|Title ID||4364||Collection ID||444|
|Title||The British at Belsen|
|Theme||Wartime and Military|
|Keywords||Armed Forces Cultural Heritage Ethnic Groups Old Age Oral History Second World War (1939-1945) Wars|
|Duration||27 min. 25 sec.|
|Copyright & Access||Copyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details|
A 'talking head' piece to camera film in which a former British soldier recounts his unenviable role in the clearing-up operation at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.
Speaking from his armchair in the Hospice in The Weald, former serviceman Fred Brushett introduces himself and his reasons for making the film. He proceeds to recount his memories of being sent, as a 21 year old soldier in the 113 L.A.A. Regiment R.A., to Bergen-Belsen at the time of its liberation from the Nazis. He recalls the sights, sounds and people he encountered with vivid honesty, endeavouring to present the truth to the viewer.
As a British soldier Fred dutifully carried out his orders, but it is clear that his job of creating and filling mass graves and of supervising members of the SS such as Irma Grese, had a profound personal impact. This is obvious when he concludes that his regiment did their job successfully but that his decision not to have children was a direct result of his experiences at the concentration camp. The film, which is interspersed with archive photographs of Bergen-Belsen, ends with a close-up image of Fred standing, rifle in hand, over one of the open mass graves in 1945.
The British at Belsen (2002) was made as part of the Rosetta Life arts project, a project which enables people with life-threatening illnesses to tell their stories through a range of artistic disciplines, including photography, painting and poetry. Whilst a patient at the Hospice in the Weald, Fred Brushett, under the guidance of the Hospice's artist-in-resident, chose to tell his story, committing his memories to film, "so that future generations will know some of the horrors of Belsen concentration camp." (Fred Brushett November 2002) The film uses a talking head format, allowing Fred to express his disturbing memories in a simple yet effective way - his direct address engages the viewer and encourages an evaluation of the truth of his witness statement. Upon its completion, Fred Brushett deposited his film with various archives where it serves as a uniquely important social and historical record.
Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was liberated by the British on 15th April 1945. Upon their arrival they found thousands of prisoners dying of malnutrition and disease (typhus). One of the first priorities was to curb disease - Fred Brushett's regiment was one of those involved in this, burying the dead in mass graves, evacuating the living and burning the camp to the ground. An estimated 50,000 people, including Anne Frank, died in the camp prior to its liberation - a further 13,000 died of disease and malnutrition shortly afterwards. The SS staff who had survived the typhus epidemic were later tried by the British at the Belsen Trial - Irma Grese, whom Fred Brushett recalled supervising, was sentenced to death by hanging.