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Article posted Dec 18 2005, 4:39 PM Category: History Source: Reuters Print

Britain ran torture camp after WWII: report

Britain ran a secret prison in Germany for two years after the end of World War II where inmates including Nazi party members were tortured and starved to death, the Guardian says.

Citing Foreign Office files that were opened after a request under the Freedom of Information Act, the newspaper says Britain had held men and woman at a prison in Bad Nenndorf until July 1947.

Locals at the time said you could hear prisoners scream at night.

The Foreign Office files detailed an investigation carried out by a Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Tom Hayward, who found evidence of torture and said at least two inmates had starved to death while another had been beaten to death.

"Even today, the Foreign Office is refusing to release photographs taken of some of the 'living skeletons' on their release," the newspaper said.

Former prisoners told Inspector Hayward they had been whipped as well as beaten and any prisoner thought to be uncooperative during interrogation was taken to a punishment cell.

"Threats to execute prisoners, or to arrest, torture and murder their wives and children were considered 'perfectly proper' on the grounds that such threats were never carried out," the paper reports.

Initially, most of the detainees were Nazi members or former members of the SS, rounded up in an attempt to prevent any Nazi insurgency, although a significant number were also businessmen who had done well under Adolf Hitler, the paper says.

One of the men who starved to death, Walter Bergmann, had offered to spy for the British and fell under suspicion because he spoke Russian.

"There seems little doubt that Bergmann, against whom no charge of any crime has ever been made, but on the contrary, who appears to be a man who has given every assistance, and that of considerable value, has lost his life through malnutrition and lack of medical care," Inspector Hayward wrote in his report.

The newspaper says the then Prime Minister Clement Attlee had been briefed about the camp and was told guards were instructed "to carry out physical assaults on certain prisoners with the object of ... making them more amenable to interrogation".

Three men were court-martialled following the report.

Two were acquitted and another found guilty of neglect of inmates and dismissed from the service.

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