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This audio clip from an oral history interview with Leslie Hardman was recorded by the Imperial War Museums on 22 September 1997. In the clip, Leslie talks about entering Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp.

Leslie Hardman – a short biography.

Reverend Leslie Hardman was born in Glynneath, near Neath in 1913, to a Jewish family. He moved to Manchester as a child, trained to become a rabbi, and got a job as a minister in Leeds in 1936. During the Second World War, he became an army chaplain and was posted to Belgium and the Netherlands. After his unit crossed into Germany, he was the first Jewish British Army chaplain to enter Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. He supervised the burial of approximately 20,000 victims at the camp. He later served as the rabbi at the Hendon United Synagogue in London.


I got to the gates, first the soldiers wouldn’t let me in, I think they were all terrified, full of nerves. Anyhow, I eventually got in…to the gates, there was a young girl there…young girl, maybe a young woman. She saw the Magen David on my uniform, so she saw I was Jewish, well she wanted to rush forward and hug me. She looked so repulsive that I, I, I moved backwards, and as she moved forwards, she was…she was liable to fall, but I managed to control myself and kept her, kept her on her feet. And then, as we walked a few yards later, there was about eight or ten people lying on the ground. And I said, “Why aren’t they in their huts?”—there was some huts nearby—she said, “They’re dead! And so, we’ll all be dead if more help…doesn’t come quickly.” Right, so then…I moved, or then I met three or four women who could talk to me, and then I started to learn about the gruesome, horrific things the Nazis did.


Imperial War Museum, Oral history interview with Leslie Hardman, 22 September 1997 [accessed 17 August 2022]

Depository: Imperial War Museums.

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