Buchenwald Concentration Camp & Memorial Site
The Buchenwald bus (no. 6) from Weimar's Hauptbahnhof goes 6km (4 miles) northwest of Weimar to Gedenkstätte Buchenwald (tel. 03643/4300; www.buchenwald.de). An estimated 250,000 Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, homosexuals, political opponents, prisoners of war, Jehovah's Witnesses, social misfits, criminals, and others were confined here from 1937 until the camp's liberation by the U.S. Army in 1945. Officially, Buchenwald was a work camp, so far fewer people were killed here than at other concentration camps.
Nonetheless, 56,000 people died here; many, many thousands of others were sent on from here to other death camps; and a quarter of a million people, from more than 30 nations, suffered unspeakable pain as prisoners here. Furthermore, atrocities practiced in Buchenwald have made its very name synonymous with human perversity. Medical experiments on prisoners were common here, and prisoners, ironically, did not get nearly the amount of care and protection that animals in the SS men's zoo received. This is also the concentration camp from which famed author and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel was liberated. (For more about his experiences at Buchenwald, read his best-selling book, Night.)
Buchenwald's sad history continued when Soviet occupation forces used the site as an internment camp from 1945 to 1950, where more than 7,000 people died and were buried in mass graves.
Today, Buchenwald is a haunting sight. Only fragments of the camp have been preserved, as much of it has vanished by deliberate destruction and through the wear and tear of many years. The clock in the gate building reflects the time of the liberation by the U.S. Army in 1945. The gate has JEDEM DAS SEINE ("To Each His Own") inscribed upon it: It is one of the only Nazi concentration camps with a gate that was not inscribed with ARBEIT MACHT FREI ("Work Will Make You Free"). All but a few buildings have been replaced with eerie black rocks filling in the foundations (which you can still see) of old barracks and more. The storehouse (as well as some other buildings) still exists in its original form, and the museum inside reflects both the Soviet and the Nazi past of the camp.
A well-planned and -executed monument/memorial lies about 1km (2/3 mile) from the remnants of the camp itself, with its own parking lot. The monument has several facets (sculpture, bell tower, and so on) built over the graves of more than 3,000 Buchenwald victims.
You can visit Buchenwald April to October Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm, and November to March Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 4pm. Last admission is 30 minutes before closing. Admission is free.