Visiting Buchenwald

I really didn’t know how to feel or what to expect when I visited the concentration camp, Buchenwald in Wiemar. We got there about 1030 in the morning and it was sprinkling so we decided to go to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp before it started pouring. When we got there, we watched this video about the camp and the conditions there. Let me start off by saying that Buchenwald wasn’t a death camp. It was a labor and prison camp that just happened to kill a lot of people, so that’s it’s big distinction from Auschwitz. The people that were there were mostly political prisoners, homosexuals, prisoners of war and Jews. When we got there, we went through the gate and on the iron bars it had a quote that translated to “everyone gets what he deserves” and it could only be read from the inside. It was eerie to say the least. Most of the camp was leveled and only a few buildings survived but it was still a very creepy place. All of the foundations stood and one of the buildings that did was the crematorium.

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A view of the gate

When I went into the crematorium it was one of the worst feelings in my life. I stood in the courtyard and looked at a picture that he Allied soldiers took when they liberated the camp and the spot that I stood was hundreds of corpses piled up. I wanted to throw up it was so shocking. The most disturbing thing was the cellar. There, they dropped corpses through a chute down into the cellar to be transported up to the ovens via elevator, but in this room they had about 20 hooks on the walls that the SS officers would hang men, women and children from and strangle them to death. It was honestly one of the most unsettling rooms I’ve been in.

Next to the crematorium was a small building called the “doctor’s office”. The whole thing was set up to be a perfectly functioning office, but the SS brought 8000 Soviet prisoners of war through there, and during their “physical” they were stood up against a wall to be measured, but on the other side of that wall was a tiny room with a little slit running down it where an SS officer was standing. He would shoot the POW in the back of the head. All 8000 of them died like this. They were proud of the fact that they could kill so many without having to look a single one in the eyes.

Once we’d left that, we went on down the line and there was this really beautiful view of the valley beyond which must have been agonizing for the inmates. They were so close to freedom and could see it, but they were stuck in Buchenwald and left to die. One of the last things that we saw was an art gallery that showcased the sketches and drawings from the people that were interned in the camp. Most of the portraits were of friends of the artist who were on their death beds. They just wanted one last thing to remember them by. There was also a small exhibit that showed art of the camp after the liberation and the artists said they physically couldn’t talk about what they’d been through so they had to draw. They were all a jumble of bodies and dark and twisted. Just shows the long lasting impact of the camps on the human mind.

The camp itself

The camp itself

This was one of the most difficult places that I’ve ever been to in my life and it certainly made a huge impact on me, but it was something worth seeing to remember the terrible things that happened there.

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