September 29, 2019
Their bodies – about 20,000 of them – were incinerated in the camp’s crematorium, and the ashes dumped out behind it.
The workers in the crematorium drew these flowers on the wall to cheer things up a bit.
In 1945, US troops arrived in the area and were led to the secret underground V2 factory. They couldn’t believe what they saw – and knew they were sitting on a gold mine of secret rocket technology.
The problem was, it was located in what was designated to be the Soviet occupation zone. The Americans worked day and night to remove all the rockets and everything else useful they could, before they had to hand over the site.
By the time the Russians showed up, the only thing left behind was rubble and junk.
The Nazi rocket scientists who surrendered to the Americans pretended not to know anything about the conditions at Dora-Mittelbau, where their V2s had been built. A number of them went on to play a key role in laying the foundations for the US space program.
The main camp at Buchenwald was also liberated by US troops in April 1945. What they found profoundly shocked them.
Bodies of concentration camp victims stacked outside the crematorium at Buchenwald in 1945. A group of students standing in the same spot today.
Journalist Edward R. Murrow came to Buchenwald soon after its liberation and his radio report revealed the full picture of Nazi atrocities to the world. You can listen to it here:
It is estimated that about 56,000 of the 250,000 inmates who passed through Buchenwald died of overwork, malnutrition, and abuse, their bodies cremated.
After General Eisenhower toured Buchenwald (or one of its sub-camps) he reportedly turned to one of the American soldiers standing guard and scathingly asked, “Now do you find it hard to hate them?”
But in the middle of Buchenwald there was a tree – gone now, except for its stump. It was supposed to be a tree under which Goethe had once sat, so the guards and the prisoners called it Goethe’s Oak.
For the Nazi guards, Goethe’s Oak symbolized the superior German culture they believed they were dedicated to purify and protect.
For the prisoners, Goethe’s Oak symbolized another Germany, whose humanity and democratic spirit they once knew, and hoped could live once again.
Goethe’s Oak was reported destroyed by an American firebomb during an air raid in 1944. They say it burned all night.
An old clock in Schiller’s house, in Weimar, Germany