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Title: Britain and Belsen
Author: Reilly, Joanne
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 1994
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Bergen-Belsen was the second concentration camp to be liberated by the Western Allies, in April 1945. It was the only intact major camp to be liberated by the British Army and was unusual in that it contained a large proportion of Jewish prisoners. This thesis examines the liberation period (a previously neglected area in Holocaust studies) through the prism of Bergen-Belsen camp and investigates the special place that Belsen has held in helping to shape general British attitudes towards the Holocaust. Concentrating on the immediate post-war period of 1945- 1950, the thesis investigates the strong link between the way Belsen was perceived by British society in those years and present day perceptions of the camp. Thus, Belsen, and the Holocaust in general, is established as an important part of British history. A variety of experience is surveyed, illustrating the complex and differentiated ways that the liberation affected the individuals and the communities involved. The experiences of the liberators and the liberated (both male and female) and the responses of the British state and society, including the Anglo-Jewish community, are examined, both at the time of the liberation, and in the immediate post-war years, following the establishment of a Jewish Displaced Person's camp on the Belsen site. British State responses to the plight of the Jewish DPs are examined against the background of the post-war Palestine question and early developments in the Cold War. The accepted view of the liberation as a singularly joyous event, providing a neat ending to the Holocaust years is questioned, as is the extent to which British society understood, and continues to understand, both the role of Belsen and, indeed, the Holocaust itself.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Concentration camps; Liberation period; Holocaust