Letters from Belsen 1945: An Australian Nurse's Experiences with the Survivors of War

Letters from Belsen 1945: An Australian Nurse's Experiences with the Survivors of War

Letters from Belsen 1945: An Australian Nurse's Experiences with the Survivors of War

Letters from Belsen 1945: An Australian Nurse's Experiences with the Survivors of War

Excerpt

Many people have asked me, during the war and since, how it was that I, an Australian nurse, came to be in the Nazi Horror Camp at Belsen. Even when I explained that I was there as Matron and not as victim, after the camp had been liberated and not during the German regime, these questioners seemed puzzled by the circumstances. Actually, there was no mystery about my appointment to Belsen, as the reader will learn, but much that was unusual and historic occurred during my term of service there. It is on that account that I venture to present the letters which I wrote while in Europe.They were not written for publication but to keep relatives and friends informed of my doings; they were written at odd times, in some very odd places, and often—particularly at Belsen—under very great difficulties, so I have thought it wise to tidy them a little. Many of the facts stated in my letters have since been confirmed by evidence given at the now famous Nuremberg Trials.

At the end of 1944, with the war in Europe drawing to a close and my work as Principal Matron of the Royal Australian Air Force Nursing Service slowing down to a series of local inspections and routine office duties (which my capable assistant could very well undertake), the plight of millions of displaced persons in the former occupied countries became increasingly compelling to me. The urge to help these people was so irresistible that I decided to apply for an appointment with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.Permission was granted by RAAF Headquarters and it appeared as if I would soon be doing a worthwhile job once more, as an administrative nurse with UNRRA in north-west Germany.Then delays, obscure in origin, postponed receipt of my discharge for many weeks. I waited with increasing exasperation but . . .

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