The Lost Transport – Reminiscences
In April 1945 the inmates of the Bergen–Belsen camp in Germany could hear the artillery rumblings of the Western Front and realized that they would soon be liberated. However, the Germans loaded a group of Dutch origin, including Weinberg and his wife, onto trains and sent them eastwards towards the Elbe River in slow moving jerks and stops. The train was strafed by Allied aircraft and many were killed. In the meantime Bergen–Belsen camp had been handed over to the British. The train crossed the Elbe River and continued through Berlin. Food became available by selling and bartering with local farmers and villagers — with the SS’s agreement. The Council of Elders organized the collecting of food, which worked to the benefit of all. They also dealt with the burial of the dead. Thousands of Germans were fleeing on foot from the advancing Red Army. At this stage the author came down with typhus. On April 23, 1945, Russian soldiers burst into the train removing rings and watches from the prisoners. The train had stopped near the villages of Trobitz and Schilda, whose inhabitants had abandoned them. The survivors in the trains were notified that they could inhabit the villages and some 2,000 nationals of twenty-six countries did so. Weinberg recovered but many others succumbed to the disease, which was still prevalent. Accordingly, the villages were put in quarantine. Food was acquired mainly by begging from the Red Army, which also sent medics to care for the ill. The Council of Elders took over the rationing of food and supply of identity documents. Weinberg, a cantor, was entrusted with the task of burying and documenting the dead. At the end of June, an American convoy of trucks transported survivors from Western countries to Torgau on the Elbe. About 350 Bergen–Belsen inmates were buried in Trobitz–Schilda.