bergen belsen concentration camp
58th LAA - Royal Artillery,  First in,  News

Albert Wood – ‘9’ TROOP 174 Battery 58th L.A.A

This letter was written by my uncle, Albert Wood, to his wife Jenny. Albert was a young British soldier, one of the first in at the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. I have recently sent copies to The Wiener Library in London, and also to the Bergen-Belsen Museum. Here is a transcript:

APL 16th45
12 P.M.
Sweetheart Darling,
No doubt you will wonder why I am writing at midnight. The truth is that I cannot sleep until I tell someone of what I have seen this day. It has been a day of horror for all of us. We took over a camp this morning by arrangement with the Germans. It stretches for miles and contains 60,000 Russians, Czechs, Poles, French and Jews and a handful of Canadians. In our part are 16,000 of them and about 30 of us have the job of organizing their feeding etc until our own Civil Affairs people can get here. We have read about these places and what went on in them, but it is only when one is faced with the real picture that you realize what life here means.
As we came in we were greeted by a mob of starving men and many dropped dead before our eyes, unable to stand the excitement of knowing they were free. As we made a tour of inspection we found dead men by the dozen lying on the grass and roads. There had been no food for 6 days and the water was cut off. Many could speak English and told awful stories. I have seen the gas chambers where mass murder took place every day, and the torture houses where half dead men were killed inch by inch for such crimes as stealing a turnip. In another part of the camp there are men, women and children and it is there that typhus is rife and conditions are the worst. There thousands are lying dead and hundreds are still dying each day and about that camp I can say no more, it is too horrible to think of.
We have given these people their first meal and they are milling around outside awaiting to see what happens next. I have had nothing to eat all day and do not feel like it either after seeing these poor devils. In due course you will read about it in the papers, but they too will never be able to tell you what this day has been like. The R.A.M.C. have the job of tackling the typhus camp and the whole 60,000 are to be de-loused tomorrow so we have some job.
There were a few Germans left here and a few others who used to tell tales, but they are no longer able to talk. They died terrible deaths as they deserve to. We are living in the building the S.S. guards used and it is like a palace. Young boys were used as servants and they are still here anxious to serve us.
If any of us were inclined to treat the German people a little kindly before coming here, there are certainly none now, and the people at home who write articles in the papers saying we must not be bad to them and such tripe should be forced to visit this place which is only one of many. We cannot be fighting against human beings so therefore they must be treated as animals and mad ones at that. As I sit here I can hear the moans of the dying outside and in the block opposite ours, and hardly any of our boys are sleeping. We have seen many things, but this has shaken us all.
I cannot write any more dear just now so I will finish in the morning.
12 A.M.
In the last 12 hours we have done the work of a lifetime and something like order is taking shape. We have separated the various nations and fed them, and now they are forming their own committees to help us. The hospital has been put into use again under the R.A.M.C. who have come in and things are greatly improved. But there remains much to be done yet and it is not easy work. How long we shall be here I don’t know but we all long to be back in the fighting line where the air at least is clean.
The mention of food is too much for most of us. I have been down to the women’s camp and conditions there are far worse than here, but it is showing signs of improving. Water has been supplied and hundreds of women are to be seen naked and making some attempt to cleanse themselves. One young Jewess told me she had not washed for three months as a punishment for resisting a German soldier. A pit has been found there containing over a thousand who died of starvation and dysentery and typhus.
I hope that this does not upset you darling, but it has helped me a lot to tell you and I feel much better for doing so.
We are still waiting for our own mail sweetheart and I long for a letter from you. You are always in my thoughts and last night I could not stop myself thinking of what would have happened to you had these beasts got into England.
I can’t write any more dear so please excuse me.
I do love you darling and pray for the day when we shall meet again.
Cheerio Sweetheart and God Bless You
Your Ever Loving Hubby
Albert

Ed – Two batteries, 172 and 174 from the 58th LAA RA were used as the camp garrison after the liberation

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