To rub their noses in the rotting flesh and scenes of atrocities, Patton ordered a thousand citizens of Weimar to march up the hill and forced them to take a guided tour of the camp and view the crematorium with its charred skeletons still in the ovens, the piles of decomposing corpses, the hanging gallows, the whipping bench, the jars from the pathology lab filled with human organs, and the samples of shrunken heads and lamp shades made from tattooed human flesh. Several of the Russians rode along atop the M-8 to guide the Americans to the camp. It was perhaps inevitable, then, once Hitler took power, that the Etterberg hill would become a place to incarcerate enemies of the Nazi state. Accusing them of being spies, the Germans hanged 17 of them. He surrounded himself with like-minded lieutenants and a like-minded wife. It was a stretch to even call it food, for rarely was it fit to feed even barnyard animals. Others remained stone-faced, masking their emotions behind impassive glances at the corpses, the gallows, the ovens, the very visible evidence of torture, abuse, and crimes against humanity. Ten members of von Stauffenbergs family were held in the isolation barracks, as were industrialist-turned-Hitler-opponent Fritz Thyssen and his wife. There were many visitors the SS brought to the camp, and they used to be thrilled when they saw these skins in the pathology department among the other exhibits. And, although the average American soldier was issued numerous training and field manuals on scores of subjects, there were no manuals that told him what to expect or how to conduct himself if he should unexpectedly encounter a camp filled with tens of thousands of sick and starving persons, or mountains of skeletal corpses that had been systematically slaughtered. Some inmates were intentionally wounded and their injuries allowed to become infected so that various types of treatment could be tried on them. The first camp uncovered by the Americans was Ohrdruf, a slave labor camp stocked with inmates from Buchenwald, 30 miles west of Buchenwald. During the winter of 1944/45, the camp reached its maximum population of 500-600 prisoners. His office in the camp jail, known as the bunker, held various instruments of torture that would have seemed appropriate during the Spanish Inquisition, along with instruments of deathneedles he used to inject air and carbolic acid into the veins of his victims. This punishment earned him the nickname the Hangman of Buchenwald. When this particular form of punishment was carried out against groups of prisoners in the woods around the camp, the screams of the unfortunates were so intense that the other inmates soon gave the sound a namethe singing forest.. Soon others were added to the list of prisonersoutspoken priests and pastors, men guilty of shirking work, even vagrants. The government wastes money on so many things; the cost to distribute this is a drop in the bucket! However, while the Allied flyers were still at Buchenwald the American Air Force mounted the only bombing raid of the war against the campactually against the Gustloff-Werk IIon August 24, 1944. This process, in every type of weather, normally took hours. The rocket-testing facility at Peenemunde and the underground manufacturing works at Nordhausen, along with a camp known as Mittelbau-Dora, all made extensive use of slave labor from Buchenwald. SS head Heinrich Himmler directed SS General Theodor Eiche to devise a more capacious camp, which he did at Dachau, a Munich suburb. And if so much as one piece of straw was found on the floor or one bunk was out of alignment, beatings by the Kapos would be meted out to the innocent and guilty alike. Life for the inmates continued to be difficult, however, and thousands continued to die from disease, starvation, and overwork. How the men found such a surge of strength in their emaciated condition was one of those bodily wonders in which the spirit sometimes overcomes all weaknesses of the flesh. Karl used every opportunity to embezzle from the camp and the prisoners to enrich himself. Anyone who moved, coughed, sneezed, talked, urinated, or collapsed from the ordeal was beaten savagely. Those Germans with weak stomachs and tender dispositions wept and vomited. Youll never believe how bastardly these Krauts can be, he said, until youve seen this pesthole yourself., In his 1948 best-selling memoir, Eisenhower wrote, I saw my first horror camp. It came out of the blue, he said. Those too ill and weak could only smile; they understood what was happening. In fact, in the entire seven hours of film, the Jews are mentioned only once. Although Buchenwald was not a POW camp, from time to time captured enemy soldiers were held there. On one occasion, he noticed spittle on the ground, a violation of one of Kochs sacred rules, and forced the nearest inmate to lick it up. From survivors they quickly learnt that Majdanek had been, even in the gruesome realm of Nazi oppression, a place of particular horror. A group of 168 Allied airmen was also held at Buchenwald. The word buchenwald means beech forest, and the Etterberg was a heavily wooded place that abounded with wild gamea favorite hunting ground for generations of nobility. When the men could be calmed down and an interpreter found someone who could speak Russian, the Yanks heard a fantastic taletens of thousands of political prisoners were just up the road at a terrible place known as Buchenwald. For centuries Weimar was the cultural capital of Germany and had even been