06.27.2012 - 06.28.2012
Buchenwald. Have you heard about it? Chances are, you probably have. It's one of the biggest concentration camps held by Nazis during the Hitler regime. The place is located very close to Weimar, in fact a local bus goes there on an hourly basis. I did not know this until now. This was the case during the Hitler regime too - no one in Weimar knew that there was a place of mass human torture so close to their city. What's even more surprising is that most of the big concentration camps in Germany were close to major cities. Dachau was close to Munich, Ravensbrück was close to Berlin, and so on.
The concentration camp was built for a capacity of 12000 people, but of course that was not the number of people that were admitted there. We all tried to guess the number, but still fell well short of the actual number of 60,000+. Yes, 5x the capacity in a concentration. This would've been much rougher than what it sounds to us. We started with watching a short film about the camp and then had a tour around the huge camp area - which looked like a map of one of the modern day shooter games. The guide showed us the path that the trucks took, to admit the new prisoners. We were told about the whole process of admitting, how everyone would be sanitized (which is surprising, because the camp itself was one of the most unhygienic place ever based on what I learned). After sanitizing the prisoners were divided according to their skills and families were parted away. Little kids were kept separate, and strong men were forced to do heavy work. We went to the crematorium after that, and hands down, this was the most moving visit during my trip to Europe. The way the prisoners were killed and cremated, I seriously don't have words to describe it. It was so sad and pathetic that even to this day, everyone is supposed to observe silence while inside the crematorium. The capacity of the crematorium was about 600 bodies/day, and were people were killed in bulk. Almost 33,000 people were killed/cremated/buried here in total.
We did a short but interesting visit to the museum after this. Here they had excerpts from what the visitors have told about the camp, a lot of excerpts from talks with American soldiers that freed the camp. These were some very interesting talks. We got to see some rare pictures of the camp. One of the photographers, a French civilian, was a prisoner himself at the camp. He took pictures with a camera that he was able to obtain from some rubble, by hiding the camera in his shirt, and saving the film for nearly 2 years before he was able to develop it (after the freedom). None of the SS men (the protection staff, as they called the people who managed the camps) have pictures that show them torturing the prisoners. Such pictures were not allowed and if someone took them, it'd result in death! There were some interesting stories about what happened after the camp was set free. Honestly, i wished I had more time to spend here. The 4-5 hours that I spent there were definitely not enough.