The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/buchenwald/buchenwald.01

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism,soc.history
Subject: Holocaust Almanac: The Liberation of Buchenwald 
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Organization: The Nizkor Project
Keywords: buchenwald

Archive/File: holocaust/germany/buchenwald buchenwald.01
Last-Modified: 1994/02/21

"Buchenwald, the first concentration camp to be breached by the western
Allies, had been built high on the hills above Weimar, capital of the
defunct democratic Republic and not far from an imperial Schloss known as
Wilhelmshohe. Nearby still stood the `Goethe Oak,' a noble tree to which
the eighteenth-century giant of German letters had often repaired to
refresh his perspective. Approximately 238,000 prisoners, many of the Jews,
but also non-Jewish Poles, Russians, and dissident Germans, had been
incarcerated in Buchenwald since its dedication. Even before the war
exploded in Europe, it was serving the coercive purposes of the Nazis.
Captured Buchenwald files recorded that already in mid-November 1938, after
a Nazi Embassy official had been assassinated by a distraught young Jew,
more than 10,000 people had been sent to the camp, where they were
compelled to pass their arrival night in the open winter air and then were
beaten and tortured. A loudspeaker kept repeating the announcement that any
Jew who wished to hang himself should put a paper with his number in his
mouth so that his identity could be quickly established. <1> Throughout the
war years the deportation trains and convoys moved in meticulously
maintained schedules out of Buchenwald to the death camps further east. But
even in this temporary detention camp, some 56,000 had died or been

When the forward platoons of Americans arrived on the morning of April II,
1945 only about 20,000 prisoners remained. Hermann Pister, the last SS
commandant, was working frenetically to ship out as many as he could
process. In the previous week he had secretly selected forty-six of the
last inmates for public execution on the home ground of Buchenwald itself.
His intention was relayed to the prison underground that had been organized
in the last weeks of the camp's existence. When the time came for the roll
call, not one of the forty-six answered. Camp personnel, aware that the
Americans were already on the outskirts of Weimar, and their thoughts now
mainly on escape, made a halfhearted unsuccessful search for the inmates,
then drifted away.

Indeed, some panic-stricken guards who were left behind at this point
begged prisoners for `good references.' Others were confiscating prisoners'
garb in the hope they might escape recognition in the chaos soon to come.
However, few cheated retribution. Survivors with barely enough strength to
walk disarmed them at the gates; only days before, even to approach a Nazi
guard was to be shot down summarily. As a sign of welcome to the
liberators, prisoners began to hang out scraps of cloth that had once been
white. Some of the first Americans to enter the camp vomited as their eyes
beheld what their minds could not absorb -- bodies stacked in obscene
anonymity, the barely living whimpering among the corpses, bunks full of
shaven-headed, emaciated creatures who had wizened into skeletal
apparitions. American soldiers put on film the scenes in rooms full of
naked, unburied corpses, piled ten feet high.

Soon after the takeover, General Dwight Eisenhower, commander of the Allied
Forces in Europe, arrived. `I have never felt able to describe my emotional
reaction when I came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi
brutality and ruthless disregard of every shred of human decency,' he
wrote. `Up to that moment I had only known about it generally, or through
secondary sources. I am certain, however, that I have never at any time
experienced an equal sense of shock.'<2>"

<1> Poliakov, Leon. "Harvest of Hate", (New York: Holocaust Library, 
    1954), p.17
<2> Eisenhower, Dwight David. "Crusade in Europe" pp.408-409

Extracted from--------------------------------------------------- 
"THE REDEMPTION OF THE UNWANTED", Abram L.  Sachar (New York: St.
Martin's/Marek, 1983.

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