed; by day cannibalism was rampant. The bulk of Auschwitz had been transferred to Belsen when I arrived and it was here that I heard the expression, “There is only one way out of here — through the chimney!”

Le Druillenec was arrested by the Nazis in Jersey — the only part of the Channel Islands not controlled by Britain during the war — the day before D-Day in 1944. He helped his sister harbor an escaped Russian prisoner-of-war and was accused of “non-cooperation.”

Bergen Belsen was liberated on April 15, 1945 by British forces. It is estimated that 50,000 people died at the concentration camp, including Anne Frank and her sister, Margo. Le Druillenec spent 10 months imprisoned at the Nazi camp, which he wrote was “infinitely more uncomfortable — no food, no water, sleep was impossible.” He lost more than half of his body weight and suffered from malnutrition, scabies, dysentery and septicaemia.

The Foreign Office awarded Le Druillenec £1,835, which amounts to approximately £30,000 ($46,000) today.

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