Photo: Naomi Tereza Salmon. Buchenwald Memorial

Gate building

One of the first buildings the inmates were forced to construct in 1937 was the camp gate. It served as the main watchtower of altogether twenty-three, and as a stand for a machine gun which could be aimed at any spot on the roll call square. All SS announcements were also made over loudspeakers installed on the gate building. The left wing housed the camp prison, the dreaded "Bunker"; in the right wing were the offices of the commanding officer of the "protective custody camp".

The gate building was also the only permissible entrance to and exit from the camp. It literally marked the boundary between the Volksgemeinschaft ("people’s community") – of which the SS defined itself as the elite – and the Gemeinschaftsfremde ("aliens to the community"). The forced passage through this gate from the outside meant entry into an existence dominated by torment, suffering, pain and crime. The moment of Buchenwald’s liberation – 3:15 pm on 11 April 1945 – is commemorated on the face of the tower clock.