The role of London Medical Students in the relief of Bergen-Belsen in 1945

Event Details

Speaker: Professor Stephen Challacombe PhD, FRCPath, FDSRCS, FMedSci, DSc (h.c.), FKC

Lecture summary: In early April 1945, 96 medical students from the London Schools volunteered to help at Belsen concentration camp in the middle of Germany. On arrival, they were assigned one of the 80 wooden huts to look after, each of which housed up to 500 starving, ill and emaciated inmates. War to the East continued. 45,000 starving people inside the camp had had no food for weeks and no water for the last week. Typhus and TB were rife. The British Army had buried the piles of bodies but had made few inroads into the individual huts. The students set about looking after and delivering food and water to all the surviving inmates. The camp death rate dropped from 800 a day to below 50 a day within two weeks. The students assisted the inmates to be cleaned and move into a hastily constructed hospital of 14,000 beds. At the end of four weeks the students flew back to Croydon airport, gave back their uniforms, returned to their medical schools, and never met as a group again. This is their story.

About the speaker:

Stephen is Professor of Oral Medicine at King’s College London (now part-time). He previously has held many University posts including Postgraduate Dean and Director of External Strategy for the KCL Health Schools.  He is Past President of the British and International Associations of Dental Research and the British and European Societies for Oral Medicine, and was honorary Consultant in Oral Medicine to the UK Armed Forces. He has published over 300 research papers and is co-author on nine books on food allergy and intolerance, oral medicine; oral immunology. He retains a keen interest in sport, especially rugby, golf and tennis. He has been President of the Hunterian Society and of the RSM History of Medicine Society.

(Sydenham Lecture)

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