Distance from the Belsen Heap: Allied Forces and the Liberation of a Nazi Concentration Camp

Distance from the Belsen Heap: Allied Forces and the Liberation of a Nazi Concentration Camp

by Mark Celinscak


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Winner of the 2016 Vine Award for Nonfiction

The Allied soldiers who liberated the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen in April 1945 were faced with scenes of horror and privation. With breathtaking thoroughness, Distance from the Belsen Heap documents what they saw and how they came to terms with those images over the course of the next seventy years. On the basis of research in more than seventy archives in four countries, Mark Celinscak analyses how these military personnel struggled with the intense experience of the camp; how they attempted to describe what they had seen, heard, and felt to those back home; and how their lives were transformed by that experience. He also brings to light the previously unacknowledged presence of hundreds of Canadians among the camp’s liberators, including noted painter Alex Colville.

Distance from the Belsen Heap examines the experiences of hundreds of British and Canadian eyewitnesses to atrocity, including war artists, photographers, medical personnel, and chaplains. A study of the complicated encounter between these Allied soldiers and the horrors of the Holocaust, Distance from the Belsen Heap is a testament to their experience.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781442615700
Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
Publication date: 10/26/2015
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 6.02(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

Mark Celinscak is the Louis and Frances Blumkin Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies in the Department of History at the University of Nebraska Omaha and the Executive Director of the Sam and Frances Fried Holocaust and Genocide Academy.

Table of Contents


Chapter One: Experience, Narrative and Meaning

Chapter Two: The Rhine, the Heath, the Wire

Chapter Three: The Distance of Presence

Chapter Four: A Camp on Exhibit

Chapter Five: The Impossible Real

Chapter Six: Padres, Patients and Pathologies

Conclusion: A Past Intensity

What People are Saying About This

Terry Copp

“By focusing on the camp’s liberators and their attempts to understand and communicate ideas about their experience, Distance from the Belsen Heap adds a new dimension to our knowledge of an important aspect of the Holocaust.”

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