In April and May 1945, Belsen concentration camp was liberated and entered Western consciousness for the first time through unprecedented and disturbing images. In March 1945 there were tens and thousands of prisoners in Belsen and an estimated 35,000 lost their lives in the four and a half months before liberation. Reilly examines British responses to the liberation of Belsen and its importance as a landmark in British History and its ideas about the Holocaust. She also includes survivor testimony to illustrate life in the concentration camp and the experience of liberation.
By examining Belsen's place in the Holocaust, as well as Anglo-Jewish and popular responses in the media, the author provides the context for Western reactions to concentration camps and analyses descriptions of Britain's part in the Second World War. She argues that Belsen played a key part in post-World War II perceptions of Nazism, becoming a symbol of the righteousness of the British war effort and hence a justification of "saturation" bombing of cities.
'A very considerable achievement … a reminder that good history-writing does not have to be spineless or dispassionate.' Jewish Culture and History