In the Buchenwald concentration camp, prisoners were killed by “hanging from meat hooks,” according to the information given at the Memorial site. The photo below shows the “execution room” with meat hooks near the ceiling.
The Buchenwald prisoners had been secretly storing weapons for years, but they waited until they heard that the Americans were coming, before they decided to liberate themselves on April 11, 1945.
General George S. Patton toured Buchenwald on April 15, 1945 and later wrote the following in his autobiography regarding what he was told by the former prisoners:
If a sufficient number (of the Buchenwald prisoners) did not die of starvation or if, for other reasons, it was desirable to remove them without waiting for nature to take its course, they were dropped down a chute into a room which had a number of hooks like those on which one hangs meat in a butcher shop, about eight feet from the floor. From the execution room in the Buchenwald set-up there was an elevator, hand operated, which carried the corpses to an incinerator plant on the floor above.
The “incinerator plant on the floor above,” to which General Patton referred, is shown in the photo below. A steel trolley cart was used to shove the bodies inside the ovens. The bodies had to be perfectly straight in order to fit inside the narrow ovens. In the right hand corner of the room, you can see the hand operated elevator used to bring the corpses up from the execution room in the basement.
The “chute,” which Patton saw was an opening through which prisoners were allegedly dropped down into the execution room. The Sachsenhausen camp had a “slide” which was used to roll dead bodies down into the morgue which was identical to the “execution room” at Buchenwald.
Of course, those clever Nazis referred to the execution room at Buchenwald as a Leichenkeller, but this was a euphemism; the gas chambers at Auschwitz were also labeled Leichenkeller on the blueprints. The original plan for the Leichenkeller at Auschwitz had a corpse slide, but this feature was eliminated before the gas chambers, disguised as morgues, were built.
When I visited the Buchenwald Memorial Site in 1999, I purchased the official camp guidebook which mentions the wall hooks:
Approximately 1,100 people were strangled to death on wall hooks in the body storage cellar. Ivan Belevzev from Kharkov, 8 years old, was the youngest victim of the murderers.
Note that the official guidebook calls the room “the body storage cellar.” So this room was apparently used as a morgue after the prisoners had been murdered. This article in the Gainsville Times tells about how one of the American soldiers who visited Buchenwald wrote a letter to his wife in which he described how the elevators at Buchenwald were used to slowly crush the bodies of the dead prisoners.
At all the concentration camps, new prisoners were put into quarantine barracks for a few weeks to make sure that they did not have any diseases that might spread throughout the camp. At Buchenwald, the “Little Camp” was the quarantine camp where prisoners had to be confined after they first entered the camp. When the Americans arrived at Buchenwald, most of the prisoners in the Little Camp were Jews who had been brought from the camps in what is now Poland.
According to the book entitled IBM and the Holocaust, by Edwin Black, the Jewish prisoners at Buchenwald were assigned to “the Little Camp, where they were expected to lose 40 percent of their body weight and then move on to other barracks.”
According to information that Black obtained from an Army report, the Jews were “arbitrarily condemned to death,” one shelf at a time. A shelf was a three-tiered bunk bed where 16 prisoners slept together.
In his book IBM and the Holocaust, Black described how Jews were murdered at Buchenwald:
Once the murder decision had been made, all sixteen Jews in the shelf were immediately marched to a small door adjacent to Buchenwald’s incinerator building. The door opened inward, creating a short, three-foot-long corridor. Jews were pushed and herded until they reached the corridor end. There, a hole dropped thirteen feet down a concrete shaft and into the Strangling Room. A camp worker recalled, “As they hit the floor they were garroted … by big SS guards and hung on hooks along the side wall, about 6 1/2 feet above the floor … any that were still struggling were stunned with a wooden mallet … An electric elevator … ran [the corpses] up to the incinerator room.
The official history of Buchenwald was originally written by the survivors in a book called The Buchenwald Report, which used the phrase “meat hooks used for hanging bodies.” This implies that the men who were hung in the execution room were already dead before their bodies were placed on the hooks.
The Buchenwald Report also explains how the Nazis tried to cover up their crimes at Buchenwald:
They removed the meat hooks used for hanging bodies, cemented in the holes, and covered up the blood-spattered walls with a fresh coat of white paint. In their haste, however, they did not completely finish the job of hiding the evidence: After liberation, an American medical officer reported seeing four hooks still in the wall and partially filled holes for forty-four more, as well as a bloodstained club.
A group of US Congressmen visited Buchenwald on April 24, 1945, at General Eisenhower’s request. In the photo above, they are being shown the “bloodstained club” that was found by the American liberators in a corner of the execution room. The Congressmen were told that the “bloodstained club” was used to beat prisoners to death in the execution room if they didn’t die fast enough while being hung from the hooks.
On the right, in the photo above, is what appears to be a dummy hanging from a hook on the wall; this was part of the exhibit shown to visitors after the liberation.
When I visited the Dachau Memorial Site, I saw a sign above the cremation ovens which tells visitors that prisoners were hung from the rafters in front of the ovens. Another sign on the wall of the Dachau crematorium makes it clear that prisoners were hung by the neck from the rafters in front of each oven until they were strangled to death. The gallows for hanging prisoners was right outside the crematorium at Dachau, but allegedly, the prisoners were hung above the ovens, to make the killing process more efficient.
One of the former Polish prisoners at Buchenwald gave a different explanation for the Buchenwald hooks to Cpl. Norman W. Paschen when he toured the camp shortly after it was liberated.
The following quote is from a letter that Cpl. Paschen wrote to his family:
We then went to the crematory, a cold, dismal building resembling a dungeon. A large chute similar to a coal chute had been used to convey the bodies to a cellar. On the walls of the cellar were many hooks which were used to hold the corpses until it came time for them to be elevated to the crematory upstairs. The hooks had been forced into the neck behind the ear. They were still blood-stained. In this room, also men were executed if they were deemed no longer useful to the Nazi. The methods of execution were varied. Sometimes a bullet was used, but our guide informed us that his captors had said many times that a bullet was too expensive a price to pay for the death of a slave. Poison gas or starvation was much cheaper.
Note that Cpl. Paschen mentioned “poison gas.” Early reports about Buchenwald claimed that the camp had a “gas chamber.”
At the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal in 1946, the French prosecutor submitted an official report about Buchenwald which stated the following:
Everything had been provided for down to the smallest detail. In 1944, at Buchenwald, they had even lengthened a railway line so that the deportees might be led directly to the gas chamber. Certain [of the gas chambers] had a floor that tipped and immediately directed the bodies into the room with the crematory oven.
The room with the crematory ovens (plural) was on the ground floor, so the gas chamber must have been in the attic. The crematorium building is shown below. Notice the window in the attic.
The world’s first Holocaust denier, a French prisoner at Buchenwald, named Paul Rassinier, claimed that there was no gas chamber at Buchenwald. That was the start of Holocaust denial which is still going on today.