The Men of the Holocaust



Buchenwald was constructed in 1937 inside the borders of Germany and was opened in July of 1937 for male political prisoners (44). However, after Kristallnacht in 1938, 10,000 Jewish men were sent to the camp and were met with extraordinarily cruel treatment (45). Out of 10,000 men, 255 were dead the day of arrival (46). Beginning in 1941, physicians and scientists carried out medical experimentation on the inmates at Buchenwald (47). The purpose of these experiments was to test different types of vaccines and treatments against contagious diseases such as typhus, typhoid, cholera, and diphtheria (48). They actually resulted in hundreds of deaths (49). In 1944, a physician named Dr. Carl Vaernet began a series of experiments that he claimed would "cure" homosexual inmates through hormonal transplants (50). During World War II, the Buchenwald camp system became an important source of forced labor (51).The prisoner population expanded rapidly, reaching 112,000 by February 1945 (52). Periodically, the SS staff conducted selections throughout the Buchenwald camp system and dispatched those too weak or disabled to work to the gas chambers (53).

Liberation of Buchenwald

As Soviet forces swept through Poland in 1945, the Germans evacuated thousands of concentration camp prisoners and sent them on death marches (54). More than 10,000 weak and exhausted prisoners from Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen arrived in Buchenwald in January 1945 (55). In early April 1945, as US forces approached the camp, the Germans began to evacuate some 28,000 prisoners from the main camp and an additional several thousand prisoners from the subcamps of Buchenwald (56). About a third of these prisoners died from exhaustion during the march or shortly after arriving (57).

On April 11, 1945, in expectation of liberation, starved and emaciated prisoners stormed the watchtowers, seizing control of the camp (58). Later that afternoon, US forces entered Buchenwald (59). Soldiers found more than 21,000 people in the camp (60). Between July 1937 and April 1945, the SS imprisoned some 250,000 persons from all countries of Europe in Buchenwald (61). Exact mortality figures for the Buchenwald site can only be estimated, as camp authorities never registered a significant number of the prisoners (62). The SS murdered at least 56,000 male prisoners in the Buchenwald camp system, some 11,000 of them Jews (63).

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