Major Hugh Stewart led the No 5 Army Film and Photographic Unit who entered Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on 19 April 1945, just days after its liberation.
When Belsen was voluntarily turned over to the Allied 21st Army Group on April 15 1945, Stewart was head of No 5 Army Film and Photographic Unit (AFPU). As such he was under strict War Office orders to remain with the British Army as it advanced further into Germany. But realising the significance of the scenes at the camp, he decided to go over the heads of his superiors and make a direct appeal to Eisenhower, arguing that it was vital to prepare a cinematic and photographic record.
Eisenhower overrode the War Office, and in the days after the liberation Stewart and his team undertook the harrowing job of filming the camp. Towards the end of his life Stewart said that not a single day had gone by without him remembering by sound, sight and smell of what he witnessed during those few days. Later he was consulted by the research team for Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993).
Major Hugh Stewart led the No 5 Army Film and Photographic Unit who entered Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on 19 April 1945, just days after its liberation. His papers describe the terrible suffering he encountered there, and tragic scenes of survivors living alongside the bodies of the many people who had died in the camp.
Very vivid cyclostyled account written by him while in command of No 5 Army Film and Photo Section and describing a visit he made to Belsen concentration camp on 19 April 1945, capturing the scenes of carnage and degradation, the incongruity of people living almost obliviously amidst piles of corpses, and the camp guards and the prisoners themselves.
Beginning his career as an editor, Stewart worked on The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and The Spy In Black (1939). During the war he filmed the real life horrors of a liberated Belsen, and later produced films for Norman Wisdom, Morecambe and Wise and the Children’s Film Foundation.
Major Hugh Stewart MBE.
14 December 1910 to 30 May 2011
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