Commemorative sites

By the early 1960s, a large number of commemorative sites had been created on the grounds of the former concentration camp. Further sites were added after the end of the GDR. The latter commemorate victims groups which had previously received little to no recognition.

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Photo: Peter Hansen

Ernst Thälmann memorial plaque (1953

On the night of 17 August 1944, the SS executed Ernst Thälmann, a former member of the Reichstag and chairman of the German Communist Party, in the crematorium. A memorial plaque on the wall of the crematorium commemorates him.

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Photo: Peter Hansen

Commemorative stone for the 1938 special camp for Jews (1954)

A stone commemorates the special camp for Jews which was located on the western section of the muster ground. Following the anti-Jewish pogrom of November 1938, the SS deported 10,000 Jewish men from Eastern, Central and Western Germany to Buchenwald Concentration Camp. They were imprisoned in five wooden barracks and abused; 250 of them died. The Hebrew inscription was added to the commemorative stone in 1988.

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Photo: Peter Hansen

Commemorative stone for the special camp of 1939/40 (1954)

At the end of September 1939, the SS set up a special camp on the muster ground. There more than 3,000 Poles and Jews were crowded into tents. Hundreds of Viennese Jews died as a result of the winter temperatures and forced labour, or were murdered by the SS with injections. By February 1940, nearly half of the special camp inmates had died.

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Photo: Peter Hansen

Commemorative stone for members of the British and Canadian armies murdered in the camp (1954)

In August 1944, a group of inmates was committed to Buchenwald Concentration Camp block no. 17 on account of their connections to the Special Operations Executive (SOE), a special British secret service unit active in occupied France. The SS murdered the majority of them in September/October 1944. The camp resistance helped to save three of the men by exchanging their names for those of dead inmates.

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Photo: Peter Hansen

Commemorative stone for Soviet prisoners of war (1954)

On 18 October 1941, the SS committed 2,000 Soviet prisoners of war to the camp. They were housed on the western edge of the inmates’ camp in six barracks surrounded by barbed wire and signposted as a "prisoner-of-war camp". Many of the inmates died as a result of heavy forced labour, sickness and hunger.

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Photo: Katharina Brand

Commemorative stone "Stable: Site of the Murder of 8,483 Soviet Soldiers" (1954)

Between the autumn of 1941 and 1943/44, the SS murdered more than 8,000 Soviet prisoners of war by shooting them in the neck in the solidly built 55-metre-long stable next to the camp commander’s indoor riding arena. The shooting facility consisted of a series of rooms set up to look like medical examination rooms. On the east side of the building, the corpses were put in galvanized containers for transport to the crematorium.

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Photo: Katharina Brand

Commemorative stone at the former inmates’ infirmary (late 1950s)

In the summer of 1938, the construction of two barracks got underway in the area of the so-called “Revier”, or sick quarters. By early 1945, the inmates’ infirmary consisted of six barracks, including several solidly built ones with underground levels. This expansion, which was accelerated on account of epidemics and overcrowding, was brought about primarily through the persistent efforts of inmate orderlies. For inmates who enjoyed their protection, admission to the infirmary could mean survival. Others who were seriously ill and unable to work were killed in the facility by SS doctors with injections.

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Photo: Katharina Brand

Rudolf Breitscheid memorial (1960)

Rudolf Breitscheid, chairman and foreign affairs spokesman of the German Social Democratic Party Reichstag faction in the Weimar Republic, was interned in the isolation barrack for prominent inmates. He was killed on 24 August 1944 during the Allied air attack on armament factories and SS facilities in the camp.

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Photo: Naomi Tereza Salmon

Memorial to Henri Manhès (1961)

At the point where the Ettersburger Strasse branches off towards “Blood Road”, there is a memorial to Frédéric Henri Manhès (1889–1959), a member of the French resistance. It was erected in 1961 by the city of Weimar, which had awarded Manhès honorary citizenship three years previously.

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Photo: Peter Hansen

Commemorative stone "Political Inmates from Bulgaria" (1970)

Bulgarian students from Bratislava and from the Dresden Technische Hochschule were held in custody in Buchenwald. They had refused to be recruited for the German Wehrmacht.

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Photo: Claus Bach

Jewish memorial (1993)

Built with stones from the Buchenwald quarry at the site of the former Jewish block no. 22, this memorial was dedicated on 9 November 1993. The inscription (Psalm 78:6) in English, Hebrew and German reads: “So that the generation to come might know, the children, yet to be born, that they too may rise and declare to their children.” The memorial was designed by the artist Tine Steen and the architect Klaus Schlosser. Of the 75,000 Jewish men and women imprisoned in Buchenwald Concentration Camp and its subcamps, 11,800 died or were murdered.

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Photo: Katharina Brand

Memorial to the Sinti and Roma victims (1995)

Black basalt steles form the memorial on a small elevation at former block no. 14, where Burgenland Roma were held in 1939/40. The steles bear the names of other concentration and extermination camps. The inscription in English, German and Romani reads: “In memory of the Sinti and Roma victims of Nazi Holocaust”. The memorial was designed by Daniel Plaas. The SS imprisoned approximately 3,500 Sinti and Roma (men and women) at Buchenwald Concentration Camp. According to the information gathered to date, at least four hundred of them perished here.

