Yesterday a friend e-mailed me about something that Gordon Duff said on a radio show about the Buchenwald crematorium. Duff said that the Buchenwald crematorium was a completely new building which was built by the Russians after the old one was destroyed. I had never heard this before, so I decided to look up the photos that I took on my visit to Buchenwald and compare them with photos taken by the Americans immediately after the camp was liberated on April 11, 1945.
The photograph above shows the Buchenwald crematorium and the pathology annex, which today houses several exhibits. The crematorium is located to the right of the gate house as you enter the camp. In the foreground of the photo, you can see rocks which have been arranged to show where the barracks formerly stood. Unlike Dachau and Sachsenhausen, where the crematorium was outside the camp fence and hidden from the prisoner’s view by trees or a wall, all of the Buchenwald inmates could see this building, which was at the top of a slope. The pathology lab was located in an annex built onto the crematorium; this was where autopsies were done to determine the cause of death.
Notice the two small windows in the photo above. The people in the background are German civilians who have been marched to the camp at gun-point to view the one small pile of bodies. My photo, taken Oct. 1999, shows the same type of windows. Note that my photo shows a tiny bit of the fence around the courtyard and tiny bit of the zoo in the background on the left side; it does not show the wall in the old photo, but I am sure that it is the same building in both photos.
Maybe Gordon Duff got the Sachsenhausen camp and the Buchenwald camp mixed up. Both camps were in the Soviet zone after the war and the building which housed the ovens at Sachsenhausen was blown up by the Soviets. I visited both Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen in 1999. The photo below shows the ruins of the ovens at Sachsenhausen.
My photos of the Buchenwald crematorium show that it was the same building that was photographed by the Americans in April 1945 shortly after the camp was liberated and before the camp was turned over to the Russians.
I will leave it up to the experts to tell me if these two photos show the same building.
As for the ovens in the crematorium, they look the same now as in the old photos.
The photo below shows the courtyard of the crematorium building, taken in April 1945.
Note the fence around the crematorium building which is on the left and the Buchenwald zoo in the background. This photo was taken several days after the camp was liberated and it shows bodies of prisoners who died after the liberation. The photo below shows Margaret Bourke White taking a photo of the same wagon on April 15, 1945.
In the photo above, famous photographer Margaret Bourke White is taking an exposure reading with a hand-held light meter before taking a photo of the wagon in the courtyard of the Buchenwald crematorium.
It was the policy of the American liberators to leave the bodies out as long as possible so that American soldiers could be brought to see them, on the orders of General Eisenhower, who wisely predicted that some day people would say that the stories told by the Allies were propaganda. Eisenhower wanted as many witnesses as possible to tell future generations about the atrocities in the camps.
The photo above shows the fence around the courtyard at Buchenwald that is still there today. Note the windows which are the same as the windows in the building today.
The first newsreel about the camps in Germany, which was shown in American theaters, was entitled Nazi Murder Mills. You can see it on YouTube here. The part about Buchenwald starts at 4:11 and the Buchenwald ovens are shown at 4:41.
On July 3, 1945, the city of Weimar and the Buchenwald camp were turned over to the Soviet Union, according to a prior agreement. But before the American Army turned the Buchenwald and Mittlebau-Dora camps over to the Soviet Union, they removed as much as they could from the V-2 rocket factories and recruited the best of the German engineers who were sent to America. German doctors were recruited from the Buchenwald camp to do medical experiments in America.
The Soviet Union wasted no time in turning Buchenwald into an internment camp for Germans. On August 20, 1945, Buchenwald became Special Camp Number 2, a prison camp for Germans.