A group of Holocaust survivors have had an emotional meeting with a British veteran of the Second World War, almost 70 years after he and his unit helped free them from a Nazi death camp.
There were tears as the Jewish men and women once held at the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany met Gilbert King, 96, who is one of only three former soldiers still alive of those who took the camp for the Allies in April 1945.
Several of the men and women were in tears as the former Gunner King told of the horrors he and his unit, the 249 (Oxfordshire Yeomanry) Battery, Royal Artillery, faced when they entered the camp on April 15, 1945.
They were brought together in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, where the new Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum documents the history of his and other local units, including the concentration camp’s liberation.
Susan Pollack, 83, was a teenager in the camp, sent there from her native Hungary, where she had lived with her family in a small village near Budapest.
After meeting and thanking Mr King, she said: “These people, the liberators, they represent to me the real truth about heroism –that they had a duty to do, a job to do, and yet they had the kindness and the goodness to attend to our needs with such wonderful, kind, devoted feelings. They were the first ones actually, who kind of restated that...the world outside has not been polluted with that venom and that evil that we experienced.”
Some 70,000 people died at Bergen-Belsen, between Hamburg and Hanover in northern Germany, between 1941 and 1945, including Jews from all over Europe and also Soviet prisoners of war.
Mr King described seeing “thousands and thousands” of bodies piled four deep between the huts, but also the happiness on the face of the living at being freed.
“We entered the camp and were met by the all the joy in the faces of the inmates who hadn’t been in there very long,” he said.
“I shall always remember one thing, that one of the inmates came up to me, bent down and kissed my boots.
“This was very emotional to me, a thing I shall never forget”