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Photo: Naomi Tereza Salmon

Memorial to all inmates of Buchenwald Concentration Camp (1995)

A marker commemorating all of the victims of Buchenwald Concentration Camp was dedicated on the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation. A metal plaque engraved with the acronym “K. L. B.” as well as the names of fifty nations and victim groups in alphabetical order is inserted into the ground. The middle section is kept at 37 °C, the temperature of the human body. The memorial was designed and realized by the artists Horst Hoheisel and Andreas Knitz. This monument marks the site where inmate survivors erected a wooden obelisk – the first memorial to the victims of the camp – shortly after liberation. At a service held on 19 April 1945, they commemorated their dead comrades and swore the “Oath of Buchenwald”.

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Photo: Katharina Brand

Memorial site for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Friedrich von Rabenau and Ludwig Gehre (1999)

Along with the former General Friedrich von Rabenau and Captain Ludwig Gehre, the Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer spent the last weeks of his life in a detention cellar in early 1945. The three had been arrested and brought to Buchenwald for participating in the conspiracy against Hitler which had culminated in the assassination attempt of 20 July 1944. On 9 April 1945 they were murdered at Flossenbürg Concentration Camp, where their corpses were incinerated and the evidence covered up. After the grounds had been cleared by participants of various work camps beginning in 1990, the memorial site was dedicated in 1999. On 25 May 2014, it was defiled by unidentified persons. The perpetrators destroyed one step of the historical access stairway and irreparably damaged the stainless steel commemorative plaque. Through a donation campaign, the German-speaking section of the International Bonhoeffer Society and the Protestant-Lutheran Church Parish of Weimar provided decisive support for the memorial site’s immediate restoration. The funds moreover covered the cost of conservational measures to improve the site’s long-term protection.

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Photo: Peter Hansen

Commemorative rooms in the former detention cell building

In the left wing of the gate building, the so-called Bunker, SS jailors murdered hundreds of inmates. A number of them, including the Protestant pastor Paul Schneider and the Austrian clergymen Otto Neururer and Mathias Spanlang, are commemorated by name.

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Photo: Katharina Brand

Commemorative stone for victims of the National Socialist military judiciary (2001)

On 15 May 2001, the “International Day of Conscientious Objectors”, a commemorative stone was dedicated to conscientious objectors and deserters at the site of former block no. 45. Several hundred of these persons were imprisoned in Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camps.

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Photo: Katharina Brand

"Little Camp" Memorial (2002)

This memorial came about as a joint project of the “United States Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad” and the Buchenwald Memorial. It was realized with donations from the U.S. as well as funds from the Federal Republic of Germany and the Free State of Thuringia. The place-names inscribed in the memorial refer to deportation sites, prisons and concentration camps from which transports were sent directly to the "Little Camp". A Buchenwald Concentration Camp survivor, the architect Stephen B. Jacobs, designed the memorial. As a child, he had himself been in custody in the "Little Camp" at the end of 1944 along with his father and brother.

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Photo: Peter Hansen

Stone in memory of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (2002)

A stone at the site of block no. 45 commemorates the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They were persecuted by the National Socialists from 1933 onwards for their unwavering pacifism. Beginning in the mid 1930s, they were committed to various German concentration camps, including Buchenwald.

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Photo: Katharina Brand

Stone commemorating the women of Buchenwald Concentration Camp (2003)

A memorial stone at the site of former block no. 5 commemorates the more than 27,000 women and girls forced to perform labour for the German armament industry in the subcamps of Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Block no. 5 housed the inmate detachment for labour administration, which was also responsible for the administration of the subcamps. The text inscribed on the stone was written by the Polish Buchenwald survivor Danuta Brzosko-Medryk, who was deported to a Buchenwald subcamp in Leipzig in 1944.

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Photo: Katharina Brand

Commemorative stone for homosexual men (2006)

The Nazi regime had thousands of homosexual men committed to concentration camps. Between 1937 and 1945, some 650 German homosexuals were imprisoned in Buchenwald alone. The majority of them wore the pink triangle; a number of them had to wear other colours. One in three of them perished. They are commemorated by a memorial stone at the site of former block no. 45.

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Foto: Katharina Brand

Commemorative stone for members of the Allied Air Force (2014)

In August 1944, at least 169 Allied airmen who had been shot down over France were committed to Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Of these men, 82 were Americans, 49 were Britons, 26 Canadians, 9 Australians, 2 from New Zealand, and 1 from Jamaica. Two of them died in the camp. The others were transferred to the Stalag Luft III prisoner-of-war camp in Sagan (present-day Żagań in Poland ) in October/November 1944. On 13 April 2014, survivors dedicated a commemorative stone to this inmate group at the site of the former Block 45.

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Photo: Anja Holtschneider

Memorial for the Spanish Republicans (2015)

Also about 500 Spaniards were deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Most of them were members of the Republican Army or refugees from the civil war. The first of them, arriving in spring 1941 , were called “Red Spaniards” by the SS. After the transports from France were arriving since early 1944, the number of Spaniards in Buchenwald rose. At least 39 of them, among them two Spanish Jews, died in the Buchenwald concentration camp. On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the liberation on April 11th, 1945, relatives and descendants inaugurated the memorial stone at former Block 45.