Buchenwald Holocaust Survivors Gather at Nazi Camp
By Tony Czuczka
April 11, 2005
WEIMAR, Germany --Elderly survivors of the Buchenwald concentration camp laid flowers Sunday and observed a moment of silence for victims of the Nazis, 60 years after U.S. troops liberated the camp.
Flags from 30 nations hung in a cold drizzle to symbolize the nations from which the camp's 240,000 prisoners came between 1937 and 1945. About 56,000 died &endash; worked to death, shot or killed in medical experiments.
Concentration camp survivor Stefan Machala, left, and Stanislaw Bryla attend the memorial at Buchenwald. [AP]
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and U.S. veterans came to the camp memorial outside Weimar for the commemoration, which kindled vivid memories for the survivors, most of them in their 70s and 80s.
Georg Sterner, a Hungarian Jew, recalled looking out from Barracks No. 37 when the first U.S. tank crashed through the barbed-wire perimeter fence on the morning of April 11, 1945.
"We were hanging out of the windows," said Sterner, who was 17 then. "It came slowly, slowly. It stopped between the trees. It revved the engine ... made a lunge, and broke through."
Inside, shocked soldiers from the U.S 3rd Army found 21,000 starving survivors and piles of corpses, some only partly burned in the crematorium ovens as the Nazi SS and their helpers fled the camp.
"It was so incredible -- stacks of bodies, the smell, the total shock and confusion, people walking around by the thousands," said Jerry Hontas, who arrived the next day as a 21-year-old Army medic.
"We were so shocked we couldn't talk to each other for days," said Hontas, of Boca Raton, Fla. "We had no concept of this kind of insane cruelty."
On Sunday, some survivors wore replicas of their striped inmate's uniforms.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press
Buchenwald Burned Into World's Conscience
By Michael James
Special to The Capital Times
April 11, 2005
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On April 11, 1945, advancing units of the American Army liberated Buchenwald. Within days the name of the concentration camp was burned into the world's conscience, largely due to pictures taken by Life Magazine photographer Margaret Bourke-White. And also because Edward R. Murrow -- the most esteemed radio journalist of his time -- broadcast to the world an eyewitness account from inside the camp that same week.
Said Murrow, "The prisoners crowed up behind the wire. We entered. There surged around me an evil-smelling crowd; men and boys reached out to touch me. They were in rags and remnants of uniforms. Death had already marked many of them, but they were smiling with their eyes. I looked out over that mass of men to the green fields beyond, where well-fed Germans were plowing."
After giving listeners the best account he could muster, Murrow then concluded: "For most of it, I have no words."
The American Army brought more than food, medicine and clean water to the survivors, who now found themselves categorized as Displaced Persons.
A team of German-speaking U.S. Army intelligence officers was ordered to spend weeks at Buchenwald, while the vast majority of camp survivors were still present. Round-the-clock interviews commenced. Testimony was taken by the ream.
Soon a massive chronicle was bound in print: "The Buchenwald Report." Originally intended for usage at Nazi war crimes trials in Nuremburg and elsewhere, it became a landmark work.
The book was divided into two parts. The "Main Report" had chapters such as "The Living and Working Conditions of the Prisoners," "Punishments" and "Health Conditions," as well as "Numbers and Types of Concentration Camps in Germany."
Buchenwald had been established as a camp for political prisoners in 1937, two years before World War II began. Only later did it serve genocidal purposes in regard to Hitler's war against the Jews. For most of the camp's existence, the populace at Buchenwald represented a tapestry of Europe's ethnic, political, religious and human diversity.
Other chapters in the report were "The Permanent Underground Struggle Between the SS and the Anti-fascist Forces in Camp," "The First Russian Prisoners of War," "History of the Jews in Buchenwald," "The Situation of the Homosexuals," "How Jehovah's Witnesses Were Treated," "Nazi War Profiteers," and "Children in Buchenwald."
What shocked all who read even fragments of "The Buchenwald Report" was the testimony regarding the vicious, disorienting and perverse netherworld of pain, humiliation and suffering created and sustained by the Nazi perpetrators.
Part 2 of the work was called "Individual Reports." From "Roll Call" to "Torture Methods and Atrocities of the SS" and "Punishments in Camp" to "The Martyrdom of the Women at Altenburg," daily life in Buchenwald is recorded in ghastly detail.
Other sections provide excruciating accounts of the medical experiments which made Buchenwald a blot upon the conscience of the world. "Humans as Guinea Pigs for SS Doctors" and "Experiments in Block 46" offer evidence that signifies the unconscionable degree to which the scientific, medical and legal professionals yielded to Nazi authority.
This one-of-a-kind document was nearly lost to history. Portions of the report were used at the Nuremburg trials. And a Buchenwald survivor named Eugen Kogon, a professor who assisted the Army intelligence officers in their research and writing, later used some of this material in his classic work, "The Theory and Practice of Hell."
Kogon's copy of "The Buchenwald Report," however, was destroyed in an accident. The few copies in existence seemed to evaporate over time. Then, in the mid-1990s, one faded carbon copy was located and the whole report was finally published in its entirety.
Ten years later, it remains in print and is widely available. Now, 60 years after the liberation of Buchenwald, the hushed words of Edward R. Murrow still resonate:
"Two others were crawling toward the latrine. I saw it, but will not describe it. In another part of the camp they showed me the children, hundreds of them. One rolled up his sleeve, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm. B-6030, it was. The others showed me their numbers. They will carry them until they die."
They did. And they still do. Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel was first imprisoned at Auschwitz but later liberated at Buchenwald. In 1981 he organized a conference to reunite camp survivors with veterans who had been liberators. In his keynote address at that event, Wiesel recounted what happened 60 years ago today:
"I shall always remember the day I was liberated: April 11, 1945. Buchenwald. The terrifying silence terminated by abrupt yelling. The first American soldiers. Their faces ashen. Their eyes -- I shall never forget their eyes, your eyes. They reflected astonishment, bewilderment, endless pain, and anger -- yes, anger above all.
"Rarely have I seen such anger, such rage -- contained, mute, yet ready to burst with frustration, humiliation, and utter helplessness. Then you broke down. You wept."
Tears of rage at Dachau, on April 29, would translate into an act of mass vengeance.
Copyright 2005 The Capital Times