Pen & Sword Books ~ Belsen and its Liberation


By Ian Baxter

Images of War Series

Published by Pen and Sword Books Ltd.

Copyright © Ian Baxter, 2014

ISBN 978-1-78159-331-8

180 Pages

MSRP – £14.99 UK / $24.95 US




’, “Images of War is an ongoing series books on the campaigns and formations of the Second World War. The writers bring together a collection of graphics and often rare photographs supported by text and insets to bring their subject alive. Not limited to WWII, the Images of War series covers WWI and the Korean War alike.”


On April 15, 1945, British troops were not prepared for what they were about to discover as they rolled up to Belsen concentration camp to liberate it; over ten thousand corpses piled up waiting for burial, starving and diseased prisoners and around forty-thousand more dead buried nearby. While Belsen was not one of the Nazi Death Factories like Auschwitz, the atrocities remained the same. As part of Pen & Sword’s Images of War Series of books, Ian Baxter gives us a photographic examination of Belsen.


  • Introduction
  • Profile of a concentration camp guard
  • Chapter 1 – POW Camp
  • Chapter 2 – Under SS Control
  • Chapter 3 – Liberation
  • Appendix I – Belsen Concentration Camp Staff
  • Appendix II – Sentences Given to Staff

The author begins the this book with a look at what was expected from the SS guards that worked in a concentration camp. Outlining both men and women, these guards were conditioned and trained to view their prisoners as sub-human and they were to inflict harsh punishment for those who did not follow the rules.


Belsen was originally an attached housing area for workers constructing a military training camp. By the time war broke out in 1939, the military base had been abandoned. The German Command decided Belsen would be an ideal POW camp for prisoners from the Polish campaign. With increasing numbers with the invasion of France and Operation Barbosa to follow, where Germany attacked Russia, the expansion of the camp was soon to follow. Once Nazi SS was put in control of the camps the atrocities began to unfold. Mistreating of prisoners was common place and often encouraged; starvation, beatings, and murder were regarded as normal by the staff. The author describes in detail the guard staff and their day to day coming and goings and the ability to disassociate themselves from the camp while not there.

This book shows us a detailed photographic recording of the liberation of the camp by British forces. There are a tremendous amount of rare photos within the book and many in this section are extremely graphic in nature. The now captive former staff of the camp, both men and women staff, were forced to clearing the tens of thousands of dead bodies and moving them to mass graves in an effort to show them what crimes to humanity they had done.

The book closes with an Appendix on the sentences handed out after the staff was put on trial for their crimes.


It is never easy to see the harshness of war and still even more difficult to look upon such atrocities as genocide to which the Nazis were so accustomed and what seen in the concentrations camps during the Second World War. Belsen and its Liberation gives us a look inside the concentration camp at Belesen, the men and women who ran the camp as well as the poor souls who had to endure the tragedy of being held captive within its walls. This book is an exceptional piece of reference material, documenting the Belsen Concentration camp and Ian Baxter has done well with a highly detailed accounting of the camp, guards and its victims with respect to the men and women who perished there.


I wish to thank Pen & Sword Books Ltd for supplying this review sample.

Pen & Sword



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