Tiana Taliep is an Archivist for the Sala and Aron Samueli Holocaust Memorial Library and Archive at Chapman University since September 2017. Previously, she worked as a Processing Archivist at the New York Public Library. Tiana earned her B.A. in History from Brooklyn College, and Master’s in Library and Information Science with a certification in Archives and Preservation of Cultural Material from Queens College. She is a second-year student in the War and Society Major’s program at Chapman University.
The Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, one of the first reported camps of the Nazis during the Second World War, represented only a small part of the atrocities committed by the Nazis. Over 50,000 people died at Bergen-Belsen during its time in operation, including the teenage diarist Anne Frank and her sister Margot. As the British 11th Armored Division liberated the camp on April 15, 1945, the soldiers documented the horrors of Bergen-Belsen that left a lasting impact on international perception and memory; Bergen-Belsen became synonymous all over the world with the German crimes committed during the Nazi period.
As time begins to erode the memory of the atrocities committed under the Nazi regime, the Bergen-Belsen Memorial is developing new ways to remember its history. The Bergen-Belsen Memorial established an International Summer School to engage professionals at the beginning of their careers with an affinity for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies. This summer, I had the privilege to be one of twenty participants, representing eighteen different countries. Throughout the summer program, my peers and I were actively engaged in diverse workshops, seminars, group projects, individual presentations, and guided tours that focused on the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
The Bergen-Belsen International Summer School was an exceptional opportunity to learn both from experts and from my fellow participants who came from so many different backgrounds and countries. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for us as a group of young professionals to grapple with the complex question of how we can work more effectively to sustain and further Holocaust memory in the decades to come.
However, this year, summer school participants had a unique opportunity to contribute to the 2020 ceremony that will mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. We selected locations around the site to record ourselves sharing our thoughts on memory; thereby contributing to the Bergen-Belsen Memorial’s emphasis on a transnational, collectible memory that transcends the boundaries of the camp itself. In a wooded area near the perimeter of the former camp, I shared my reflections on memory and focused on my obligation as an archivist to respect the collected memories of individuals represented within a finding aid.
I spent a large percentage of my time viewing the liberation portion of the permanent exhibition, and I found the Memorial’s film tower the most thought-provoking. A selection of film footage shot by the camera operators of the British Number 5 Army Film and Photographic Unit is shown inside the tower. The Memorial projects eleven rolls of silent footage presented as historical documents in the unedited form explained by excerpts from the cinematographers’ notes. The film tower helps to stress the films’ character as archival source material. In addition, the written records of the camera crews’ impressions and comments vividly convey the idea of the historical events to the visitor.
Inclusion in the Bergen-Belsen 75th anniversary of the liberation was especially fulfilling as I plan to write my thesis for the War and Society Master’s program on the liberator’s narrative. I have noticed that museums and memorials place appropriate emphasis on the victims, perpetrators, and the more extensive mechanics of the Second World War; relatively little on the liberators is documented in history. The Bergen-Belsen summer school program was an appropriate start to my research.