Michael and Pam's Travels Our European Motorhome Adventures and other Travels

Bergen-Belsen, Germany 2016 🇩🇪

Travelled : 181 kilometres from Dornumersiel to Bergen Belsen, Lower Saxony.

Visited : The Bergen-Belsen Memorial

Stayed : A marked motorhome parking spot in Zetel, free no services. N53.41855 E07.96953

Municipal Stellplatz Bergen, €3.50, the usual services including electricity. N52.81272 E09.96456

Whilst we enjoyed a long bike ride around Dornumersiel and it’s sea wall, the weather has closed in again and with it the rain.  So we do what travellers do, wave goodbye to our German neighbours and drive south along the Judebusen a huge bay or inlet that cuts deep into Lower Saxony.  Whilst we know the Judebusen is there, we cannot see it only the sea wall that surrounds it.

Funny to think what if we had sea walls everywhere in Australia, you would need to live on the top floor of a 4 story building to see the water ?

We have a loose plan for Hamburg, but it’s too far today in the rain.  So we settle for Zetel.  It’s just a small town but it has a very pleasant stellplatz in the middle of the village .  When we arrive we also find it has 8 caravans formed in a circle in the middle of the stellplatz.  This is unusual from our limited experience and we soon ascertain they are a group of Gypsies (all towing their caravans with Mercedes) heading for Paris for a Gypsie music festival or possibly a fashion show?

Anyway we don’t know much about Gypsies and we normally take people on face value.  So we set up over one side next to another motorhome.  Well after a couple of hours of screaming kids and two guys with angle grinders appearing to be building a boat trailer in the middle of the Stellplatz we gave up and moved up to the swimming centre for a nice quiet evening.

We wake to an epiphany.  In Amterdam we visited Anne Frank’s home on the canal and read about her fateful transport to Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp.  If we drive south we can visit the Bergen-Belsen Memorial and then go on to Hamburg a day later.  As we don’t have a plane to catch or need to worry about being late for dinner, it’s Bergen or bust.

Our free spot in Zetel. I know it doesn’t look much, but it had no noisy Gypsies and it was free !
A very Australian campercar breakfast on the road today. Except for the Lurpak of course.

We arrive in Bergen and find a very nice Stellplatz is a small reserve near the middle of the village, so we set up, get the bikes of the Hymer and head off for the Rathuas and the tourist information office.

The Bergen-Belsen Memorial and Documentation Centre.  Bergen-Belsen, already an Wehmracht (Army) depot, was chosen as the site for a POW Camp in 1939.  It was originally used to house French and Belgium POWs, then subsequently Russian POWs.  The documentation states around 20,000 Russian POWs died here.  Bergen-Belsen would later became infamous as a Concentration Camp in 1943.  Bergen and Belsen are the two towns that flank the camp if your wondering about the name.
From the time Bergen-Belsen was taken over by the SS in 1943, the documentation indicates 52,000 men, woman and children died in this Camp before its liberation by the British in April 1945.  There were no ‘gas chambers’ here, people were just worked, starved or beaten to death.  Another 13,000 internees died in the months after liberation despite the best effort of the British Army.  This is one of several mass graves sites used by the British Army to bury the almost 10,000 corpses found during its liberation.
The Memorial Site stand on 55 hectares, it’s a calm place with winding paths and small areas set for individual tributes and reflection.  While many nationalities have individual areas, the common theme was the Jewish Faith of most of the victims.
The marker for Margot and Anne Frank.  Some of the mass grave mounds can be seen in the background.
The Documentation Centre is a museum and as well an historical archive. It provides an opportunity for relatives to go through the archives of historical records. It also adds a personal touch (through video recordings) as the museum tells the stories of many of the individual internees, the human spirit and their stories of survival.

Anyway Bergen-Belsen is an emotional experience, we walked the site and memorials the first afternoon and thought that’s enough for one day.  Returning the next morning to visit the Museum and Documentation Centre for a different experience.  Bergen-Belsen is  a popular place with visitors, mostly German from our experience.  The German’s aren’t trying to church it up, the SS are shown as the epitome of evil, however the treatment of the Russian POWs by the Wehmracht didn’t rate too highly.

A small fountain in Bergen. It was a beautiful piece of bronze work. If you look closely each of the dishes of flowing water has a sign rivitted to it stating the water is not for drinking.  I mean really, it’s at a point where you need a sin for that.  Germany is lovely place and very easy in a motorhome, but as our friend Johannes told us “Germany has lots of rules”

Michael and Pam

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