Scrapbookpages Blog

November 20, 2011

the unique method of execution at the Buchenwald death factory

I wrote a previous blog post, about  how Jews were killed at Buchenwald by being hung from hooks in the crematorium, which you can read at

The Buchenwald concentration camp had a unique method of executing prisoners.  This method was explained by Edwin Black in his book entitled IBM and the Holocaust.

This quote from IBM and the Holocaust describes how the Jews were murdered one shelf at a time at Buchenwald. A shelf was a section of the bunk beds in the barracks where 16 prisoners slept.

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 photo below shows the hooks on the wall of the “Strangling Room.” The second photo below shows the incinerator room with the door of the elevator on the right hand side.

Buchenwald execution chamber had hooks on the wall

Incinerator room at Buchenwald where bodies were burned

Execution by garroting and meat hooks on the wall was unique to the Buchenwald camp; in all the other Nazi concentration camps, political prisoners were executed by public hanging or shooting and the Jews were gassed. Only a few people today believe that Buchenwald had a gas chamber; you can read about the alleged Buchenwald gas chamber on my website here.

The Nazis referred to the Buchenwald “Strangling Room” as the Leichenkeller (corpse cellar). They claimed that bodies were stored in the “Strangling Room” before they were burned, but according to the Buchenwald guidebook (which I purchased in 1999), the corpse cellar was used only for executions and the bodies of prisoners who died of starvation or disease were stored in a shed near the east gate into the camp, a long way from the cremation ovens.

General George S. Patton, who toured Buchenwald on April 15, 1945, wrote the following in his autobiography regarding what he was told by former Buchenwald 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 “chute” which Patton saw was analogous to the “corpse slide” at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, which was used to roll dead bodies down into the morgue in the basement. Executions at Sachsenhausen were carried out at a firing range or in a gas chamber disguised as a shower room which was in the crematorium building.

At the Buchenwald death factory, the basement room at the end of the “chute” was an execution room, not a morgue. There was apparently no morgue in the crematorium at Buchenwald for storing the bodies before they were cremated.  This was not unusual; there were also no morgues at Auschwitz where the Jew were gassed in underground rooms in the crematoria.  The Nazis referred to the gas chambers at Auschwitz as corpse cellars.

A group of U.S. Congressmen are shown the mallet used to club prisoners to death when they didn’t die soon enough

The photo above shows a group of US Congressmen on a visit to Buchenwald on April 24, 1945. 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, but if this room was a morgue, as the Nazis claimed, the club might have been used to break the bones of bodies in which rigor mortis had set in before the body could be hung up to keep it straight for the ovens.

On the right, in the photo immediately above, is what appears to be a dummy hanging from a hook on the wall; this was part of the exhibit shown to German civilians and American soldiers who were brought to Buchenwald after the camp was liberated.

Another explanation for the hooks at Buchenwald was given by one of the former Polish prisoners to Cpl. Norman W. Paschen when he toured the camp shortly after American troops arrived at Buchenwald on April 11, 1945.

The following quote is from a letter to his family, written by Cpl. Paschen:

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.

The Buchenwald Report, a book written by former prisoners in the camp, uses the phrase “meat hooks used for hanging bodies,” which implies that the men who were hung in the execution room were already dead before their bodies were placed on the hooks.

The following quote is from the Buchenwald Report:

[The Nazis] 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.

On my visit to Buchenwald in 1999, I purchased the official guidebook for the camp, which has this quote:

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 guide book for Buchenwald implies that prisoners were strangled by hanging from hooks, not garroted first and then hung up on hooks.

The photo below shows the Corpse Cellar in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp which had no hooks for hanging bodies.

Corpse cellar at Sachsenhausen is similar to the one at Buchenwald but has no hooks

Corpse slide at Sachsenhausen