25 November 2023

Bergen-Belsen 1945 (part 4: the truce)

Continuation of Part 3.

References and Part 1: here.


For a full timeline, see https://www.belsen.co.uk/diary-of-events/. The main persons involved in the events are the following.


  • Victor FitzGeorge-Balfour, temporary brigadier, General Staff of 8th Corps, see [T, Appendix A] signed by him. More information here.
  • Richard (Dick) Taylor, Lieutenant-Colonel, commander of 63rd Anti Tank Regiment Royal Artillery, taking command over the Bergen-Belsen area.


  • Erhard Grosan, Oberst=Colonel, commander of Tank Training School
  • Karl Harries, Oberst=Colonel, commander of Bergen-Belsen barracks 
  • Hanns Schmidt, Oberst=Colonel, second-in-command


  • Josef Kramer, Hauptsturmführer=Captain, commander of Bergen-Belsen since December 1944
  • Fritz Klein, Hauptsturmführer=Captain, doctor in Bergen-Belsen since January 1945 and responsible camp doctor for only three days
  • Franz Hössler, Hauptsturmführer=Captain, second-in-command, commander of Bergen-Belsen Camp 2.

BU 4068:
Lt. Col. Taylor, M.C. and the German Commander go over the final details of the transfer.
 (17 April 1945)

The English text of the truce agreement as given in [T]:

Appendix B: 

a copy of the agreement concluded between representatives 

of the Allied and German Armies

on 12 April 1945.

1.  On instructions from the Reichsführer SS [=Himmler], the military commander at BERGEN approached the Allied forces, 12 April, with regard to the concentration camp at BELSEN.

2.  The following area will be regarded as neutral: 475635 – 450640 – 448690 – 460705 – 490705 – 495675. [Note: an area of 6 by 8 kilometres. — C.I.]

3.  Both British and German troups will make every effort to avoid a battle in this area, and, as far as operations make it humanly possible, no artillery or other fire (including bombing and strafing) will be directed into this area. Equally, neither side will use this area for the deployment of troups or weapons.  This paragraph is subject to overriding military necessity.

 4.  The German military authorities will erect notices and white flags at all the road entrances to this area as far as possible.  These notices will bear, in English and German, on one side “Danger – Typhus” on the other “End of Typhus Area.”  A disarmed post will be mounted by the Germans at each notice board.

 5.  Hungarian and German troups at present employed on guard duties will remain armed and at their posts. All such troups will wear a white arm-band on their left sleeve.

 6.  The Hungarians will remain indefinitely and will be placed at the disposal of the British forces for such duties as may be required. The German Wehrmacht personnel will be released within not more than 6 days and conveyed back to the German lines with their arms and equipment and vehicles at the end of the period.

 7.  SS Guard personnel will be removed by 1200 hrs 13 April, any remaining will be treated as Prisoners of War.  SS administrative personnel will (if the Wehrmacht can prevent them running away) remain at their posts and carry on with their duties (cooking, supplies, etc.) and will hand over records. When their services can be dispensed with, their disposal is left by the Wehrmacht to the British authorities.

 8.  The Wehrmacht will continue to man the telephone exchange until it can be relieved. Wires leading out of the Camp will require disconnecting.

A German version of the truce document, with a (not contemporary and not official) English translation is given here

The handwritten annotation says the document was signed by Harries, Schmidt (difficult to decypher though), Grosan, Taylor and (Fitzgeorge-)Balfour. 


a. It is often claimed that Oberst Harries was executed afterwards for having surrendered the camp. In fact, he ended as a prisoner of war and died in 1978. (Read it here.)

b. Many around the globe, following [K, p.162], mention a "Brigadier Taylor-Balfour" as the British Chief of Staff signing the agreement, but there is no such person. Apparently, Taylor and FitzGeorge-Balfour have been merged into one. 

c. The English and the German texts are not in perfect agreement. Thus in point 7 the German text stipulates that the S.S. Supply and Administration personnel and the camp Doctor will carry out their duties until relieved, but the English text does not mention the camp doctor. As a matter of fact, the camp doctor left, leaving his subordinate Fritz Klein, who stayed, in charge.

As a result of "the" agreement the SS guards left. The 40 female SS members also left but Kramer recalled them, and 22 of them did return the next day [K, p.177]. The guards were replaced with Wehrmacht and Hungarian troops under British command. On 15 April 1945 the British took possession of the camp alongside them. The Hungarians shot rioting and looting inmates, and the British fired shots over the heads in an attempt to keep order. Several Kapo’s were beaten to death by former prisoners in Camp 2. 

On 17 April 1945 all remaining SS personnel was disarmed and arrested [T, p.5], and on 20 April 1945 German non-SS military personnel was escorted back to the German lines. Taylor and Harries signed a certificate to the effect that the agreement had been carried out to the best of the ability of both sides [T, p.5].

BU 4067:

The Wehrmacht of the camp leaving to em-bus for their journey. (17 April 1945.)

Note. From Taylor's report we know that the Germans troops left on 20 April, which means that the date of the event given by IWM is wrong.

The whole infected area was then demarcated with typhus warnings.

and eventually, the whole camp was burnt down as a sanitary measure.


Continued and concluded in Part 5