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Chronology of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp

In 1937, the SS had a concentration camp erected just a few kilometres outside of Weimar, the famous city of German Classicism. Its name, "Buchenwald," became synonymous with National Socialist crimes.

Prisoners lined up in rows of four stand amid tall trees. Next to them lie building materials and a wheelbarrow. In the background, SS guards stand in front of their personnel carriers.

Establishment of the Camp 1937

On the Ettersberg outside the city of Weimar, the SS had the Buchenwald concentration camp built starting in the summer of 1937. It replaced the smaller central German camps Lichtenburg, Sachsenburg and Bad Sulza.

On the crowded Buchenwald roll call square, about a thousand men stand separately in groups of eight. They stand in rows in blocks of about five by 16, but between the blocks there are other people. In the background some barracks.

Mass Arrests 1938

The number of prisoners steadily increased over the course of 1938. As part of the "Arbeitsscheu Reich" (ARS) initiative— targeting "work-shy" persons in the German Reich—the police sent more than 4,000 men to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in April...

In Reih und Glied stehende Häftlinge alle tragen sie die gleiche Zebrastreifen Häftlingskleidung und Mütze. Einige zeigen eine gerkümmte Körperhaltung oder schmerzverzerrte Gesichtsausdrücke.

War and Crime 1939/40

With the war, the number of prisoners increased again. Around 8,500 men, among them Roma from Burgenland as well as Czechs for the first time, thousands of Poles and Jews from Vienna, arrived in Buchenwald in the weeks after the war began.

In the foreground are three men in SS uniforms, in front of them others carry wooden individual parts to two erected posts, which can already be recognized as gallows in the structure.

Crimes and Cooperation 1941

From 1941 onward, the SS murdered entire groups of inmates in an organized manner. In conjunction with the "Action 14f13" campaign, a total of 571 sick and incapacitated inmates were murdered at the "euthanasia" killing centres of Sonnenstein (Pirna)...

Camp commander Pister (center) and SS men with factory managers of the armaments factory. The men stand in front of a team of horses. In the background a bungalow.

A Camp for the War Economy 1942

Beginning in 1943, the SS geared the operation of the concentration camp more intensively towards the interests of the German war economy. For this purpose, there was a change in the camp leadership.

Packed prisoners are walking on a road. Around them, at intervals of a few meters, armed SS guards.

Forced Labourers for the Ultimate Victory From 1942

With the use of inmates in the German arms industry came an increased demand for workers. A growing number of people from all over Europe were deported to Buchenwald to replenish the labour supply. Between the end of 1942 and autumn 1944, the number of...

Four prisoners equipped with shovels and wheelbarrow work among house rubble

Subcamps From 1943

By mid 1944, more than half of the inmates of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp were located in subcamps. Companies, towns, and departments of the government and military exploited their labour. Before 1942, only a few subcamps had been established, but...

Drawing made in green and brown tones. In front of a barrack, prisoners dressed in rags pull an indeterminable number of emaciated, dead bodies from a pile onto a wheelbarrow. Other prisoners stand next to them and watch. A fence in the background separates the site from other barracks.

The Final Months 1944/45

The air strike on the armament factory at the camp and the SS complex on August 24, 1944, marked a turning point and the beginning of the final phase of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

In an open freight car, a dozen starving prisoners lie and cower. Between them lies a deceased man.

Death Marches 1945

In early April 1945, more than 47,000 inmates were crammed into the main camp on Ettersberg Mountain. In conjunction with the advance of American troops, the SS had brought thousands of inmates from western subcamps back to Buchenwald.

A dozen prisoners armed with rifles surround SS men sitting in a field

Liberation April 11, 1945

Beginning in the morning of April 11, 1945, armoured divisions of the Third U.S. Army advanced towards the east from the area near Gotha. At 10:00 am, all SS men were ordered to leave the camp. The International Camp Committee mobilized its resistance...

A man lying on a stretcher, wrapped in a blanket, is loaded into a van. A soldier with a medic's sign guides the stretcher. In the background are members of the U.S. Army and liberated prisoners.

After Liberation April/May, 1945

Two days after liberation, the International Camp Committee passed control of the camp over to the U.S. Army. Despite emergency medical care, hundreds of former inmates died in the Displaced Persons Camp Buchenwald, as the camp was now called.

Aerial view of Buchenwald concentration camp from high altitude.

Facts and figures Buchenwald Concentration Camp

400,000-m² prisoner camp | 3,500 metres of electric barbed-wire fence | 139 satellite camps | 277,800 prisoners | 30,000 minors | 28,230 women | 249,570 men | from more than 50 countries ...

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