selected as the nations seat of government following the end of World War I. The camp administration had a fetish for accuracy. I groaned with pain; every nick and cut stung like hell.. Within two days there were 350 prisoners, under the administration of Leif Lindseth. Although Pister was just as hard as Koch, he was not the sadist his predecessor had been. The noon meal usually consisted of ersatz coffee or tea and a watery bowl of soup flavored with grass, turnip greens, or decaying vegetables. One of them was the camps chief jailer, 23-year-old Hauptscharfhrer (master sergeant) Gerhard Martin Sommer, who had previously served under Koch at Sachsenhausen. Other Kommando headed off to the laundry or the sanitation detail to clean out the latrines or the crematorium or infirmary or to work on a road-building project, or to their jobs as servants within SS households, or to some other make-work project the SS had dreamed up to keep the prisoners occupied and degraded. She joined the Nazi Party in 1932 (party membership number 1,130,836)one of the very first women to do so. The tragedy is that many survivors died from overeating food too rich for them after such a long time of starvation.. Because word of Kochs embezzlements and other administrative irregularities at Buchenwald (not connected with the mistreatment of prisoners) had reached higher ranks, Karl Otto Koch was secretly investigated by the SS. A secret international committee, headed mostly by incarcerated communists from several nations, had squirreled away weapons made from parts stolen from the on-site armaments factory or purchased clandestinely from bribed guards. The prisoners at Buchenwald had been waiting years for this day. Today the anniversary of the liberation of Majdanek passes almost unnoticed, unlike that of the liberation of Auschwitz, fully six months later in January 1945, which has been adopted in Britain as Holocaust Memorial Day. Most of the guards fled with inmates in pursuit. He said, Tattooing for our collection had to be colorful, not in other ways particularly interesting; but we had to have stocks of this material. There is not a single mention of Kristallnacht, ghettos, persecutions, medical experiments, gas chambers, or any explanation of what the narrators offhand reference to concentration camps meant. They also found documents, clothing, and more than 800,000 pairs of shoes. Of the 280 Jewish prisoners who were sent from Berg to camps in Germany, seven survived. A former prisoner noted, Only a limited number of inmates were aware of the planned uprising, but the SS, in some way or another, had learned of the existence of the camps underground. However, they were never able to find out who the leaders or members of the underground were., One of the inmates, Max Feuer, recalled that the prisoners had been arming themselves since 1943. The watchtowers, barracks, and fences are horribly visible to the people of Lublin whose windows overlook the site, and who drive past on the main road to Zamo. Between 1934 and 1937, Koch held a number of different posts at a variety of concentration camps, including Esterwegen (near Hamburg), Lichtenburg (in Prettin, near Wittenberg), and at Dachau. Almost immediately upon assuming power, Hitler and his minions began instituting a policy of imprisoning personal and political opponents in special holding centers known as Konzentrazionlagernconcentration camps, or KL for short.
Many of the ex-prisoners tried to return to their homes and families only to find that their homes and families no longer existed (Robert Max Widerman, for example, learned that practically his entire family had been wiped out). Gen. William M. Hoge, the 4th Armored Divisions commanding officer, had split his command and sent Combat Command B (CCB) to the city of Gotha and Combat Command A to Ohrdruf. Inmates too ill to work (and an inmate needed to be near death to be excused from work details) reported to the infirmary, a place of horror from which very few inmates ever returned alive. A wild cheer of joy greeted Keffer and his German-speaking sergeant as they entered the encampment. One of them, a Royal Canadian Air Force bombardier named Art Kinnis, shot down over France on July 8, 1944, recalled, We knew that our group must become very united and that we must make sure that the powers that be realize that we are all aircrew of the Allies, and that what is now happening to us is against the Geneva Convention., The Canadian also recalled that life at Buchenwald was not all suffering; the one bright spot was music. An incendiary bomb had set it alight, and it was later cut down. Conditions deteriorated after this, and disease became prevalent. Fascinated by uniforms, the red-haired Ilse exclusively dated members of the SS and SA, so it was only natural that she fell in love with a grandly uniformed SS colonel, even though he was round-faced, balding, stocky, nine years her senior, and divorced with two sons. Over the next few days, as medical teams worked to stabilize the survivors, streams of GIs visited the camp and could not comprehend what they saw. Reports were published in the West, but they were typically brief, and even confused. As the history of the Holocaust was gradually uncovered at the Nuremberg Trial, and in succeeding decades, Majdanek, now hidden behind the Iron Curtain, was only one part of this. On rare occasions, if the SS men were feeling generous, there might be a small piece of sausage, which was often rotten and made from condemned meat.
