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Distractions from the heavy impact of the war


Belsen concentration camp
Ken Adam Artist
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When the war was over, we did all these victory flypasts in formation, and all that. And then the Command, or whatever it was then, decided that I should be placed in charge of about 10,000 ex-German Luftwaffe prisoners who were... supposed to... build bigger runways where we were stationed at Wunstorf, and I was in charge of that whole operation. So I got a sort of temporary commission another... for another year in Germany, near Hanover, and in charge of these Luftwaffe personnel. And the one thing that I do remember... because when we heard about what happened in Belsen, I brought the whole officers' staff – because they were still in their uniforms – to Belsen. I hadn't been there myself, and... looked at that concentration camp.

Now, all the inmates by this time were billeted in the SS barracks, but some of them came around with us because they were almost proud to show the horror of this place, and... I must say these German officers which were with me were absolutely speechless. They knew that concentration camps existed, and they knew that some not very nice things happened there, but they'd never thought to come face-to-face with what they found there, you know. So that was quite an experience.

[Q] And you were how old now – 22, or something, I suppose? 21, 22?

Yes, something like that, yes.

[Q] It was quite young, isn't it, to be dealing with that sort of thing?

Yes... yes.

Sir Kenneth Adam (1921-2016), OBE, born Klaus Hugo Adam, was a production designer famous for his set designs for the James Bond films of the 1960s and 1970s. Initially, he trained as an architect in London, but in October 1943, he became one of only two German-born fighter pilots to fly with the RAF in wartime. He joined 609 Squadron where he flew the Hawker Typhoon fighter bomber. After the war, he entered the film industry, initially as a draughtsman on This Was a Woman. His portfolio of work includes Barry Lyndon and The Madness of King George; he won an Oscar for both films. Having a close relationship with Stanley Kubrick, he also designed the set for the iconic war room in Dr Strangelove. Sir Ken Adam was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: World War II, Münster, Germany, Hanover, Belsen

Duration: 2 minutes, 36 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 15 August 2011