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A Guide to the Bergen-Belsen Photographs

Finding aid created by Joyce Dewsbury

University of Florida Smathers Libraries - Special and Area Studies Collections
October 2007

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Mitchell, Curtis
Title: Bergen-Belsen Photographs
Dates: 1945
Abstract: Photographs taken following the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany during World War II.
Extent: 0.2 Linear feet. 2 boxes.
Identification: MS Group 137
Language(s): English

Biographical/Historical Note

Bergen-Belsen was a concentration camp in north Germany near the city of Celle and was located between the villages of Bergen and Belsen. The camp was originally built in 1940 as a prisoner-of-war camp for Belgium and French prisoners and in 1941 it was named Stalag 311. But in April 1943 it was designated as a concentration camp to be administered by the SS and was given the name Bergen-Belsen. Its purpose was to operate as a detention camp for prisoners who might be exchanged for German nationals in Allied countries. However, there were relatively few exchanges.

The camp was divided into at least eight sections: a detention camp, two women's camps, a special camp, a neutrals camp, a "star" camp, and Hungarian camp, and a tent camp. The tent camp was for prisoners who were either sick or had been injured. One of the prisoners at this tent camp was Anne Frank who later died from typhus before the camp was liberated by the British on April 15, 1945.

As allied troops advanced Bergen-Belsen became flooded with thousands of Jewish prisoners from camps nearer the front. By April 15 the camp was seriously overcrowded with 60,000 prisoners. The overcrowding, poor sanitation, and lack of food and water led to the typhus epidemic which caused the deaths of thousands of people.

Scope and Content

The photographs which comprise this collection were taken at the camp presumably hours after the liberation. Colonel Curtis Mitchell was the Director of the Pictorial Branch of the U.S. Army under Dwight D. Eisenhower. Colonel Mitchell took a staff photographer into the camp with him and these photographs were the result. The photographs do not reflect the full horror of this concentration camp. Many are of the physical layout of the camp as the vistas, the buildings, and the interiors. Some of the photographs show the prisoners, who had survived, engaged in activities as cooking, eating, showering, and standing in groups. There are also graphic images of the mass graves with their piles of dead bodies. Printed information is included on the reverse side of each photograph.

Access or Use Restrictions


The collection is open for research.

Related or Separated Material

The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum ( holds photographs and a memoir created by Curtis Mitchell.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Bergen-Belsen Photographs, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

Acquisition Information

The photographs were donated by Curtis Mitchell and Marie Saul. Colonel Curtis Mitchell had given the photographs to his nephew Mitchell Saul many years before.

Selected Subjects and Access Terms

Bergen-Belsen (Concentration camp) -- History -- Pictorial works.
Holocaust survivors -- Germany -- Belsen (Bergen, Celle) -- Pictorial works.
Refugee camps -- Germany -- Belsen (Bergen, Celle) -- Pictorial works.
Refugees, Jewish -- Germany -- Belsen (Bergen, Celle) -- Pictorial works.

For further information, please contact: Special Collections Access Services.

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