DOCTOR HANS ENGEL
Hans Engel was born in Hamburg on 29 April 1916 to a Jewish family. At the age of twenty, he left Germany and went to college in Scotland, to study medicine. However, during 1940 and 1941 he was interned in Great Britain, because he was a German. He was given British Citizenship in 1943 and became a member of the Medical Corps of the Royal Army.
In 1944 he took part in the Allied advance from Normandy and was with the British Armed Guards Division when they arrived at Stalag XB, Sandbostel, on 29 April 1945, to liberate the camp. Nothing prepared him for the inhumanities he saw inflicted upon fellow human beings. Stalag XB was overcrowded with prisoners of war and concentration camp prisoners. It was Hans Engel's 29th birthday and a day he will never forget. He stated that, ‘the smell of dead bodies was absolutely dreadful. Concentration camps were like hell on earth!’
The people who were still alive were barely so. They suffered from starvation and typhus which had spread through the camp mainly due to the inhuman conditions there. Local German doctors and nurses were requested by the British Medics to care for the ill and dying. When they refused, saying they did not want to touch prisoners of war who might have typhus or might be Jewish, Dr. Engels gave a lecture to them, at the end of which he stated that regardless of a person’s race or religion, people were all the same. Because of this they were given no option but to come and help the British Army Medics. Women and girls, as young as 14, from the nearby villages were also ordered to assist in the care of the survivors and cleaning of the Stalag XB camp.
Dr. Engel was also instrumental in introducing a strict invalid diet for the survivors which was then used by the medics following the liberation of other camps.
On 29 April 2013, the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Stalag XB, the author Michèle Callan and survivor Harry Callan had the great privilege of meeting Dr. Engel in Stalag XB, where he spoke eloquently, about his experiences at the camp. It was Dr. Engel’s 97th birthday.
Sadly, Dr. Engel died on 23 October 2013. May he rest in peace.
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