Additional information

History of the memorial
Information on the National Buchenwald Memorial of the GDR can be found here.

Literature
Volkhard Knigge (ed.): Versteinertes Gedenken. Das Buchenwald Mahnmal von 1958, here.

Memorial complex

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Aerial view

In keeping with a GDR government resolution, construction of the “Nationale Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Buchenwald” ("National Buchenwald Memorial") got underway in 1954. By 1958, a monumental national memorial had been erected on the south slope of the Ettersberg. Three mass graves were incorporated into the design. The complex was conceived in such a way as to guide the visitors along a path from death to life: beginning at the crematorium and leading through the camp, the path then descends to the graves, and finally ascends to the bell tower as a symbol of freedom and light. The German Communist members of the resistance are the central element.

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Photo: Jürgen M. Pietsch

Entrance gate

Here the descent to the graves begins.

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Photo: Jürgen M. Pietsch

Stele-lined path

The path is lined with seven steles symbolizing the seven years of the concentration camp and bearing scenes depicting life in the camp. (Sculptors: René Graetz, Waldemar Grzimek and Hans Kies; texts on the reverse sides: Johannes R. Becher)

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Photo: Jürgen M. Pietsch

Ring graves

In March/April 1945, the SS had approximately 3,000 corpses buried in natural depressions in the earth. Three of these burial pits were later landscaped as ring graves.

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Photo: Jürgen M. Pietsch

Avenue of the Nations

The wide avenue connecting the ring graves is flanked by masonry pylons bearing the names of eighteen nations.

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Photo: Jürgen M. Pietsch

Figural group

The ascent by way of a wide, light-hued stairway leads to the world-famous figural group by Fritz Cremer (restored in 2002–2005). It is dedicated to the resistance struggle in the camp.

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Photo: Peter Hansen

"Tower of Freedom"

In the interior, a bronze slab covers earth and ashes from other concentration camps and sites of terror. In the context of mass rallies, the assembly ground served the GDR as – among other things – a means of self-legitimization.

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Photo: Jürgen M. Pietsch

Cemetery

Even after the liberation of the concentration camp, former inmates continued to die as a result of the conditions they had suffered during their imprisonment. Until July 1945 they were interred in graves arranged in rows on the southern slope of the Ettersberg. The 1,286 urns which had been stored in the cellar of the tower and in the crematorium are also buried here. The graves were partially shifted within the context of the memorial’s construction. Since 1996, the newly landscaped cemetery has displayed the names of the dead. The ashes found during restoration work in the crematorium in 1997 as well as skeletal remains which came to the memorial in 2004 from the collection of the Historisches Museum Berlin are likewise buried here.