Additional information

Commemorative sites
Information on the memorials erected since the 1950s can be found here.

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Photo: Katharina Knittel

Demolition

Construction material obtained from the demolition of buildings on the grounds of the former inmates’ camp. The gate building is seen in the background. April 1952

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Photo: Katharina Knittel

Decay

View of the camp road and, in the distance, watchtower 20, from the east. To the right is stone barrack no. 45. April 1952

The 1950s

The facilities were not demolished with the intention of covering the traces of the former concentration camp’s use as a Soviet special camp. If that had been the aim, it would neither have been necessary to turn the former concentration camp over to the German authorities nor to transform it into a national museum. Rather, the combination of obliteration and preservation was dictated by a specific concept for interpreting the history of Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

As per agreement with Walter Bartel, Robert Siewert felt compelled to justify the demolition once again in 1952 by saying: "The essence of Buchenwald Concentration Camp is not embodied in the barracks or the stone blocks … The essence was the deep comradeship, the mutual help, bonded and steeled by the struggle against fascist terror, organized resistance and the deep faith in the triumph of our just cause!"

Although the afforestation ruling was revoked, more than fifty percent of the grounds were abandoned to the forces of nature, while the leitmotif "triumph through death and struggle" determined the shape finally assumed by the areas of the inmates’ camp that were left intact. On the one hand, the impression of merciless desolation and inhospitality was to be evoked, on the other hand the "conscious defeat of fascist horror" under the leadership of Ernst Thälmann’s adherents to be expressed.

In keeping with this line of interpretation, the memorial grounds were covered in the 1950s with a network of information plaques topographically summarizing the Communist resistance and international solidarity under the leadership of members of the KPD. This simplified view of the events was further reinforced by exhibitions installed in 1954 and the years that followed.

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