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Nazi camp Buchenwald liberated 65 years ago

AFP · 11 Apr 2010, 13:30

Published: 11 Apr 2010 13:30 GMT+02:00

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"The majority of my comrades are dead, they are no longer with us," said Günther Pappenheim, 84, one of around 90 survivors from the camp near Weimar in central Germany who came to take part in a solemn ceremony.

"But we have the great wish, the great request, that the memory of the victims of fascist terror, that the comrades who lost their lives in Buchenwald, live on our hearts ... and are never forgotten."

Although technically not an extermination camp, all of which were in German-occupied Eastern Europe like Auschwitz in Poland, Buchenwald, high on a wooded hill called the Ettersberg, was still a place of immense suffering.

An estimated 56,000 people from all over Europe died between 1937 and 1945, starved and worked to death in horrendous conditions, killed in medical experiments or summarily executed.

They included some 8,000 Soviet prisoners of war killed by "Genickschuss" -- a bullet in the back of the neck. Others prisoners were sent eastwards to the gas chambers or perished in "death marches" in the final weeks of the war.

Around 250,000 people were imprisoned in Buchenwald between 1937 and 1945 and in its 136 nearby sub-camps where prisoners carried out forced labour in factories for the Nazi war effort.

They included Jews, Roma, Sinti, gays, the disabled, Jehovah's Witnesses and real and imagined political opponents of Hitler from all over Nazi-occupied Europe including France, Ukraine, Poland and the Netherlands.

When the horrified Sixth Tank Division of the Third US Army arrived at Buchenwald on April 11, 1945, they found 21,000 inmates, many dangerously emaciated. Also there were 900 adolescents and children, some as young as four.

A week earlier, the Ohrdruf sub-camp had been liberated by the 89th Infantry Division, which included US President Barack Obama's great uncle Charlie Payne. Obama visited Buchenwald in June 2009.

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After World War II, the Soviet secret police, the NKVD, took over the camp, imprisoning some 28,500 people there until 1950 in inhumane living conditions, mostly former Nazi party members, local officials and police.

More than 7,100 died, their bodies dumped in mass graves.

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Your comments about this article

20:33 April 11, 2010 by wood artist
The time for asking who was to blame is long over. Now is the time to keep remembering what can happen, and insure it never will again. If there is any hope for anything positive from this experience, that is it.

If you visit the crematorium at Buchenwald, you'll find those people are still there, begging us to not forget.

19:18 April 12, 2010 by Heinz-Reg
Maybe someday it will not be against the law to remember the names of the German civilians who lost their lives during the war. Also remember the 7,469,713 that were displaced.
21:21 April 12, 2010 by wxman
"To each his own". A little more pragmatic than the ludicrous "Work makes you free", I suppose.
16:37 April 14, 2010 by quad1970
I agree with Heinz-Reg...all the victims should be remember and the truth of history shown. It should be done in a way that does not have some victims competing against others for who suffered the most. Certainly the Holocaust victims are unique, but are also some amongst the millions of others who perished. I am not German, and do not hold the current generation of Germans responsible for the outrages of the third reich, and think they should be able to look back on their history without carrying the bagage of the forebearers.
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