image

The "Little Camp" - Transit Camp

Secretly taken Photo of Little Camp inmates sitting in front of a stable barrack in 1944. Following the defeat in Stalingrad in early 1943, the SS decided to expand the practise of leasing out the inmates in their concentration camps to the German armament industry and also put them to work in new construction projects of their own, for example in Dora and Ohrdruf Subcamps. To this end, they had separate areas built within the main camps to serve as transit camps. From the latter, inmates would be sent on to the countless new subcamps. In Buchenwald the SS had twelve windowless Wehrmacht stables set up downhill from the main camp. Each of these wooden barracks was 40 m (131') long and just under 10 m (33') wide. There were neither sanitary facilities nor even beds in the interiors; rather, shelflike boxes were built out of raw wood on either side of a narrow central aisle from one end of the building to the other. Each of these stables had originally been designed for approximately fifty horses. In Buchenwald, 1.000 – sometimes nearly 2.000 – human beings were crowded into each of these stables. In 1944, when these accommodations no longer sufficed, five large military tents were set up in addition. Photo: Georges Angéli. SGBuMD

image

The "Hell of Buchenwald"

Three sick inmates on their shelf-like bunks in a Little Camp barrack shortly after liberation. The living conditions in the Little Camp were much worse than those that prevailed in the main camp. Hunger, filth and desperate struggles to survive soon dominated the slum of Buchenwald, which was closed off from the main camp by a barbed-wire fence. When the inmates from Auschwitz, Gross-Rosen and other evacuated camps in the east were deported to Buchenwald at the end of 1944, the Little Camp became the "hell of Buchenwald". With a population of far more than 10,000, it became a place of dying and death where the SS took the people they no longer had any use for in their subcamps. For example, thousands of sick and disabled inmates were brought to the Little Camp from Ohrdruf Subcamp. The so-called "Muselmann" became a symbol of the complete debilitation and immiseration of many inmates which led to their giving up all hope of survival. Corpses piled up in front of the barracks; some of the desperate prisoners even took to eating them. From the beginning of 1945 to the day of liberation, more than 5.000 died in this hell on earth. Photo: National Archives, Washington

image

Children in the Little Camp

Three liberated inmates go for a walk in the Little Camp with a child whose life has been saved: Stefan Jerzy Zweig. Beginning in mid 1944, hundreds of Jewish children of primarily Hungarian origin likewise came to Buchenwald from the evacuated camps in the east. The youngest was a mere two and a half years old. Without protection, they would have had no chance of survival. They received help. In January 1945, political inmates succeeded in convincing the SS to set up a kind of shelter, Barrack 66 in the Little Camp. There the children were protected from the hell of Buchenwald, they were not assigned to any labour detachments and they received somewhat more nourishing rations. Nearly 900 children and adolescents thus survived in this barrack, among them the later Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel as well as Robert Büchler, who would go on to research the history of their experiences. Photo: Gérard Raphaël Algoet. SGBuMD

image

The Liberation

Liberated inmates in Barrack 56 of the Little Camp. On 16 April 1945, the Photographer Private Harry Miller, member of the 166th Signal Photo company of the U.S. Army, was in Block 56, one of the Little Camp stable barracks. He asked the liberated Dutch Jew Simon Toncman to step forward and lean against a support beam. To this day, the photo of the latter’s emaciated body in front of the seemingly endless rows of boxes still shapes our image of the crimes committed in the concentration camps. At the very back of the box in the centre in which four survivors are lying, we can discern the shorn head of an adolescent. He was a native of Hungary deported to Buchenwald via Auschwitz with his father, who died in Buchenwald. The boy's name was Elie Wiesel. He later described the scene: "The first American soldiers. Their faces ashen. Their eyes – I shall never forget their eyes, your eyes. They reflected astonishment, bewilderment, endless pain, and anger – yes, anger above all. Rarely have I seen such anger, such rage – contained, mute, yet ready to burst with frustration, humiliation, and utter helplessness." Photo: Harry Miller. National Archives, Washington

image

The Little Camp Memorial

The Little Camp Memorial in 2008. In the early 1950s, the barracks of the Little Camp were demolished and the grounds became overgrown. For the visitors to the German Democratic Republic’s National Buchenwald Memorial, the Little Camp was no longer visible. In the GDR depiction of the historical events, focussing as it did on the commemoration of the Communist inmates, the Little Camp played only a subordinate role. After 1990, its grounds were cleared and archaeologically excavated in an extensive and elaborate process. Remains of the paths and the foundations of a large latrine came to light. Even today, they bear witness to how primitively the Little Camp had been constructed. Photo: Katharina Brand. SGBuMD

image

The Little Camp Memorial

A memorial was finally dedicated on the grounds of the Little Camp in April 2002, designed by the architect Stephen B. Jacobs – himself a Little Camp inmate at the age of six. It was erected on the initiative of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad as a joint project with the Buchenwald Memorial. Photo: Katharina Brand. SGBuMD