Additional information

The catalogue to the permanent historical exhibition Buchenwald Concentration Camp 1937–1945 as well as an annotated selection of further publications can be found here.

Aerial view of Buchenwald Concentration Camp following liberation, end of April 1945. Photo: U.S. Air Reconnaissance. National Archives Washington

Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1937–1945

In July 1937, the SS has the forest cleared on the Ettersberg near Weimar and builds a new concentration camp in its place. The purpose of the camp is to combat political opponents, persecute Jews, Sinti and Roma, and permanently ostracize “strangers to the community” – among them homosexuals, homeless persons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and ex-convicts – from the “body of the German people”. It is not long before Buchenwald has become a synonym for the Nazi concentration camp system.

After the war begins, people are deported to Buchenwald from all over Europe. Altogether almost 280,000 persons are ultimately imprisoned in the concentration camp on the Ettersberg and its 139 subcamps. The SS forces them to perform labour for the German armament industry.

By the end of the war, Buchenwald is the largest concentration camp in the German Reich. More than 56,000 die there as the result of torture, medical experiments and consumption. Over 8,000 Soviet prisoners of war are shot to death in a killing facility erected especially for that purpose. Members of the resistance form an underground organization in the camp in the effort to curb SS violence. The “Little Camp” nevertheless becomes the “hell of Buchenwald”. The enfeebled inmates continue to die by the thousands right up until the camp’s liberation.

When the Americans reach Buchenwald and its subcamps in April 1945, the supreme commander of the Allied Forces, Dwight D. Eisenhower, writes: "Nothing has ever shocked me as much as that sight."