Lucille Eichengreen’s Story of Liberation
From Survivor’s Transcripts
We stayed in this camp until the end of March 1945. Then they suddenly put us in trucks. We got off the trucks and they made us walk. We really didn’t walk very well at that time. I leaned on Ellie, Ellie leaned on Sabina. And we came through a gate _ it looked similar to Auschwitz, watchtowers _ and I looked on the right and the left. There were huge mountains of shoes, just shoes, any color, any size, maybe ten feet tall, mountains of shoes, no feet, no legs, shoes. They counted us into a barracks, somebody got the information that this was Bergen Belsen. And that night the woman screamed continually, no bunks, and she gave birth to maybe a half pound, a pound, large infant. The infant died immediately. She didn’t even know she was pregnant. In Bergen Belsen there was no water, there was hardly any food. There were open, open, not even ditches, open huge pits with bodies, naked bodies. Most of them were decaying in green.. There was a tremendous amount of typhoid. There was no work to be done, I mean no work details, nothing. We were there approximately I would guess two weeks, give or take. And then one morning we saw the SS on the other side of the wire and they had white armbands n their left sleeve. It didn’t mean much to us. Everything was the same, maybe less food, but they didn’t come into the camp _ they as a rule they didn’t_ and by lunch time we heard enormous noises. And then we saw tanks rolling in the main avenue. That was it.
I started working for the English that afternoon. (crying pause)
I: Did you have any idea what was going on?
E: No. None. Nothing in and nothing out. The British didn’t know. They had no idea what they were finding and they were looking for interpreters because they had trouble with this multitude of languages. I could manage a couple of them, not all of them, but at least for the Hungarian Jews I could speak Yiddish. With the Polish Jews, either Polish or Yiddish. With the Russians, I sort of spoke some Polish or Russian, but they were not Jewish, the Russian prisoners. And they had no idea what they had found. They found people, that night they dispersed food stuffs from the German warehouses and there were two pound cans of pork and fat. And being hungry you open them and you eat; by the morning you are dead. That’s how we lost Ellie’s mother. Ellie got very sick and she couldn’t even eat, by then she had tuberculosis, she lost a lung in the meantime. And for some reason I had the common sense to ask the major for whom I worked for some biscuits and I didn’t eat the pork. I just ate dry biscuits, the first day the second day, we went from barrack to barrack. And he wanted to talk to the people and to know where they’re from. And half of them couldn’t even talk to them, you know, it was too late.
There was a man who had a knife in his hand, he must have weighed almost seventy pounds. And he was slicing away at a corpse and eating the raw flesh. It was unreal. Because you walked around, you could see it, I think the first order was to bring water and food and bury the dead. And to have some hospitals opened. While they made many mistakes, they also did a lot of good. I mean they tried. I worked for them as an interpreter until they had to rush me out of Germany in December 1945. Sometimes a translator, once I was asked to translate when they had caught a German who never was in the Army, who never was an SS, after much interrogation it turned out he was SS. He was stationed in (Avanenburg), and towards the end of the interrogation the major took his gun out of his holster, released the safety and put it in front of me. I picked it up but I couldn’t shoot. I couldn’t. And then I asked him if he was interested in the 42 SS from the camp near Hamburg. I had memorized their names and addresses from just doing the paperwork. And he said, yes, let’s pick them up.