Epilogue: After the liberation

The liberated concentration and extermination camps are evidence of the Nazi crimes. For that reason, the Americans open Buchenwald to international delegations and confront the residents of Weimar with the camp. Photos and film footage go around the world. The townspeople deny all knowledge of and responsibility for the crimes.

The foremost concern of the International Camp Committee and the U.S. Army is to save the lives of the undernourished and the sick. At the same time, the process of documenting the crimes gets underway. Hundreds of testimonies are recorded even before the witnesses leave the camp. Between April 1945 and the end of 1946, American investigation authorities examine more than 6,000 suspects. Only a fraction of the accomplices will ever be brought to justice in the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic.

Decades pass before the German society acknowledges the full magnitude of the crimes. The majority of the survivors never receive public recognition or compensation. Discrimination of Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, “asocials” and others continues for decades, and the persecution of these groups under the Nazis is ignored.

Already in the liberated camp, survivors begin thinking about how the inmates’ experience can be preserved and communicated. In everyday life, politics, science, and art, many of them devote themselves to the question of what can be learned, politically and ethically, from the experience of National Socialism.