A truly inspiring story about Belsen

I was at an Edward de Bono course last week, which coincided with the 65th anniversary of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

One of the things we discussed is how to think “outside the proverbial box” and how you can get truly outstanding results.

I thought this story is truly uplifting and is one where a small but radical bit of thinking really made a difference and one where it is not just about sadness, but hope, from a dark and tragic chapter:

An extract from the diary of Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin DSO, who was among the first British soldiers to liberate Bergen-Belsen in 1945. The start describing the horrific scenes the liberators saw can be found in depth with a few clicks of a mouse & I will not repeat here:

“It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we men wanted, we were screaming for hundreds and thousands of other things and I don’t know who asked for lipstick.

I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for these internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wandering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the post mortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tattooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.”

Thanks to John Baker (no relation) for talking about this episode and Banksy for alerting me to it.