“Buchenwald. Ostracism and Violence 1937 to 1945”
The new permanent exhibition shows the history of the concentration camp based on the current state of research and puts it in the context of National Socialist society; the opening on 17 April 2016, with Minister of State for Culture Grütters, and Thuringian Minister of Culture and Federal and European Affairs Hoff, and former inmates on the occasion of the 71st Anniversary of the Liberation of Buchenwald
“Again it is astonishing how easily everything collapses”, noted the Romance languages scholar and politician Victor Klemperer in his diary in early 1933. At the same time the writer Robert Musil summed it up: “Freedom of the press, of expression of any kind, freedom of conscience, personal dignity, freedom of spirit etc., all the liberal fundamental rights have now been set aside without one single person feeling utterly outraged, indeed by and large without people being strongly affected at all.” These two examples of an extraordinary state of shock in the face of the smooth transfer of power to Hitler and the National Socialists in Germany at the time can sensitise us to the fragility of our own time; a time in which populist nationalism, racist ideologies of inequality, cultural illiberalism and antidemocratic thinking have by no means been overcome. Against this backdrop, “Buchenwald. Ostracism and Violence 1937 to 1945”, in an explicit break with a trend in the culture of memory that limits itself to the de-contextualised horror of the camps when discussing National Socialism, combines a look at the camp with a look at German society – a society that largely accepted the camps and ostracism, believed them to be justified and necessary, was hardly repelled at all, made use of the camps in many ways and ultimately was thoroughly pervaded by the “total war” of the camps.
The effortless proximity of Weimar and Buchenwald is an impressive example of this: the concentration camp becomes an unproblematic component of the city. The city’s hospital and crematorium are made available to the SS for its ends. Weimar tradespersons, moving companies and merchants do business with it. They offer goods and services, supply the concentration camp or profit from inmates as forced labourers. Hilmar Wege, for example, the owner of the firm Gummi-Wille, willingly personally delivers trusses he sells to the camp and fits inmates with them. And the Mayor of Weimar, Otto Koch, in consultation with the directors of the cultural institutions, commissions the SS workshops in the Buchenwald concentration camp – the so-called Deutsche Ausrüstungswerke (DAW; German Equipment Works) – to produce copies of the furniture in Friedrich Schiller’s study and the room in which he died. To that end, the original furniture from the Schiller House is brought to the concentration camp and rebuild there under the supervision of the carpenter Willy Werth, an inmate since 1937.
You can read the complete press release here
Pictures of the opening ceremony in the cinema will be available here
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