Germany to commemorate 70 years since liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp

56,000 perished, 11,000 of them Jewish at Buchenwald, which was equipped with crematoria and gas chambers.

April 11, 2015 17:16
1 minute read.

The camp gate with the inscription "to give each his due" is pictured at former concentration camp Buchenwald near Weimar . (photo credit: REUTERS)


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As Germany prepares to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Buchenwald concentration camp's liberation on Sunday, file footage reveals the horrific conditions witnessed there in 1945.

Unlike Auschwitz in Poland, Buchenwald was not one of the death camps where the Nazis set about their "Final Solution" – the systematic extermination of European Jews. Nonetheless, it was equipped with crematoria and gas chambers and 56,000 perished, 11,000 of them Jewish.

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Warning: Graphic content, some viewers may find this footage disturbing
File footage shows horrors of Buchenwald concentration camp as 70th anniversary of its liberation approaches

Many were summarily executed by SS guards, subjected to horrific medical experiments or forced to work in armaments factories. Starvation and disease also claimed thousands.

Named after the surrounding beech trees, Buchenwald was set up in 1937, close to the picturesque eastern city of Weimar, home to the poets Goethe and Schiller and one of the great centers of classical German culture.

The camp housed Jews, Sinti and Roma – targeted by the Nazis on racial grounds as well as groups ranging from Soviet prisoners of war to Scandinavian and French resistance fighters. So-called enemies of the state including Communists, homosexuals and Jehovah's Witnesses were also held there.

The contrast with the surroundings has always symbolized one of the great paradoxes of German history – the co-existence of its rich humanist culture and the barbarity of the Nazis.

In February 1945, a month after the liberation of Auschwitz, Buchenwald was the largest remaining camp, with 112,000 inmates, a third of whom were Jewish. But by the time the Americans arrived on April 11 only 21,000 were left. In the three previous days alone the SS sent 28,000 predominantly Jewish inmates on death marches to other camps further from the front.

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