Distance from the Belsen Heap: Allied Forces and the Liberation of a Nazi Concentration Camp

Distance from the Belsen Heap: Allied Forces and the Liberation of a Nazi Concentration Camp

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By Mark Celinscak
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2015
World Rights
328 Pages 24 Images
ISBN 9781442615700
Published Oct 2015
Online discount: 25%
 $32.95    $24.71
ISBN 9781442647626
Published Dec 2015
Online discount: 25%
 $75.00    $56.25
ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442668782
Published Nov 2015
Online discount: 24%
Full purchase $32.95

Winner of the 2016 Vine Award for Nonfiction

The Allied soldiers who liberated the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen in April 1945 were faced with scenes of horror and privation. With breathtaking thoroughness, Distance from the Belsen Heap documents what they saw and how they came to terms with those images over the course of the next seventy years. On the basis of research in more than seventy archives in four countries, Mark Celinscak analyses how these military personnel struggled with the intense experience of the camp; how they attempted to describe what they had seen, heard, and felt to those back home; and how their lives were transformed by that experience. He also brings to light the previously unacknowledged presence of hundreds of Canadians among the camp’s liberators, including noted painter Alex Colville.

Distance from the Belsen Heap examines the experiences of hundreds of British and Canadian eyewitnesses to atrocity, including war artists, photographers, medical personnel, and chaplains. A study of the complicated encounter between these Allied soldiers and the horrors of the Holocaust, Distance from the Belsen Heap is a testament to their experience.

Mark Celinscak is the Louis and Frances Blumkin Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies in the Department of History at the University of Nebraska Omaha and the Executive Director of the Sam and Frances Fried Fund of Holocaust and Genocide Studies.


Chapter One: Experience, Narrative and Meaning

Chapter Two: The Rhine, the Heath, the Wire

Chapter Three: The Distance of Presence

Chapter Four: A Camp on Exhibit

Chapter Five: The Impossible Real

Chapter Six: Padres, Patients and Pathologies

Conclusion: A Past Intensity

“By focusing on the camp’s liberators and their attempts to understand and communicate ideas about their experience, Distance from the Belsen Heap adds a new dimension to our knowledge of an important aspect of the Holocaust.”

Terry Copp, Director Emeritus, Laurier Centre for Military, Strategic, and Disarmament Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University

‘A thoughtful and useful addition to the literature on the Holocaust, Celinscak's work brings together solid archival research and interdisciplinary approaches to shed important new light on an under-research subject.’

Nicholas J. Steneck, The Journal of Military History vol 80:04:2016

‘This book is a worthy addition to any scholar’s library, especially those who study the Holocaust, genocide, or World War II.’

Melissa Young, H-Net/H-War September 2016

"It is the single best book on the liberation of Belsen or any other one of the camps that became symbols of Nazi depravity."

Robert Abzug, Canadian Jewish Studies / Etudes juives canadiennes, vol. 24, 2016, December 7, 2016

"This book is a valuable addition, with new information, to accounts about this infamous place"

Jane S Gabin, The Wiener Library, December 2016, December 23, 2016

‘Celinscak’s book is yet again proof that much new material on the Holocaust remains to be discovered and that even the best-known parts of the history hold secrets yet to be uncovered.’

Dan Stone, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, vol 30:03:2016

Distance from the Belsen Heap is a model study of events that have for too long been considered footnotes to history.’

Robert H. Abzug, Canadian Jewish Studies vol 24:2016

‘Required reading. Essential. All levels/libraries.’

M.A. Mengerink, Choice Magazine vol 53:11:2016

“A very well documented study of one of the key events in the history of the Holocaust. Engaging, well researched, and unusually specific in the lenses.”

Jury, Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Literature

“This is a remarkable account of the Allied liberation of Belsen. It builds on the growing and diverse scholarship in the field and develops it further by wide ranging and careful research. This topic requires a sensitive approach and Celinscak has more than met this challenge. Sources ranging from art and photography, oral history, and contemporary reports are combined with great subtlety and purpose. Neglected areas, especially the Canadian forces and their role in the camp’s liberation, are rightly restored to the narrative. Multidisciplinary, it is a major contribution to Holocaust studies.”

Tony Kushner, Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/Non-Jewish Relations, University of Southampton

“A valuable, thoroughly researched work, Distance from the Belsen Heap rightly rebalances the story of Bergen-Belsen’s liberation to include the Canadian experience.”

Suzanne Bardgett, Head of Research and Academic Partnerships, Imperial War Museums

Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Literature (Non-Fiction) awarded by The Koffler Centre of the Arts (Canada) - Winner in 2016