*Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
While chasing Nazi units in full retreat through central Germany, the United States came across a grisly discovery on April 11, 1945: Buchenwald. The concentration camp, a sprawling site carved into the forests five miles outside the town of Weimar, was one of the largest and oldest labor prisons under German control. As the horrors of Adolf Hitler’s “Final Solution” came to light after World War II, Buchenwald would be revealed to be among the worst locations in all of Nazi Germany.
For centuries, the Weimar region served as a cultural center for Germans, home to philosophers Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich von Schiller, not to mention composers Franz Liszt and Johann Sebastian Bach. In the wake of the post-World War I revolution, the new German government was formed at this tiny town in 1919, leading the new system to be called the Weimar Republic. After centuries of being the enlightened heart of the country, it might have seemed as though the picturesque town made an unlikely home for a forced labor camp.
In July 1937, four years after Hitler abolished the Republic and declared himself der Fuhrer, soldiers began clearing the forest on the northwestern edge of Etterberg mountain to make room for the concentration camp. Buchenwald, so named for the tall beechwood trees surrounding the site, received the first of nearly 240,000 prisoners that passed through its heavy iron gates within days, a few dozen men used to build fences and outbuildings. …(Read more)