Human Laundry at Bergen-Belsen (Hohne) Barracks


Stable Blocks were converted into improvised decontamination facilities. Here former prisoners would arrive, be shaven, washed and deloused prior to being moved into the newly established hospitals with Bergen-Belsen Barracks.

Of the 14000 people who eventually passed through the Human Laundry, only two died.

The German nurses brought in to work in the Human Laundry were initially hostile. They laughed, joked, were definitely truculent, made no effort to get things ready for the job in hand, damned if they were going to work for the British. But when the first patients started to arrive, those nurses stood with their mouths open and gazed horror struck as those bodies were brought in, first one then another started to sob until almost the whole sixty were weeping. There was no more truculence after that. The humanity and professionalism of these Germans soon wore down British hostility. Those girls worked like slaves, they grew thin and they grew pale but they worked and they toiled from eight in the morning till six at night. They earned the respect and in the end were given tea in the mid morning and cigarettes. The German nurses were of course at high risk of contracting Typus themselves. According to Allied accounts, they were offered immunisation but the German officer in charge of them refused it on the basis that they had received it recently. A month later, when 32 out of the 48 nurses were in bed with typhus he admitted that they had not had a typhus vaccine and gave several lame excuses for his refusal.

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