Train stands at end of train tracks at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum
Train stands at end of train tracks at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum Flash 90

One of the last living liberators of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp has died at the age of 97.

Ian Forsyth was 21-year old British reconnaissance unit tank operator when he was among a group that liberated the concentration camp, BBC News reported.

Forsyth, who was from Hamilton in South Lanarkshire, later recounted the horrors he witnessed liberating the Nazi death camp as a warning about “how low mankind can sink.”

He told BBC Scotland in 2020 that what he saw haunted him his whole life.

When he drove up to Bergen-Belsen, he said he had no idea what had been going on inside the gates.

"There was a strange smell about the place," he said. "I asked a gunner what the smell was. We hadn't a clue."

He added: "When we got to first part of the corrugated iron fence that was around the camp there were bodies everywhere. Somebody who did not see this would not believe what it was like… It's really a horrible nightmare, which you can't get rid of."

When he returned home after the war, his mother instructed him never to discuss the horror of what he’d witnessed. Only his wife knew of his struggles with his wartime experiences.

Forsyth was asked if he was proud of liberating concentration camp prisoners. He answered: "I'm not proud, I'm just glad that we got there when we did."

"We did save some people, there's no question. But when you see the graves with about 1,500 folk in each one, it rankles,” he said.

Holocaust Education Trust CEO Karen Pollock paid tribute to Forsyth in a statement.

“Ian Forsyth was one of the first British soldiers to liberate the Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. What he saw there stayed with him, and informed the rest of his life,” Pollock said.

“Over the past decades, he made such an effort to tell the next generation about what he saw, and to reconnect with those he liberated, including meeting survivor Renee Salt BEM with the Prime Minister to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2021. He was a kind and thoughtful man who we will remember fondly. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”