Online Edition: Herta Bondyová, description of harsh living conditions in Bergen-Belsen

Herta Bondyová
Wednesday, 15 April, 2020

On 15 April 2020, it is 75 years ago that Bergen Belsen was liberated. In the EHRI Online Edition on Early Holocaust Testimony, you can find many samples of early testmonies of Jewish witnesses and survivors taken before the 1960s, including accounts of life in Bergen Belsen. One of the most striking testimonies on this camp comes from Herta Bondyová, a young Czech woman. She desribes in a very literary way what followed after her deportation from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen. In an emotial account, made on 27 May 1945, she tells the stories of her fellow prisoners and points out the harsh living conditions in the camp.

27. 5. 1945

It’s freezing. We are forced to huddle together, cold and hungry with no hay in the railway cars. It doesn’t matter. The main thing is that we’re going away from here, where life hangs by a thread – Auschwitz. We want to live, so far all of us still do. So few of us are left.

It’s freezing. We get off the train. As if our lethargy had left us, all at once a thousand questions. How long have we been travelling? An eternity. Did we travel through forests, silence, nature? How long has it been since we’ve seen nature? Years. Where are we? What will happen?

There, a sign: Kr.Gef.Lager Bergen-Belsen. What, we’re prisoners of war? That would be wonderful, the girls speculate, and we slowly become interested in our fate.

We’ve arrived. Stunning, vast moorlands in full bloom, dark purple, with beautifully green thin pines greet us with their rustling. A smiling sun in its full beauty in a clear winter sky – it can’t be possible that we are going to our deaths. Not possible? Haha.

Read the complete 2 page testimony of Herta Bondyová (translated from Czech).

Image: Herta Bonyová, Jewish Museum in Prague