The site of the infamous POW and concentration camp is now a memorial to the victims of World War II and the Holocaust. Anne Frank was among the more than 70,000 Jews, prisoners of war, homosexuals, Roma, and others who died here.
A place of immense cruelty and suffering, the camp was burned to the ground by British soldiers, who liberated the camp in April 1945, arriving to find thousands of unburied corpses and typhus, typhoid, tuberculosis, and other diseases spreading rapidly among the survivors. All that physically remains of the camp today, which is inside a nature preserve, are the foundations of some of its prisoner barracks and a number of burial mounds overgrown with heather and grass and bearing stark inscriptions such as "Here lie 1,000 dead."
The history of the camp and its victims is explained further through a series of moving video, audio, photo, and text exhibits within the slender, minimalist structure of the 200-meter-long, 18-meter-wide Documentation Center.
Built almost entirely of plain concrete panels, the center is softly lit and peaceful inside, its floor sloping gently upward from the entrance and beyond the exhibits to windows that let in light and views of the trees outside.
Visitors to the Memorial should plan to stay at least two or three hours. Free 90-minute tours of the site in German and English leave the Documentation Center information desk at 2:30 on Thursday and Fridays and at 11:30 and 2:30 on weekends, from March to September. Don't try to see everything when visiting the memorial, but do take some time to walk around outside, visiting the site of the barracks to gain a better understanding of the atrocious living conditions inmates of the camp were forced to suffer.
Bergen-Belsen is 58 km (36 miles) northeast of Hannover. Although it's possible to get here on public transport, it requires traveling first to the town of Celle by train, and then taking an hour-long bus journey. Buses run every two hours and require multiple changes. By car, take autobahn exits Mellendorf or Solltau Süd and follow the signposts to the memorial.