Oral History

Bella Jakubowicz Tovey describes conditions in Bergen-Belsen

Bella was the oldest of four children born to a Jewish family in Sosnowiec. Her father owned a knitting factory. After the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, they took over the factory. The family's furniture was given to a German woman. Bella was forced to work in a factory in the Sosnowiec ghetto in 1941. At the end of 1942 the family was deported to the Bedzin ghetto. Bella was deported to the Graeben subcamp of Gross-Rosen in 1943 and to Bergen-Belsen in 1944. She was liberated in April 1945, and immigrated to the United States in 1946.


Bergen-Belsen was, was not a, was not like Auschwitz. There were no gas chambers. They didn't need any gas chambers, it was a really death camp. I remember we were brought into a big, empty barrack. There was only straw on the floor. We were pushed into that barrack so that you could not stretch your legs. We were sitting with our knees practically up to our...you know, next to our chins. And, uh, and you couldn't stretch your legs, and it was cold and we were hungry. Uh, I want to tell you that it didn't take long and we could stretch our legs, because people were...people were dying. Almost immediately people were dying all around us. And, uh, we had to take out the dead people and we had to carry them out on a...outside there were always big piles of dead bodies and I...I carried many. I don't know how I kept going. I tell you I...people have some way of protecting themselves. I know that I never, never looked at the faces, just didn't look at the faces.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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