Germany Archives - StoryCorps

Bergen-Belsen

On April 15, 1945, British forces liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany. Sixty-thousand prisoners were living in the camp when the troops arrived, most of them seriously ill. Thousands more lay dead and unburied on the camp grounds.

BBC reporter Patrick Gordon Walker was among the press corps that entered Bergen-Belsen with the British troops that day. Over the next few weeks, he documented what he saw, recording the first Sabbath ceremony openly conducted on German soil since the beginning of the war, interviewing survivors, and speaking to British Tommies about what they had witnessed at liberation.

One of the people who heard Walker’s radio dispatches was soon-to-be-legendary folk-music producer Moe Asch. An engineer at the time at New York radio station WEVD, Asch recorded the shortwave broadcast onto an acetate disc. Decades later, the record was re-discovered at the Smithsonian Institution by historian Henry Sapoznik.

Recorded in Near Celle, Germany. Premiered April 20, 2002, on Weekend Edition Saturday.

This documentary comes from Sound Portraits Productions, a mission-driven independent production company that was created by Dave Isay in 1994. Sound Portraits was the predecessor to StoryCorps and was dedicated to telling stories that brought neglected American voices to a national audience.