Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irene Hasenberg Butter - September 22, 1986

Conditions in Bergen-Belsen

So this went on for how long? This odd routine.

Well, we were in Bergen-Belsen from February '43 'til January '45.

February of '44.

'44, '44 to '45. So it was uh, eleven months that we were there.

What do you remember that stands out in your mind, particularly?

Things got worse all the time. The um, the life in the camp deteriorated. Less food uh, more harassment, more cruelty, and more people coming because some point in '44, the Russians um, advanced to the extent that they, they transferred people from, from Auschwitz. And people came from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen, which meant that, um... And many other transports came, people from out of Albania, people from Greece, people from Hungary, so that we constantly had to live with more people and less... and more beds were crammed in. And the conditions, of course, became worse and worse because we were so crowded. The end, I remember, that they had the bunk beds, there were three beds on top of one another and two beds next to each other so, and two people in each bed. So you had six beds, twelve people shared six beds and six beds were very close together. And there was almost no space to put anything. The only... And there was no dining room, the only thing you had was your bed, so you did everything on or in your bed. You had to eat in your bed, you had to store your food in your bed, you had to have all your belongings in your bed, you slept in your bed. And there were two people in each bed. The bathrooms were very inadequate for that many people and a lot, of course, as time went on, more and more people had typhoid fever and dysentery, and bathroom conditions were uh, just uh, unbelievable. It's, it's... Can't describe it. And then at one point, they um, they took um, people called Kapos, they were former prisoners of war or criminals, I don't know, maybe both or some of each, and they put them in charge of our camp. And they went around with um, rubber hoses and beat up a lot of people, sometimes for no reason whatsoever or sometimes 'cause you, you were in the wrong place, or you weren't walking fast enough or whatever, there, there was a lot of beating.

Were you beaten?

I never was. But my father was.

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