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Germany and Poland Trip. Part Three – Buchenwald Concentration Camp – The Reason

Thursday 21st March 2024.

If there was anything good to take away from the visit to Buchenwald concentration camp it was seeing the number of school children there. All acting appropriately, with respect, and being inquisitive.

In his debate with AC Grayling about the bombing in the Second World War (which I would highly recommend – Youtube Christopher Hitchens argues that National Socialism did not just need to be defeated, it had to be annihilated. I already agreed with Hitchens. Visiting Buchenwald concentration camp today hardened that view.

A day visit is not enough to take in the scale of the crime of Buchenwald, the concentration camp where those deemed superfluous to the progress of National Socialism, were imprisoned, worked to death, or murdered. 56,000 individuals died from starvation, illness, medical experiments, or were shot, or hung.

I’m still processing the sight of the train tracks where inmates arrived with many already dead owing to the inhumane conditions during transportation. Where many embarked from the camp to their final destination, Auschwitz. And the walk through the crematorium where murders took place in the cellars, where bodies were disposed of, and the location of the gallows.

View from the gateway looking across the inmates camp.

There is an excellently curated exhibition ‘Buchenwald: Ostracism and Violence 1937-1945’ – artefacts, letters, documents, and testimony, exposing the criminality, brutality, and banality of the evil – the day to day, ordinary, inhumanity.

It is possible to walk freely between what remains of the barrack buildings, with the occasional specific memorials. Dominating the skyline is the camp gate, and the clock, still at quarter past three – the moment the camp was liberated.

View towards the camp gates.

The camp gate has the words ‘Jedem das Seine’ (‘To Each His Own’), a Roman legal expression representing a form of equal justice but for the SS it expressed the need to separate certain peoples from society.

Two quotes I read today that stood out.

American photographer Margaret Bourke-White, concerning Buchenwald on the 16th April 1945, the camp having been liberated on 11th April (at 3.15pm). “It was when the civilians began repeating, ‘We didn’t know! We didn’t know!’ that the ex-prisoners were carried away with wrath. ‘You did know,’ they shouted, ‘Side by side we worked with you in the factories. At the risk of our lives we told you. But you did nothing.’”

Eugene Weinstock, a Jewish inmate at Buchenwald about the successful American bombing in August 1944, targeting the Gustloff-Werk II works adjacent to the camp, where inmates worked on parts for the V2. ‘The bombs had shattered more than the buildings of Buchenwald. They had smashed the idiotic yet persistent dream of invincibility.’

In this article I have only included a few photographs. I didn’t feel it appropriate to take photographs at some of the other locations. Much more can be found on the website

Next – Dresden.

Published inBomber CommandGeneral

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