None of the officers or men of the advancing American units in 1945 apparently knew anything about the Nazi concentration camps they would soon encounter. The big brass hats never told us that we would someday overrun these camps. Cardiff University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK. Robert Max Widerman noted, Flags from all European nations had appeared, flying from the tops of the barracks. Every man had to stand stiffly at attention and look straight ahead, his fingers straight, his thumbs lined up with the seams of his trousers, no matter if the day was warm and sunny, windy or rainy, or if it was freezing and snowing fiercely. For example, although he recalled reading countless newspaper stories about the Nazi persecution of the Jews, Captain Mel Rappaport, 6th Armored Division, who arrived at Buchenwald on or about April 16, insisted that neither he nor the Army knew in advance about the concentration camps, the killing centers, the gas chambers, the ovens, the hanging bars, the shooting grounds, etc. I told them I would radio for medical help and for food, and I requested them not to let the former prisoners, if they could help it, wander far outside the camp and possibly unwittingly interfere with our military progress. In 1943, Buchenwald, along with many of the other camps, became a site for gruesome medical experiments conducted on live patients by Nazi doctors. When the Nazis could not arrest their enemies, they often arrested the family members of their enemies. General George S. Pattons U.S. Third Army was approaching from the west but, almost incredibly, neither Patton, General Omar N. Bradley (commanding the U.S. Twelfth Army Group), nor Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower, was aware of the existence of the death and concentration camps; no camp was marked on the military maps the Allies were using. At first, abandoned factories, warehouses, and even castles were used to incarcerate the Nazis enemiesCommunists, Social Democrats, dissidents, and anyone who dared to speak out against the government and its policies. After the July 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, approximately 7,000 Soviet POWs were incarcerated at Buchenwaldand virtually all of them were executed. Let everyone know!! There was always much pushing and shoving by the Kapos and their assistants to align the rows perfectly, just the way the SS liked them. Music is one language that requires no translator, and the evenings we spent listening to some very highly rated [European musicians] were exceedingly pleasant. Unfortunately, many inmates working in the factory, along with their overseers and guards, also perished, as did SS family members living in quarters nearby. After most of the Jewish prisoners had been deported, several groups of political prisoners moved in. Their cellar was full of wine and foodstuffs. In time, two factories were built at Buchenwald to supplement the work that was going on in the quarrywork that never ceased. But on April 4, the existence of Buchenwald was still unknown to the Americans about to stumble across it. In the meantime, the wind sweeps over the vast expanse of the camp, and crows perch on the rusting barbed wire. This time they went through much more slowly.. It stated that evidence of mass murder had been found, alongside thousands of pairs of boots and shoes. Learn how and when to remove this template message, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Berg_concentration_camp&oldid=999181778, Articles with unsourced statements from June 2009, Articles lacking in-text citations from December 2013, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 3.0, Internment and transit center for political prisoners and Jews, This page was last edited on 8 January 2021, at 22:00. There was in fact similar incredulity when, in January 1945, similar claims were made about Auschwitz. Now, 70 years on, we must not forget what happened there. Senior Lecturer in Modern European History, Cardiff University. In 1936, while commandant of the Sachsenhausen camp, Koch met 30-year-old Margarete Ilse Khler, a secretary at the Reetsma Cigarette Company in Dresden. Tales are told of heavy carts full of rocks being pushed up a steeply graded track only to be pushed back down at breakneck speed until they derailed or crashed into inmates working at the bottom, or of prisoners being shot or pushed off the lip of the quarry, or of prisoners being held in the branches of a bent sapling at the surface, which was then allowed to spring upright like a catapult, launching the helpless man to his death on the rocks below. The Times published a short piece from its Moscow correspondent on August 12 1944, entitled The Horrors of Lublin, implying that two separate camps had been discovered, which suggest medieval conceptions of hell. Denver resident Flint Whitlock has written several books on World War II and is a frequent contributor to WWII History. At the end of the day, all prisoners were required once again to report to the Appellplatz and submit to another long, mind-numbing roll call. There were clearly individual readers who recognised the significance of this moment, but as the war continued, there was no wider impact. As they were moving back to Weimar, not even out of sight of the camp, a number of Germans in the group found something to laugh about. He promised his political opposition that a "chicken coop" would be established for them. It was also the concentration camp system that drew little protest from German citizens that emboldened the Nazi regime to go to the extreme and create the death campsplaces of mass extermination, primarily but not exclusively of Jews. In coming days, following a request by Eisenhower to Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, groups of American newspaper editors and members of Congress also visited the camp to see firsthand the atrocities committed by the Nazis. This article is an excerpt from his upcoming book on Buchenwald. Clearing the screen of trees, Keffer and his party came across an astonishing sight, a huge camp with scores of barracks and thousands of men, all of them skeletal in appearance and some armed with German weapons, behind a barbed wire enclosure. Late on the morning of July 15, 1937, a convoy of trucks carrying 149 carpenters and other craftsmenall of them political prisonerscame up the hill from Weimar; the men were immediately put to work by the SS construction chief. Some emigrated to Palestine (where the new state of Israel would be created three years later), others to the United States, Britain, and France. The rest of the inmates had been marched back to Buchenwald at the approach of the Americans. Soon the camp atop the Etterberg was bulging with thousands of additional prisoners. Anyone who tripped and fell to the ground was subjected to a real beating.
