Buchenwald Concentration Camp

Camryn Sapetti & Madelyn Wilson

Introduction

Buchenwald Concentration Camp was founded in 1937 in Weimar, Germany. The name "Buchenwald" was given to the camp by Heinrich Himmler on July 28th, 1937. In July of 1937 Buchenwald opened for male prisoners only. In late 1943 women became part of the camp system. This camp was one of the first and largest camps built on German soil. This camp was populated by Jews, Slavs, Poles, the mentally and physically ill, as well as political and religious prisoners. On April 11, 1945 this camp was liberated by US Forces.

Medical Experiments

In 1941 many scientists and physicians came to Buchenwald and conducted many experiments on prisoners. These experiments caused hundreds of innocent people to lose their lives. They were conducted in special barracks on the northern part of the main camp, and tested the efficiency of vaccines against against contagious diseases. A Danish scientist named Dr. Carl Vaernet came to Buchenwald in 1944 claiming he could cure homosexual prisoners with special hormonal transplants.

Camp Life

Prisoners at Buchenwald were housed in barracks. Beds were double stacked and there were two people to a bed. Prisoners had to stand for hours for "Appell" which was roll call. SS officers would count and recount prisoners. They had to sew their assigned number on their jacket and a small triangle for classification. Green triangles were for criminals, blue for murderers, red for political, pink for homosexuals, and yellow for Jews. For breakfast prisoners would have tea. For lunch they would eat soup. For dinner they would have a piece of bread with either butter or jam. Prisoners were always hungry and starved to death. Guards were extremely cruel. The guards favorite past time would be to throw a prisoners cap at a electric barbed wire fence. The prisoner then had to pick it up and would either be electrocuted and killed by the high voltage or be shot. Buchenwald Camp was divided into 3 parts. The "large camp" is where prisoners with seniority were kept. The "small camp" was where prisoners were quarantined. The "tent camp" held Polish prisoners after Poland was invaded in 1939.
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Liberation

In January 1945, 10,000 weak and famished Jews arrived at Buchenwald Concentration Camp after a brutal march from Auschwitz or Gross-Rosen. These prisoners were transferred due to threats of Soviet Forces who swept through Poland. In April 1945, Nazis began evacuating prisoners of Buchenwald while U.S. forces approached the camp. Around 9,000 prisoners died during this evacuation from exhaustion. Others were shot at point blank range by SS Officers. On April 11, 1945 camp prisoners over through the camp by seizing control and storming watch towers. Later that afternoon, U.S. Forces entered Buchenwald. These soldiers were from the 6th armored division, part of the third army. Exact mortality figured for Buchenwald can only be estimated because authorities never registered all prisoners. At least 56,000 innocent male prisoners were killed at Buchenwald. Of that number, at least 11,000 were Jewish.


This is a picture of American Soldiers and Liberated Prisoners at the Entrance of Buchenwald in 1945.

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Survivors Stories

President Obama's Visit

One day before the 65th anniversary of D-Day, Barack Obama visited Buchenwald Concentration Camp. On June 5, 2009 Barack Obama gave a speech at Buchenwald Concentration Camp. During this speech he dismissed Holocaust Denial. President Obama's great uncle, Charlie Payne was apart of the U.S. army in 1945. He helped to liberate Ohrdruf which was a forced labor camp near Buchenwald. After touring Buchenwald, President Obama said "These sites have not lost their horror. More than half a century later, our grief and our outrage have not diminished." President Obama was accompanied by German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and Holocaust Survivor, Elie Wiesel.
President Obama Visits Buchenwald Concentration Camp

Conclusion

It is important to keep in mind that Buchenwald was only one of many concentration camps during the Nazi's time in power, and that the horrors of the Holocaust continue to touch many lives today. President Obama's speech and visit to Buchenwald reminded the world that the Holocaust must be remembered and understood, because this is the only way to ensure that concentration camps like Buchenwald, and movements like the Holocaust will never happen again.