In April 1945, the British Army liberated tens of thousands of prisoners from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The survivors included Celia Landau and the sisters Anita and Renate Lasker. Before leaving Germany, they lived in the Jewish Displaced Persons Camp, which was set up close to the former concentration camp.
The horrors the soldiers witnessed during the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp were beyond comparison: Thousands of decaying corpses were heaped in the compound, the barracks were typhus infested. Around 50,000 enfeebled people urgently required food, drinking water, and clothes. Many of them died even after the liberation.
Three young women were amongst the survivors: Celia Landau from Hamburg and the sisters Renate and Anita from Breslau. Celia had survived the Lodz Ghetto and the concentration camps Auschwitz and Neuengamme and lost her whole family. Anita and Renate had also lost their parents.
Virtually all the Jewish survivors had neither family nor home. In contrast to most of the non-Jewish Displaced Persons (DPs), they often had nowhere to return to after the Second World War ended. The longing for a Jewish homestead was thus great.
The Jewish Belsen DP Camp was the largest of its kind, with around 12,000 people until it was dissolved in 1950. The camp’s infrastructure included a synagogue, a mikveh, a kosher canteen kitchen, and a police force. A diverse cultural life with theater, concerts, cinema, and sports teams came into being. Celia and Renate worked as translators while Anita played cello concerts.
There were many hurdles to leaving the camp and Germany behind. Anita and Renate were lucky and were able to travel to their sister in London already in March 1946. In hazardous circumstances, Celia managed to emigrate to the USA. She married there and changed her name from Celia Landau to Lucille Eichengreen.