This collection is partially processed. The folders are arranged alphabetically by topic, and the album is stored within the same box.
Bergen-Belsen was a German concentration camp established in 1940 and liberated by British forces on April 15, 1945. The Bergen-Belsen Collection is a topical collection created by the staff at the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs, intended to bring together documentation, albums, presentations, and literature related to the efforts of American Field Service ambulance drivers in assisting the British forces with camp survivors following the liberation.
In 1940 German military authorities established the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp near the city of Celle in northern Germany between the villages of Bergen and Belsen. It was originally a prisoner-of-war (POW) camp for French, Belgian, and Russian soldiers from 1940 to 1941. In April 1943 a section of the camp was taken over by German SS guards, who established a detention camp for Jews intended for exchange with Germans held in internment abroad. By April 1945 the population of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp complex reached over 60,000 due to the arrival of thousands of prisoners evacuated from concentration camps close to the front line. Overcrowding in the camp huts, poor sanitary conditions, and the scarcity of food, water, and shelter led to an outbreak of diseases such as Typhus, dysentery, and tuberculosis.
On April 15, 1945, Bergen-Belsen was liberated by British forces. Shortly after liberation, a contingent of around seventy American Field Service (AFS) ambulance drivers from C and D Platoons of the 567 Company (Coy) was called in to assist in what became a seven-week mission offering aid to the survivors of the camp. Ambulance drivers from the D Platoon under the command of Lieutenant Murray drove to Lübeck on the Baltic to retrieve 130 German nurses to assist with the evacuation of the camp. A section of the C Platoon under the command of W.J. Bell volunteered to assist with stretcher-bearing details and distribution of meals to the survivors. AFS drivers helped evacuate over 11,000 people from the camp and drove them to the displaced persons camp established near the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. AFS drivers also transported medical equipment for the treatment of survivors and transferred the corpses from the wards of the hospitals to the mortuary.
AFS Interkulturelle Begegnungen e.V., the German partner of the AFS student exchange programs established after the war, remembered the victims and honored those who liberated the camp in a memorial on May 27, 1995, shortly after the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp. At the memorial, the AFS Archives presented an album documenting the service of AFS at Bergen-Belsen. Guests at the ceremony included former AFS ambulance driver Norman Shethar, AFS International Vice President Ebbe Skovdal, Dr. Klaus Töpfer, Federal Minister of Planning and Building for the Federal Republic of Germany, and Gottfried Beer, Chairperson of AFS Germany.
Restrictions: This collection is open for research. Cotton gloves are required for the handling of all photographic material, including transparencies.
Rights: Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the AFS Archives. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions.
The Bergen-Belsen Collection consists of topical material transferred to or collected by Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs staff.
Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], [Date]; Bergen-Belsen Collection; Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs, New York, NY.