Members of specialized military government units were schooled in how to govern towns and cities captured from the enemy and how to deal with large numbers of civilian refugees but not concentration camps and concentration camp inmates. Many other labels were pinned on her: the Commandeuse of Buchenwald, the Witch of Buchenwald, and, most alliteratively, the Bitch of Buchenwald. Despite her later denials to the contrary at her war crimes trial, Ilse Koch seems to have involved herself in many aspects of the day-to-day operation of the camp, including selecting tattooed prisoners to be killed and their decorated skin made into gruesome household objects such as lampshades and photo album covers. A lukewarm cup of ersatz coffee or tea and a bowl of thin, nearly inedible soup usually made from grass and turnips was ladled out. In short order, mobile hospitals and field kitchens were dispatched to Buchenwald. Then it was back to work until evening. Its largely wooden buildings and their fragile contents are rotting. They worked seven days a week from 7:30 am to 8:30 pm, subsisting on a quarter loaf of bread, soup from flowers, and ersatz coffee. This little haven of sound was possibly the only pleasant side of Buchenwald.. A funeral pyre with the charred remains of uncountable numbers of victims smoldered nearby. The first prisoners to Berg were a contingent of 60 male Jews that had been arrested on October 26, 1942. There was constant laughter, mixed with the eerie feeling we had of believing without believing what had just happened to us. Bradley wrote in his memoirs, A Soldiers Story, Third Army had overrun Ohrdruf and George [Patton] insisted we view it. Eventually, Buchenwald was emptied of former inmates as members of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration moved in. If Sommer had a rival for the title of most hated and feared, it was the camp adjutantan Obersturmfhrer (First Lieutenant) named Heinrich Hackmann. For this moment we were prepared to fight the guards.. In addition to the 350 Jewish prisoners at Grini, 847 other prisoners spent time at Berg. The political positions of Riisns, Lie, etc., were by appointment from the occupying powers in violation of the Norwegian constitution.
Millions of young men who may have been accustomed to reading a daily newspaper in their hometowns were suddenly plucked, either by the draft boards or by their own enlistment, from their homes and transported hundreds or thousands of miles away to a military base. A young man from, say, Brooklyn, who regularly read The New York Times, might have found himself in 1942 or 1943 at some backwater Army installation where The New York Times was not sold. In some of the foul barracks GIs also discovered hundreds of sick inmates on the verge of death. The stories told of Hackmanns cruelty are legion. Hackmann was especially fond of pouncing on inmates during roll call and punching them or striking them savagely with a leather whip he constantly carried. A very brief firefight, lasting no more than 15 minutes, broke out between guards and armed inmates. SS sergeants then counted the men assembled from each barracks. But, as Hitler pressured Mussolini to crack down on the Italian Jews and ship them to the death camps in Poland, Mafalda became more vocal in her opposition to the Hitler regime, causing her husband to fall out of favor with the Nazis. The inmates scrambled to the latrine and washroom, where they were allotted only a few minutes to take care of their personal business. He was transferred to a new camp, Majdanek, near Lublin, Poland, in September 1941, but after only a few months he was arrested by the SS and placed on trial.
