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Roll Call Square

Situated between the camp gate and the barracks, the 20,000-square-metre roll call area was the central square of the camp. The machine guns mounted on the watchtowers ensured that it was guarded; loudspeakers drenched it in sound; and flood lights bathed it in a glaring light in the early morning and evening hours. Thousands of inmates had to line up here day after day.

Prisoners of Buchenwald concentration camp lined up in blocks for roll call. There are thousands of them. Individual faces are barely recognizable In the background, the camp barracks.
Inmates of the Buchenwald concentration camp lined up for roll call, 1944. Photo: SS photography.
A stone set into old asphalt, white against the gray, crumbling ground.
Traversit stone as a parade marker for prisoners on the roll call square, 2022. Photo: Lukas Severin Damm.

Travertine stones set into the ground served as markers for the mustering of the inmates. They bear witness to the routine of the line-up: marching in, lining up, forming up in blocks, tearing their hats from their heads, standing endlessly, or singing for hours. Refusal to take part in the drill was fatal.

Roll call, which happened twice a day, was simply an opportunity for the SS to terrorize inmates. Some roll calls lasted up to 72 hours and lead to multiple deaths. Roll call square is also where the SS whipped inmates on the so-called "beating rack." Gallows were also erected here, where inmates were hung in front of all their companions.

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