During Harold Le Druillenec’s time at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, it was his job to throw bodies into graves. The Briton from the Jersey, in the Channel Islands, was also imprisoned in two other camps. He gave a harrowing account of the horrors he experienced in the midst of surviving three different concentration camps.
In 1944 Le Druillenec aided his sister in helping a Russian prisoner of war escape. It led to his arrest in Jersey the day before the infamous D-Day took place. He was also arrested for not cooperating with the German forces that were occupying the Channel Islands.
Le Druillenec explained, “I survived three concentration camps by a lot of luck and the ability to ‘live outside the carcass’. I retain this trait.” The record of his experiences he wrote as he was seeking compensation for his disability, and his testimony was released by the UK National Archives.
Belsen was described as the worst of the three camps he experienced. There was little to no food and water, and getting sleep was almost impossible. The majority of his time was spent tossing dead bodies into the designated mass graves. The graves had been dug by outside workers because the prisoners had absolutely no strength or ability for this type of arduous activity. Druillenec further explained, “Jungle law reigned among the prisoners; at night you killed or were killed; by day cannibalism was rampant.”
At the time that he arrived in Belsen, most of the Auschwitz population had been transferred over. It was common to hear people say that the only way to get out of the camp was “through the chimney” (crematorium). After an agonizing ten months he was released, but not before he lost half of his body weight. It took almost an entire year to recover from the dysentery, scabies, malnutrition and septicemia that he suffered.
After the conclusion of the war, in 1945, he provided firsthand accounts that were used in the Belsen Trials at Nuremberg and elsewhere. From 1941–1945, 70,000 people were murdered at Bergen-Belsen. In the end, dozens of SS men and women were found guilty of their roles in the atrocities committed at the camp and sentenced to death or imprisonment.
Eventually, the Foreign Office award him compensation that amounted to £1,835. (This would be about £30,000 today.) This compensation was for the time he spent imprisoned and for the disabilities, he continues to live with. They were deemed to be “less than 50%.” His disabilities were to effect him for the rest of his life.