Bergen Belsen – The Legacy
The liberation of Bergen Belsen began on the 15th of April but the legacy of the camp would remain.
The Queens Own Oxfordshire Yeomanry (QOOY) were in the camp between the 15th and the 20th of April 1945. Some of the men have shared their stories…
Contacting families – Arthur Tyler
On display at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum is a piece of paper with addresses from across the globe written on it. This sheet of paper represents the compassion of one man of the Yeomanry, Arthur Tyler.
Arthur collected from the liberated the addresses of relatives and offered to write to them, a gesture of kindness that would have a huge impact.
“I met very many British soldiers and I asked everybody to write about me to my family, but nobody did it – only you.”
Letter to Arthur Tyler from Naomi Kaplan in America 23rd May 1946.
Never forget – George Leonard
The SS had collected all the valuables from the prisoners and these were discovered in their barracks after liberation. With repatriation to the original owners impossible the men were allowed to take one or two items. The watch selected by George Leonard would go on to be more than a time piece.
George passed the watch to his daughter Vivian who has used it as part of a talk she has done at numerous schools. A watch is an item that everyone can relate to, they either wear one or know what one is, however, this watch tells an important story.
In 2013, George Leonard was recorded describing his experience in Bergen-Belsen. He was explicit that one motivation for speaking out was the existence of a vocal group of people who publicly tried to deny the experience of Jews and other persecuted groups during the war. He said that anyone casting doubt on what had happened ‘makes my blood boil’. He was determined that everyone should remember the evils perpetrated on the people who were imprisoned at Bergen-Belsen.
Meetings – Ken Trafford
Men of the Yeomanry have participated in many events, interviews, television productions about Bergen Belsen. Ken Trafford tells a story of a meeting at a memorial unveiling in Paris in 1994,
“Finally two Frenchmen came up to Henry [Barson] and I and produced a faded photo of two 17 year old boys terribly emaciated. These Frenchmen were those two boys, they shook our hands and said thank you for coming when you did otherwise in two more days they would have been dead. To me this was the most moving aspect of the whole day. With tears welling up in our eyes, Henry and I left.”
Ken Trafford’s account of his visit to Paris 1994. SOFO archive.
This blog is based on the collections of the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum and aims to make sure that the memory of the victims, survivors and liberators of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, including the men of the Oxfordshire Yeomanry, is not forgotten.