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Buchenwald Concentration Camp

(1937—1945)

The Buchenwald concentration camp was one of the largest camp systems in Germany. Until the end of 1943, only men were imprisoned in the camp complex. These men were largely from political or royal backgrounds and came from the countries invaded by the Nazi army. Buchenwald was not an extermination camp fit with gas chambers and large crematoriums. This camp killed inmates through starvation, forced labor, medical experiments, lethal injections, and hangings. As the Russian Army invaded from the east, Buchenwald's numbers swelled with an oncoming tide of prisoners being evacuated from camps like Auschwitz and Dachau. Thousands died in the last months of this camp's operation due to the lack of food, water, and the sheer number of individuals interned behind the barbed wire. This large camp complex held many famous politicians, but also held individuals from all across Europe who were imprisoned for the very reason that they lived.

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Buchenwald1.jpg
Prisoners during a roll call at the Buchenwald concentration camp. Their uniforms bear classifying triangular badges and identification numbers. Buchenwald, Germany, 1938-1941. — United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
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American soldiers and liberated prisoners at the main entrance of the Buchenwald concentration camp. Germany, May 1945. — United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
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The valuables displayed here were confiscated from prisoners by German guards at the Buchenwald concentration camp and later found by American forces after the liberation of the camp. Buchenwald, Germany, after April 1945. — United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
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Buchenwald8.jpgSoon after liberation, camp survivors from Buchenwald's "Children's Block 66"--a special barracks for children. Germany, after April 11, 1945. — Federation Nationale des Deportes et Internes Resistants et Patriots
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Buchenwald_Slave_Laborers_Liberation.jpg
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Crematorium at Buchenwald
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Roll call for newly arrived prisoners, mostly Jews arrested during Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass"), at the Buchenwald concentration camp. Buchenwald, Germany, 1938. — American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
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View of a guard tower and fence at the Buchenwald concentration camp. Germany, wartime. — American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
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Buchenwald2.jpg
A view of the Buchenwald concentration camp after the liberation of the camp. Buchenwald, Germany, after April 11, 1945. — United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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Stories

Dr. Harold Herbst Describes meeting a prisoner on the verge of death (known as a "Muselmann") in Buchenwald [1992 interview]

“One of the most memorable parts of that particular time that I walked through these barracks and walked around barracks, I was walking to the back of the barracks just to see what was back there. And as I walked by a little window that probably was one foot square or thereabouts, I heard a voice and I turned around and I saw a living skeleton talk to me...was talking to me, and he said, "Thank God the Americans have come." And that was a funny feeling. Did you ever talk to a skeleton that talked back? And that's what you...what I was doing. And later on I saw mounds of these living...I mean, these skeletons that the Germans left behind them.”

 

Source: United States Holocaust Museum; http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/media_oi.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10005198&MediaId=1141

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Place Details

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Camp Commandants:
Hermann Pister: January 1942-April 1945 1
Karl Koch: July 15, 1937-December 1941 1
Location:
Country: Germany 2
1,953 members of the Danish police interned:
September 1944 1
187 sick/disabled are sent to euthanasia facility:
13 Jul 1941 1
348 Norwegian students interned:
January 1944 1
742 former German parliament members are interned:
August 1944 1
8,000 Hungarian Jews are brought from Auschwitz:
31 Dec 1969 1
Allies bomb the armament factories & SS facilities:
24 Aug 1944 1
Armament factory begins production, subcamps opens:
March 1943 1
Buchenwald is the largest remaining camp complex:
February 1945 1
Buchenwald SS takes charges of Ravensbruck camp:
31 Aug 1944 1
Dora subcamp becomes an independent camp:
October 1944 1
Evacuation of the camp begins:
06 Apr 1945 1
First Soviet prisoners of war arrive and killed:
September 1941 1
Medical experiments begin in Barracks 44 and 49:
January 1942 1
Members of the French government interned:
May 1943 1
The 3rd US Army liberates the camp:
11 Apr 1945 1
The first subcamp is established, Gustloff-Werke:
February 1942 1
There are now 22 subcamps:
March 1944 1
Thousands of Jews arrive from Eastern camps:
January 1945 1
389 Dutch Jews arrive at Buchenwald:
February 1941 1
640 Poles interned at the camp:
August 1940 1
Construction of the crematorium begins:
January 1940 1
Dysentery epidemic:
01 Nov 1939 1
Emil Bargatzky is the first publicly executed:
04 Jun 1938 1
Ernst Heilmann, politician killed lethal injection:
03 Apr 1940 1
Ettersberg is renamed Buchenwald:
28 Jul 1937 1
First 149 inmates arrive at the Ettersberg camp:
15 Jul 1937 1
First typhus outbreak:
February 1939 1
Hermann Kempeck, first death at Buchenwald:
14 Aug 1937 1
Mass arrests of the unemployed and homeless:
April 1938 1
Number of inmates exceeds 10,000:
October 1938 1
Order given to remove gold fillings from corpses:
September 1940 1
Prisoners Lohner & Leopoldi write “Buchenwald Song:
December 1938 1
Protestant minister Paul Schneider dies:
18 Jul 1939 1
Several inmates are released during mercy campaign:
19 Apr 1939 1
Special camp becomes place of death by starvation:
October 1939 1
The first Austrians arrive from Dachau:
September 1938 1
The “Bunker” opens, center for torture and killing:
February 1938 1
Thousands of Jews are housed in a sheep stall:
June 1938 1
Prisoner Numbers:
April 11, 1945: 21,000 inmates liberated; 13,969 deaths in 1945 1
December 1937: 2,561 inmates, 48 deaths 1
December 1938: 11,028 inmates, 771 deaths 1
December 1939: 11,807 inmates, 1,235 deaths 1
December 1940: 7,440 inmates, 1,772 deaths 1
December 1941: 7,911 inmates, 1,903 Soviet POWs, 1,522 deaths 1
December 1942: 9,517 inmates, 2,898 deaths (1 in 3 prisoners) 1
December 1943: 37,319 inmates-14,500 Russians, 7,500 Poles, 4,700 French & 4,800 Germans/Austrians; 3,516 deaths 1
December 1944: 87,000 inmates—63,048 men, 24,201 women, 15,500 Jews; 8,644 deaths 1
February 1945: 112,000 inmates; 25,000 women 1
Total Prisoners: Approx. 250,000 1
Total Victims: 56,000 1

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