After Daybreak: The Liberation of Belsen, 1945 by Ben Shephard - review by Caroline Moorehead

Caroline Moorehead

‘Practising Science in Hell Itself’

After Daybreak: The Liberation of Belsen, 1945


Jonathan Cape 292pp £17.99

When the 11th Armoured Brigade of the British Army entered Bergen-Belsen, on the morning of 15 April 1945, they found mounds of unburied corpses and 60,000 survivors – Hungarians, Poles, Romanians, Czechs, Yugoslavs, French, Belgians and Russians (most though not all of them Jews) – all reduced to little more than skeletons and covered in lice. Many had TB and typhus. There was no sanitation in the camp and no food. The ground was ankle-deep in faeces. Over the next few weeks, 14,000 – a quarter – of those found alive died; the rest were coaxed back to life.

For over fifty years after the liberation of the camp, the performance of the British medical teams in saving these sick and desperate people was widely celebrated as an epic success story. Much was said and written about the imagination and efficiency of the British doctors, nurses and Red Cross

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