Vidkun Quisling had spoken of the camp at a speech in Horten on May 25, 1942 as an expression of his outrage of the Norwegian Constitution Day celebration among Norwegian patriots. Kinnis said that one of his most pleasant surprises was hearing the camps symphony orchestra and jazz band playing English and American pieces. A typical day in the life of a Buchenwald inmate began at, or before, dawn when the prisoners were rousted out of their bunks with shouts from their barracks chiefs known as Blocklteste. The hilltop compound near Weimar was one of the Nazis' most notorious WWII concentration camps until its liberation on April 11, 1945. In fact, during the partition of Germany, Buchenwald fell within the Soviet sector. Berg interneringsleir (Berg internment camp) was a concentration camp near Tnsberg in Norway that served as an internment and transit center for political prisoners and Jews during the Nazi occupation of Norway. It was a great day!. The local Red Cross chapter, led by Anton Jervell, made attempts to provide relief to the prisoners with mixed success. Our SS officers and guards always wanted to see these skins when they came to the pathology department. Then the entire population of each barracks double-timed to the Appellplatz, or roll-call square, adjacent to the main gate, running a gauntlet of Kapos and guards with rubber hoses who lashed out at them as they dashed past. The mere fact that you could not understand one word drifted into the background, as one was carried into the world of music. It was almost impossible to fathom that this day had actually arrived, that our miseries had come to an end, that we had survived., After the arrival of the Americans, the heavy mantle of death had been lifted off the camp as if by magic, transfiguring the grim, monochromatic landscape into a bright and hopeful vision. While the prisoners at Buchenwald were brutalized, starved, and made to live in squalor, the Kochs lived in high splendor at Villa Koch. One of the major problems within the concentration camps was endemic typhus, a louse-borne disease that not only affected the prisoners but could easily spread to the guards, administrators, and the nearby civilian population. Leon Jouhaux, recipient of a Nobel Prize in literature, was imprisoned at Buchenwald, as were other French writers, including Jean Amry and Robert Antelme. If the numbers were not correct, and seldom were they correct on the first count, the roll was retaken. By all accounts, Frau Koch who, from later photographs, can best be described as dumpy, was vain, cruel, cold-blooded, sadistic, degenerate, and power hungryeven more so than her husband. Even the acclaimed documentary film series Why We Fight by Frank Capra, which was shown to all U.S. Army inductees as indoctrination, did not dwell on the plight of European Jewry. These were treated more harshly than other prisoners in the camp for the duration of the war. The evening meal was again the odd soup and perhaps some sort of salad made of moldy greens. Let everyone know! Such demonstrations told the inmates that even petty violations of camp rules would be met with the harshest punishment. The whole camp took on a different tone. Parties and orgies, too, were often held at Villa Koch in which alcohol flowed abundantly and marital fidelity was forgotten by both Ilse and Karl and others in attendance. On April 16, Third Army commander Patton paid a visit to Buchenwald. Bennett radioed higher headquarters of the discovery of Buchenwald. In the writings of the generals and statements of those GIs who came across the camps it appears that all were ignorant as to what was happening in the camps they uncovered. But Weimar was also a hotbed for right-wing radicals who hated the weak but democratic regime.
A Russian choir there was as good as you could hear anywhere. The 355th Infantry Regimental Combat Team of the 89th Infantry Division was attached to CCB.
Write an article and join a growing community of more than 149,600 academics and researchers from 4,430 institutions. Sentenced again to life in prison, she committed suicide in her cell in 1967. Two children who would grow up to be famous authorsElie Wiesel and the Hungarian Imre Kertszwere also inmates at Buchenwald. An old German prophecy said that the nation would exist as long as the Goethe Oak stood. With no little irony, Josef Stalins Soviet Union used Buchenwald for many years as a concentration camp for its political prisoners. Kochs underlings were just as cruel as their master. The home in which she was being held collapsed upon her and, despite the efforts of SS doctors to save her, she succumbed to her injuries. At this point the inmates were told to stand easy. The conductor had the reputation of playing before royalty, before his capture. Consisting of just a few buildings that could hold only 250 prisoners, the camp was soon overflowing; a better and larger solution needed to be found. The internal organs of some of the victims from these experiments were preserved in jars at Buchenwalds pathology department in the name of science.. Today, Majdanek presents a serious challenge to all who are concerned with memory and our knowledge of the past. Among all the sadists at Buchenwald, and there were countless numbers, no one could approach Sommer in terms of cruelty. I am certain, however, that I have never at any other time experienced an equal sense of shock.. The overriding fear was that, once the SS knew that the Allies were about to uncover Buchenwald, they would massacre all of the inmates. He turned them around and marched them back through the camp again. Long a favorite spot for picnickers who enjoyed the views from the Bismarck Tower on the hills southern slope and the baroque stateliness of Anna Amelias palace on its northern side, the Etterberg held a special place in the hearts of the locals. The primitive, already overworked sewage system was pushed beyond capacity, and the meager rations became even more meager. Some prisoners worked in the quarry or on construction projects, others at administrative duties, while still others performed groundskeeping tasks.
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