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The muster ground

Prisoners (Roma Gypsies from Burgenland) in inmates' uniforms on the muster ground. Day in and day out, as many as 20.000 inmates formed up here at dawn for roll call. In the evening, after ten or more hours of forced labour, the procedure was repeated. Among the remains of the old asphalt paving, a few white travertine stones can still be found; they originally served as markers for the formation of the inmates. Still discernible here and there, their arrangement bears witness to the true purpose of the roll call: to have the inmates march, form up in blocks, tear their caps from their heads, stand and sometimes sing for hours on end. Carried out systematically, the ordeal was part of the programme of humiliation. There were roll calls which lasted as many as seventy-two hours with no other aim than to terrorize the inmates. The refusal to participate was punishable by death. Before them, the inmates saw the window hatches of the detention cell building from which the screams of tortured victims reached their ears. On the muster ground, half-naked prisoners were also subjected to corporal punishment and fellow inmates hanged on the gallows in the presence of the entire camp population. Photo: SS, 1939. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington

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Memorial Service on 19 April 1945

Liberated inmates attending the first memorial service for the dead of Buchenwald. In the background to the left the crematorium, to the right the gate building, in front of it the wooden obelisk. Of the altogether 250.000 inmates of the camp, 56.000 died in Buchenwald and its more than one hundred subcamps alone, and more in other parent camps to which they were deported. One week after liberation, inmates erected a wooden obelisk on the muster ground. Its dimensions are reflected today by metal markers embedded in the ground on the spot where the original monument stood. On 19 April 1945, the first memorial service in honour of the dead of Buchenwald Concentration Camp took place here. The event had been organized by the International Camp Committee. The survivors also took this opportunity to thank the Allied troops, and they vowed: "We will only halt our struggle when the last perpetrator stands before the judges of the peoples! The extermination of Nazism with its roots is our slogan. The building of a new world of peace and freedom is our goal." Photo: U.S. Army, 19. April 1945. National Archives, Washington

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The Commemorative Symbol on the former muster ground

In the place where inmate survivors erected a wooden obelisk on the muster ground on 19 April 1945, there is now a memorial plaque dedicated to all of the dead of Buchenwald Concentration Camp. In 1995, the year marking the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Buchenwald, a symbol commemorating all of the victims of Buchenwald Concentration Camp was dedicated on the former muster ground. This had proven necessary in part because the GDR memorial on the southern slope of the Ettersberg reflected the persecution neither of the Jews nor of the Sinti and Roma Gypsies. The new symbol marks the spot on which the wooden obelisk was erected in the spring of 1945 for the first memorial service. It was designed according to a very reductive concept: a metal plaque embedded in the ground echoes the outline of the obelisk. It is engraved with the acronym "K. L. B." (for “Konzentrationslager Buchenwald”) as well as the names of more than fifty victim groups. Four further steel markers indicate the full dimensions of the monument of 1945. Photo: Peter Hansen. SGBuMD

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The Commemorative Symbol on the former muster ground

Commemorative Symbol on the former muster ground. The present-day symbol of remembrance was designed and realized by Horst Hoheisel and Andreas Knitz. One element of the plaque is invisible: its centre is kept at human body temperature (36.5 °C / 97.7 °F) as a symbol of that which unites every person whom the National Socialists denied their right to life: their humanity. Since 1995, the International Committee of Buchenwald-Dora and Subcamps has organized a memorial service for all of the victims of the camp every year in April. Photo: Claus Bach. SGBuMD