Germania / Monumento
In the summer of 1937, the SS constructed Buchenwald Concentration Camp on the Ettersberg near Weimar. After the Dachau and Sachsenhausen Concentration Camps near Munich and Berlin, Buchenwald was the third of the large-scale concentration camps that were built.
After the National Socialists rose to power they began a racist reorganisation of the German society. As a result of this in the first years of its existence Buchenwald was used to imprison men who, for various reasons, were not supposed to be part of the propagated “Volksgemeinschaft”: in addition to political opponents, this included those persecuted as Jews, Sinti and Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses, social outsiders stigmatized as “asocial” and “criminal” or alleged homosexuals. These men had to set up the camp from nothing, with hard physical labor.
After the start of World War II, the number of prisoners increased. For the first time, men from German-occupied countries were deported to Buchenwald. The SS-terror escalated at the same time. Buchenwald became a site of targeted mass murders. From 1941 onwards, SS-men murdered 8,000 Soviet prisoners of war by shooting them on an execution site that was set up specially for this purpose. Sick men or those who were allegedly unable to work were deported to killing centers.
From 1943 the operation of the camp was dominated by forced labor for the German armaments industry. Buchenwald developed into a camp system with over 130 satellite camps, extending from the Rhine and Ruhr in the west, and to Saxony in the east. The prisoners were used as forced laborers in armament factories, some of them located in underground facilities, which the prisoners were forced to construct
The SS deported tens of thousands of men from all parts of German-occupied Europe to Buchenwald. Many of them had been arrested for resisting German occupation. At this point, German prisoners were only a minority in the camp. The SS also brought thousands of Jewish prisoners as well as Sinti and Roma from Auschwitz Concentration and Extermination Camp to Buchenwald in order to exploit them in forced labor before they were murdered as intended. For the first time, the work capacity of thousands of women was also exploited in the armaments industry in satellite camps of Buchenwald.
After the arrival of transports from the cleared camps of Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen, the number of prisoners in Buchenwald and its satellite camps grew to over 100,000. At the end of February 1945, Buchenwald was the largest concentration camp still in existence.
On 11 April 1945, 21,000 prisoners experienced the arrival of the US Army and the liberation in the main camp on the Ettersberg. Among them were over 900 children and adolescents. Shortly before, the SS had driven tens of thousands of prisoners on death marches. Thousands of them died along the way.
Between 1937 and 1945, almost 280,000 people aged between 2 and 86 years were deported to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and its satellite camps. Around 56,000 men, women, youth and children did not survive.
From the summer of 1945 to 1950, the Soviet occupation authorities used the camp site on the Ettersberg as an internment camp. About 28,500 men and women were interned in Soviet Special Camp No. 2. Over 7,000 of them died, mainly as a result of starvation and disease.
In 1958 the “Nationale Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Buchenwald” was inaugurated. As a national monument of the GDR, commemoration was subject to a rigid, state-controlled view of history. After the German reunification, the content and appearance of the memorial were redesigned. Today the Buchenwald Memorial is an international place of remembrance and education.