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The War File: THE HOLOCAUST: BUCHENWALD (1942-45) - AR223D

THE HOLOCAUST: BUCHENWALD (1942-45) - AR223D

The juxtaposition of the Weimar Republic, the cultural heart of Germany, with the cruelty of the Buchenwald concentration camp situated mere miles away, would make the region infamous. Herman Pister’s instalment as commandant in 1942 only intensified the horrors committed there with the continued growth of the Division of Typhus and Virus Research: the experimentation on inmates in ways to kill more conveniently. More and more prisoners were worked to death in various operations, none more hated than the SS Death Railway. Built at the cost of many inmates’ lives, the railway initially transported goods made at the camp factories. But as the numbers sent to the camps rose, Buchenwald became a depot where all the people were sent before being moved to places such as Dachau. The camp even had a VIP wing where French politicians and Italian princesses resided. With its population swollen beyond its limits, Buchenwald would have been unmanageable if not for the ‘Kapos”, inmates who worked as unofficial guards for extra privileges. The struggle for control between the various kapo groups would make life even more miserable. The atrocities of Buchenwald were discovered with its liberation by US forces in 1945, and the desire for revenge took over as camp personnel were hunted down and made to publicly stand trial for war crimes. After the war, the camp’s reputation worsened, with the conditions in the now Soviet-run prison worse than ever. It was eventually turned into a shrine to Communism’s victory over adversity, but this Russian propaganda has long since peeled away leaving the realisation of man inhumanity to man revealed.

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