In May 1945 working as an ambulance driver for the American Field Service, Congdon entered the Bergen Belsen concentration camp just after its liberation and was met by the horrifying sight of 65 thousand wraithlike men. Congdon spent a whole month in Belsen, taking part in a huge aid effort. The massive presence of death pushed his creative nerve: he made many drawings of limbs, faces and the eyes of the dying. It was the war that turned his decision to be a painter into a real vocation.
«It was only during the last war (…) when the thirty-year old me who in witnessing the suffering of others found himself for the first time (…), becoming conscious that the source of his love lay in others, and experiencing a hitherto unknown sense of freedom and joy of reality.»His encounter with Italy, which took place during the war, was destined to last. For Congdon, the country’s two traits, suffering and piety, but also seduction and beauty, reflected the dual aspect of his own nature and creative talent, which seemed to blossom in conditions of isolation and inner struggle.