At least three Orangemen were among the first to witness the horrors of the concentration camps.
John Edwin Roberts, Royal Ulster Rifles, and James Molyneaux, Royal Air Force, came face to face with one of the most awful aspects of the Nazi regime; an aspect of inhumanity that no training could have prepared them for. 60,000 people had been murdered in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, and many would succumb to awful conditions despite liberation on 15 April 1945.
John Edwin Roberts emigrated to Canada after the war and was a member of LOL No. 341.
James Molyneaux would enter Ulster politics, becoming an MP and leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. He served as Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution and was appointed Lord Molyneaux of Killead.
After the war he remarked that the images he witnessed upon the liberation of Bergen-Belsen would remain with him.
On display in the Museum of Orange Heritage is a broken piece of a ceramic insulator that was part of the electric fence at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. It is a macabre piece of history but one that helps us explore one of the most heinous crimes of the Twentieth Century – the Holocaust. The Holocaust was the systematic murder of Jews, and other minority groups, from across occupied Europe during World War II.
Teddy Dixon, pictured left, who served with the 42nd Rainbow Division, 7th US Army, was one of the first soldiers to enter the infamous Dachau Concentration Camp. The scene was horrific;
“I was one of the first 12 soldiers to enter the gates of Dachau camp on April 29 and can still see the bodies in my mind’s eye…The dead were lying everywhere and the smell was indescribable…We found one man who had been left for dead in a carriage but was still alive and we got him some medical attention. We gave our rations to as many of those who could eat but it was too late for several who died in front of our eyes.”
We should never forget.