Nurses can play a key role in feeding people and restoring their humanity in times of great crisis and this was very evident during their little-known involvement in the liberation of Bergen-Belsen at the end of World War Two. That is the key finding of a historical research paper published in the October issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing.
"Much has been written about the role of the armed forces and medical teams during this distressing time in our history, but the contribution of nurses is rarely mentioned when it comes to the liberation of this concentration camp" says Dr Jane Brooks from the UK Centre for the History of Nursing and Midwifery, part of the University of Manchester's School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work.
"This was partly because of government policy, partly because the liberation was seen as an unsuitable place for women and partly because of the desire of many nurses to hide their memories.
"However, valuable lessons can be learnt about the role of nurses from history and Bergen-Belsen demonstrates that the role of nurses in emergency feeding can be essential for patient care and, in some cases, even more vital for patient survival than medical care."
When the British Army and medical teams entered the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Northern Germany in 1945 they found 40,000 survivors and 10,000 unburied bodies.
Unlike those interned in death camps such as Auschwitz, the Belsen inmates - who included Anne Frank and her sister Margot - died from starvation, disease and despair rather than gas chambers. In the months leading up to the liberation, their typical diet of less than 800 calories a day consisted of 200 grams of rye bread and varying amounts of soup containing mangold-wurzel, a beet vegetable grown mainly for cattle fodder.
Nearly 50,000 people died in Belsen over the course of two months, with 18,000 dying in the two weeks leading up to libera
|Contact: Annette Whibley|