When President Barack Obama visited the Buchenwald Memorial site on June 5, 2009, he was accompanied by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Elie Wiesel. Bertrand Herz was also there. In his speech, Obama referred to Herz as “another Buchenwald survivor.” Herz remained in the background during the ceremonies and did not give a speech.
On his trip to Buchenwald, the President and his entourage visited the area inside the Buchenwald camp that was known as the “Little Camp.” Obama mentioned, in his speech, that Wiesel and Herz were kept in the “Little Camp” as boys.
The photo below shows the area where the “Little Camp” was formerly located.
In the photo above, Herz seems to be giving an animated description of life in the “Little Camp” which was formerly located in the area to which the visitors are walking. Elie Wiesel claims that he was a prisoner in the “Little Camp,” although there is growing doubt about his story. For some strange reason, there is no Buchenwald registration card nor prisoner identification number for Elie Wiesel. Bertrand Herz has a Buchenwald registration card; his prisoner identification number is 69592.
According to Wikipedia, Bertrand Herz has been the General Secretary of the International Committee of Buchenwald since 2001. The Memorial sites at Buchenwald, Dachau and Mauthausen are controlled to this day by an International Committee that was formed before the camps were liberated. (I’m not sure about Sachsenhausen.) The German people have no control over what is shown, or told to visitors, at the Memorial sites; this is controlled by the members of the International Commitees.
In her speech, Chancellor Merkel mentioned Special Camp No. 2 which was set up by the Soviet Union at Buchenwald after World War II ended. German citizens were put into this camp without a trial. You can read about Special Camp No. 2 on my website here. You can read about the Buchenwald camp here.
Of course, Obama and his entourage did not go to see the Museum for Special Camp No. 2, nor the graveyard where the bodies of innocent Germans were buried. The important part of Buchenwald was the “Little Camp,” a quarantine camp where Elie Wiesel and Bertrand Herz were imprisoned. The old photo below shows the “Little Camp.” The Communist prisoners, who ruled the camp, would not allow the Jews to come into their part of the camp at Buchenwald, which is shown in the second photo below.
Buchenwald was primarily a camp for political prisoners, not a camp for Jews. It was one of the main camps for Resistance fighters, or illegal combatants. The photo below shows a monument at Buchenwald which honors the Resistance fighters.
Obama used his trip to Buchenwald to rant about Holocaust deniers According to Obama, Buchenwald is a “rebuke” against those who say that “the Holocaust never happened.” He also mentioned his great uncle, who helped to liberate Ohrdruf, a sub-camp of Buchenwald.
Update, 6:00 p.m.
President Obama, and the other three participants in the Buchenwald ceremony on June 5, 2009, each placed a single, long-stemmed white rose on a white Memorial Stone that is flat on the ground inside the camp. Why a white rose? I don’t know, but my guess is that this was to symbolize The White Rose Society which was a German resistance organization that fought against the Nazis. Chancellor Merkel might have suggested white roses because she wanted to point out that not all Germans were bystanders during the Holocaust.
The spot where the roses were placed is shown in the photo above. This is the spot where the original monument was placed at Buchenwald by the Communist Resistance fighters who were prisoners in the camp. The original monument is shown in the photo below; it was later moved to the intersection where the road to the camp branches off from Ettersburg Strasse. The white memorial plaque was placed on the ground in 1995.
The photo above shows the Canteen building and the watch tower at the west gate into the Buchenwald camp. On the far left is one wing of the gatehouse. On the right in the photo, you can see some tourists standing at the spot where the obelisk was first raised by the prisoners on April 19, 1945. The survivors gathered around the oblelisk and swore the “Oath of Buchenwald.”