Additional Information

Inmates' Camp
Information about the topography of the camp is available here.

Literature
Imre Kertész: Fateless. More detailed information is available here.

Bruno Apitz: Naked Among Wolves. More detailed information is available here.

Thomas Geve: There are no children here. Auschwitz, Groß-Rosen, Buchenwald. Drawings of a child historian. This and other books can be ordered here.

Children and Adolescents in Buchenwald Concentration Camp

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Photo: Buchenwald Concentration Camp Records Office. SGBUMD

In the final year of the war, the SS brought a great number of Jewish, Russian, Ukrainian and Polish adolescents to Buchenwald from the extermination and forced labour camps in the East. In December 1944, one in three inmates in the camp was under the age of twenty-one; the percentage of children and adolescents in the women’s subcamps was twice as high. For the most part their families had been murdered and their homes destroyed. As in the case of the adults, their survival depended on their being able to perform forced labour. Imre Kertész described their situation in his novel "Fateless". The SS sent hundreds of teenaged Jews, Sinti and Roma on death transports to Auschwitz, having classified them as “unable to work”. Some 1,600 adolescents and children died in Buchenwald as the result of enfeeblement, illness, beating or shooting.

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Photo: U.S. Signal Corps. National Archives Washington

Beginning in mid 1944, children also came to Buchenwald from the camps in the East as the latter were being vacated. The youngest was two and a half years old. Without protection, these youngsters would have had no chance of survival. They received help. As early as the autumn of 1939, political inmates in the circle around the Communist Robert Siewert saved Polish adolescents from death by setting up a “bricklayers’ school”. In July 1943, it was also thanks to their intervention that Barrack 8 was established, a haven for 160 Polish, Russian and Ukrainian teenagers in the camp. Due to the better living conditions prevailing there, many of them managed to survive, as did a number of Jewish children and adolescents who joined them in the final months (including Meir Lau, who would one day become the chief rabbi of Israel). The two Communist block seniors, Franz Leitner and Wilhelm Hammann, were honoured in Israel as “righteous among the nations”. One of the youngest survivors was Stefan Jerzy Zweig, whose rescue story later became a novel and a legend: "Naked Among Wolves" by Bruno Apitz.

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Photo: Byron H. Rollins. AP/Wide World Photos, New York

In January 1945, political inmates succeeded in convincing the SS to set up a further shelter for the adolescents arriving on mass transports – Barrack 66 in the Little Camp. Here particularly Jewish adolescents found refuge, 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. On April 5, 1945, the barrack housed 900 inmates. In those early days of April, when the SS began the process of evacuating Buchenwald, Barrack 66 was likewise to be vacated. Although the inmates attempted every conceivable means of evading this fate, many of them were sent off on death marches.

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unknown photographer, June 1, 1945. SGBUMD

When Buchenwald was liberated on the early afternoon of April 11, there were 904 children and adolescents among the 21,000 inmates still in the camp. They were given special attention and care from the International Camp Committee and the U.S. Army. American and French agencies saw to it that the majority of them had received the necessary aid or been admitted to orphanages by the summer of 1945. Today, former inmates of Barrack 66 are still alive in many countries of the world.