The Bergen-Belsen POW Cemetery

Around 600 metres from the former camp lies the cemetery where the victims of the Bergen-Belsen POW camp and hospital are buried. Between 1941 and 1945, at least 19,580 Soviet POWs, at least three Polish POWs and 142 Italian military internees were buried there. Most of the graves date back to the winter of 1941/42, when the mass deaths among the Soviet POWs occurred at the camps. Nearly 14,000 POWs died between the autumn of 1941 and late March 1942 alone. The dead were usually buried in mass graves. Prisoner work details transported the bodies from the camp to the cemetery, dug the pits and buried the bodies. Only during the first months were the Soviet POWs buried individually, as were the Italian military internees and the Polish POWs later. As stipulated by the Geneva Convention, the Soviet prisoners‘ files which the Wehrmacht had kept were taken to the Soviet Union after the war, where they were stored in the archives of the military and the secret service. It was not until the mid-1990s that the files of the Soviet victims were made publicly available by the Central Archives of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation in Podolsk near Moscow. Only since then has it been possible to establish the names of the victims of the POW camps in Germany.

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