Displays put up by prisoners after the Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated

American soldiers enter barrack to see exhibits

After General Dwight D. Eisenhower visited the Ohrdruf sub-camp of Buchenwald on April 12, 1945, he ordered that as many US soldiers as possible should be brought to Ohrdruf and the Buchenwald main camp to see the atrocities that had been committed by the Nazis. The prisoners prepared exhibits for the American soldiers to see on their tour of the camp.

One of the soldiers who toured the Buchenwald camp a few days after it was liberated was Corporal Norman W. Paschen who wrote an article about what he saw.

Doctor who was a prisoner talks to American soldier

Joseph Anselma Brau

The former Buchenwald prisoner shown in the photo above is Joseph Anselma Brau, who was a French political prisoner. He was the chief doctor at the camp after Buchenwald was liberated.

Sign put up by Polish anti-Fascists at Buchenwald

The words on the sign in the photo above say "We from Silesia are ready to go back home and destroy the Fascists (Nazis)." Silesia is a province that became part of the German state of Prussia after the country of Poland was divided in 1772 among Prussia, Austria and Russia. Frederick the Great earned the title of "the Great" after Prussia was defeated in the Seven Years War by Austria and Russia, but he managed to save Prussia from complete ruin and keep the valuable province of Silesia, which later became the prime industrial area of Germany.

In 1871, Silesia became part of Germany after the German states united under the Kaiser who was the King of Prussia. After World War I ended, Silesia was given to the newly formed country of Poland. After Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, Silesia was annexed to Germany and became part of the Greater German Reich. Since the end of World War II, Silesia has been part of Poland.

At the end of World War II, the ethnic Germans in Silesia were expelled by the Poles, after their homes and farms had been taken from them, and they were forced to move to Germany. So it turned out that the former Polish political prisoners at Buchenwald did in fact participate in destroying the Nazis in Poland after the war.

Bunk beds with no mattresses for sick prisoners at Buchenwald

The photo above looks like it might have been a post card because, at the bottom, it has a copy of the writing on the frame of the bunk beds. These words were written by the prisoners who wanted to point out to the soldiers on the tour of Buchenwald that the sick prisoners had no mattresses for their bunks.

Display shows how prisoners were punished on the whipping block

The photo above shows a display put up by the prisoners in the Buchenwald camp which depicts how the prisoners were punished by 25 lashes from a whip while they were bent over a whipping block. The whipping block is a reconstruction built by the prisoners. The words on the top sign, translated into English, read as follows:

Model! The original was destroyed by the SS Murdering Bandits before their departure

The English translation of the first two lines on the sign below it reads as follows:

The so-called Support!

A Nazi cultural monument in all concentration camps

The words on the lower sign then describe how the prisoners were whipped with 25 or more lashes on their naked buttocks until they were nearly unconscious. Then cold water was thrown on them to revive them and they were beaten some more.

Although the whipping block was used for punishment in all the camps, no such block was found in either the Ohrdruf sub-camp or the Buchenwald main camp. The survivors of these camps had to improvise a wooden block to show the American soldiers how they had been punished. According to the testimony of Rudolf Hoess, the Commandant of Auschwitz, at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal on April 15, 1946, this punishment was discontinued in 1942 after Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler gave a new order that the SS men were forbidden to whip the prisoners.

All punishments in the Nazi concentration camps had to be authorized by the main office in Oranienburg after a report was made by the SS guards regarding an offense committed by a prisoner. A doctor had to be present during the whipping.

American soldiers who toured the Buchenwald camp were told that prisoners had been killed by hanging them from hooks in the morgue until they were dead. The photo below shows an exhibit that was put up in the morgue. Note the club hanging from one of the hooks. The soldiers were told that this club was used to kill those who didn't die fast enough on the hooks.

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German civilians tour Buchenwald

Exhibits put up by prisoners

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This page was last updated on June 25, 2010