Wednesday, May 30, 2007


A few days before the November 11th 1918, Armistice Day - the official end of WWI - and a few days after a rash of mutinies by German soldiers and sailors, the German Empire collapsed and the Kaiser abdicated. Confusion reigned as groups ranging from communists to kings vied for political supremacy and Berlin, the capital, was so beset with riots and civil unrest that the National Assembly agreed to meet in Weimar, 140 miles to the southwest. The National Assembly, made up of elected representatives of the threee largest parties, took until June of the following year to produce a new Constitution. Thus was formed the German Reich, itself a misnomer, since the new Constitution described a Republic and the closest translation of Reich is Empire. Notwithstanding, this was the embryo of a new Germany and the Government was re-established in Berlin. The Weimar Republic, by which this period is generally known, never actually existed, being just a convenient name used by Historians to clarify which Reich is being referred to. Although the "Weimar Republic" was not officially rescinded until after WWII, it was effectively shredded by Adolf & Co. in 1933. It is ironic then, that Weimar became a significant center for the Gestapo, the secret police branch of the despotic SS, and that one of the earliest concentration camps, Buchenwald, was established just outside of town in 1937. Buchenwald was not a death camp like Auschwitz and others, but was designated as a labor camp in which imprisoned students, dissidents, foreigners and anyone else who was "in the way", were used as slave labor for local industries including the assembly of armaments. Particularly despised groups were assigned to heavy labor tasks with the successful intention of being literally worked to death while members of other unfortunate groups, Russian soldiers for example, were in fact murdered upon arrival at the camp. Yet others were the subjects of medical experimentation. From 1937 to 1945 about 250,000 prisoners in total were unfortunate enough to experience this camp and an estimated 56,000 of these died there.

The SS Administration Building

View from main entry gate house which contained a dozen
"death cells". Outside the fence and a watchtower can be
seen along with one of the maintained buildings

The first commander of the camp, Karl Otto Koch, who was
later imprisoned in Buchenwald after being arrested by the
Gestapo for forgery, embezzlement, mismanagement, and
insubordination, built this small zoo for his children just
outside the camp fence. Koch was finally put to death in 1943
for his crimes - crimes against the Nazi regime, that is

The induction center and crematorium today

The crematorium on April 11th 1945 when
the Americans liberated the camp

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