The Liberation of Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp by George Rodger

The Liberation of Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp by George Rodger


With the outbreak of the Second World War, Rodger had a strong urge to chronicle the war. His photographs of the Blitz gained him a job as a war correspondent for Life magazine, based in the United States. Rodger covered the war in West Africa extensively and, towards the end of the war, followed the Allies’ liberation of France, Belgium and Holland. He also covered the retreat of the British forces in Burma. He was probably the only British war reporter/photographer allowed to write a story on the Burma Road by travelling on it into China, with special permission from the Chinese military.

Rodger was one of many photographers to enter the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen in 1945, the first being members of the British Army Film and Photographic Unit. His photographs of the survivors and piles of corpses were published in Life and Time magazines and were highly influential in showing the reality of the death camps. Rodger later recalled how, after spending several hours at the camp, he was appalled to realise that he had spent most of the time looking for graphically pleasing compositions of the piles of bodies lying among the trees and buildings.

This traumatic experience led Rodger to conclude that he could not work as a war correspondent again.

German SS soldier who passed out from carrying corpses being carried by two others at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp.

German SS soldier who passed out from carrying corpses being carried by two others at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

Female SS soldiers filling mass grave w. corpses while under guard by British soldiers at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp.

Female SS soldiers filling mass grave w. corpses while under guard by British soldiers at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

Corpses lying on ground at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Corpses lying on ground at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

Liberated women at concentration camp prepare for DDT dusting against vermin.

Liberated women at concentration camp prepare for DDT dusting against vermin. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

Dead and dying prisoners at the newly liberated Bergen Belsen concentration camp.

Dead and dying prisoners at the newly liberated Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

Annalese Kohlmann, former Nazi female guard noted for her cruelty, now a prisoner in the recently liberated Bergen Belsen concentration camp.

Annalese Kohlmann, former Nazi female guard noted for her cruelty, now a prisoner in the recently liberated Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

Male & female German SS soldiers being forced to load corpses onto trucks under British guard at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp.

Male & female German SS soldiers being forced to load corpses onto trucks under British guard at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

British doctors using DDT to delouse newly liberated prisoners at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp.

British doctors using DDT to delouse newly liberated prisoners at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

Newly liberated prisoners waiting on line for food at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp.

Newly liberated prisoners waiting on line for food at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

Newly liberated prisoners at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp lining up for food shortly after Allied forces overran the area.

Newly liberated prisoners at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp lining up for food shortly after Allied forces overran the area. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

Female German camp guards being forced to unload truck full of the bodies of deceased priosners at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp.

Female German camp guards being forced to unload truck full of the bodies of deceased priosners at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

British doctor using DDT while delousing newly freed female prisoners at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp.

British doctor using DDT while delousing newly freed female prisoners at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

Body of a dead inmate of the Bergen Belsen concentration camp shortly after the liberation of the camp by Allied troops.

Body of a dead inmate of the Bergen Belsen concentration camp shortly after the liberation of the camp by Allied troops. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

Female prisoners in the newly liberated Bergen Belsen concentration camp.

Female prisoners in the newly liberated Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

Female prisoners sifiting through garbage for food at the recently liberated Bergen Belsen concentration camp.

Female prisoners sifiting through garbage for food at the recently liberated Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

Portrait of Magdalene Kessal, 25, a domestic servant who served as SS girl at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Portrait of Magdalene Kessal, 25, a domestic servant who served as SS girl at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

New internees of the freshly liberated Bergen Belsen concentration camp includ this pair of French brothers, Charles and Louis Perret, wearing white boots they took from the Germans.

New internees of the freshly liberated Bergen Belsen concentration camp includ this pair of French brothers, Charles and Louis Perret, wearing white boots they took from the Germans. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

German guard being forced to put bodies of prisoners into a mass grave at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp.

German guard being forced to put bodies of prisoners into a mass grave at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

British doctor administers delousing treatment of DDT up the skirt of an embarrased looking female prisoner who is among the 60,000 prisoners just released from Bergen Belsen concentration camp after its liberation by Allied forces.

British doctor administers delousing treatment of DDT up the skirt of an embarrased looking female prisoner who is among the 60,000 prisoners just released from Bergen Belsen concentration camp after its liberation by Allied forces. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

Weak and dying prisoners stretch out on dirt bank behind Bergen Belsen barracks after the concentration camp was liberated by Allied troops.

Weak and dying prisoners stretch out on dirt bank behind Bergen Belsen barracks after the concentration camp was liberated by Allied troops. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

German boy walking down a dirt road lined w. the corpses of hundreds of prisoners who have died of starvation nr. Bergen xtermination camp.

German boy walking down a dirt road lined w. the corpses of hundreds of prisoners who have died of starvation nr. Bergen xtermination camp. Photo: George Rodger/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images


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