Elie Wiesel, a survivor of Buchenwald, famously said: “Some things never happened, but are true.” The most famous events that never happened at the Nazi concentration camps, but are true, took place at Buchenwald.
The photo below shows some of the things that never happened at Buchenwald, but are true: the shrunken heads, the lampshades made of human skin, an ashtray made from a human bone.
The Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated on April 11, 1945 by four soldiers in the Sixth Armored Division of the US Third Army, commanded by General George S. Patton. Just before the Americans arrived, the camp had already been taken over by the Communist prisoners who had killed some of the guards and forced the rest to flee into the nearby woods.
Pfc. James Hoyt was driving the M8 armoured vehicle which brought Capt. Frederic Keffer, Tech. Sgt. Herbert Gottschalk and Sgt. Harry Ward to the Buchenwald camp on April 11, 1945.
The photo above shows American soldiers, who were brought in trucks to Buchenwald on April 15, 1945 to see the displays put up by the prisoners, including the table in the photo above. Last year, I wrote about the liberation of Buchenwald here. You can read a poem written about the liberation of Buchenwald here.
One of the most famous events, that never happened, but are true, is the role of African-American soldiers in the liberation of Buchenwald, which you can read about here.
There were approximately 21,000 prisoners at Buchenwald on the day it was liberated. This included approximately 4,000 Jewish prisoners who were survivors of the death camps in what is now Poland, and 904 children under the age of 17, many of whom were orphans. Elie Wiesel claims that he was one of the 904 orphans, who were housed in Block 66 at Buchenwald, but many revisionists, such as Carl Mattogno, don’t believe him.
Regarding the liberation of Buchenwald on April 11, 1945, Robert Abzug wrote the following in his book Inside the Vicious Heart:
The Americans were met by reasonably healthy looking, armed prisoners ready to help administer distribution of food, clothing, and medical care. These same prisoners, an International Committee with the Communist underground leader Hans Eiden at its head, seemed to have perfect control over their fellow inmates.
The Allies used the word “extermination camp” for all the Nazi camps, assuming that the purpose of these camps was the mass murder of the Jews. Buchenwald was a Class II camp, intended for the imprisonment of condemned criminals and captured anti-Fascist resistance fighters who were considered to be beyond “rehabilitation.”
Three days after the Americans liberated Buchenwald, the 120th Evacuation Hospital arrived in Weimar with a staff of 273 service personnel to take care of the 3,000 sick prisoners; a hospital was set up in the barracks of the SS soldiers who had been stationed at Buchenwald. The staff stayed in a beautiful castle on the Ettersberg, which had formerly been the summer home of German royalty. A path through the woods connected the castle to the concentration camp.
One of the soldiers in the Evacuation Hospital unit was Tech. Sgt. Warren E. Priest from Haverhill, MA. In October 2007, Warren Priest told his story to Mike Pride, the editor of the Concord Monitor.
The following quote from Warren Priest was included in an article published by the Concord Monitor on October 25, 2007:
We left this lovely summer home and walked up a pathway through the woods. It was spring, and the leaves were just emerging. We saw all the loveliness and color of the season.
We smelled Buchenwald long before we saw it. That whole area was overwhelmingly and intrusively affected by the odor of death in the camp. You couldn’t escape it.
Reaching near the top, I suddenly encountered human forms. We had been trained not to fraternize, so I didn’t say anything. I held my carbine. They moved to the side of the pathway and got down on their knees and put their hands together prayerfully and looked up and smiled. It was one of those moments when expression was all nonverbal.
Buchenwald was a work camp, not a death camp, although plenty had been killed there. Close by was a Karl Zeiss factory, where prisoners worked. They specialized in the assembly of optical instruments – binoculars and cameras. We got quite a few of the things we needed from a supply train that the American troops had captured. We stole, if you will, things from the factory. I had two or three pairs of binoculars and a 35-millimeter camera.
Sgt. Warren E. Priest wrote the following, in a letter to his mother, after seeing Buchenwald:
I saw what and why we were fighting. Never never permit yourself to feel any trace of pity whatsoever for the German people, Mum. They’ve jeopardized their right to call themselves standing members of our world of civilization. They are certainly no better than the Japs, and in some respects worse.
The photos below show what Sgt. Priest saw at Buchenwald, that caused him to feel no “trace of pity whatsoever for the German people.”
On April 15, 1945, German civilians were brought to Buchenwald to see the evidence of the Nazi atrocities. General George S. Patton, who was there that day, wrote in his autobiography that the number of Weimar citizens brought to the camp was 1,500, although other accounts say it was 2,000. The German civilians had to march five miles up a steep hill, escorted by armed American soldiers. It took two days for the Weimar residents to file through the camp. No precautions were taken to protect them from the typhus epidemic in the camp.
General Patton had previously visited the Ohrdruf sub-camp of Buchenwald on April 12, 1945 along with General Omar Bradley and General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
On April 15, 1945, the day that he visited Buchenwald, General George S. Patton had written the following in a letter to General Dwight D. Eisenhower:
We have found at a place four miles north of WEIMAR a similar camp, only much worse. The normal population was 25,000, and they died at the rate of about a hundred a day. The burning arrangements, according to General Gay and Colonel Codman who visited it yesterday, were far superior to those they had at OHRDRUF. I told the press to go up there and see it, and then write as much about it as they could. I also called General Bradley last night and suggested that you send selected individuals from the upper strata of the press to look at it, so that you can build another page of the necessary evidence as to the brutality of the Germans.
The photo below shows German civilians walking past the pile of bodies in front of the Buchenwald crematorium.
This YouTube video explains how some things never happened at Buchenwald, but are true.