Buchenwald survivors mark 70 years since Nazi camp’s liberation


2015-04-11

Survivors and veterans gathered at the site of the Buchenwald concentration camp on Saturday, exactly seventy years after it was liberated by Allied forces at the end of World War II.

Approximately 250,000 prisoners in total were held at the Nazi camp from its opening in July 1937 to its liberation. An estimated 56,000 were killed, including political prisoners, those dubbed “asocial” by the Nazis, Soviet prisoners of war, Sinti and Roma, and approximately 11,000 Jews.

American forces entered the camp on April 11, 1945, bringing an end to the long ordeal of the surviving 21,000 prisoners.

Among the survivors was Henry Oster, a Jewish German born in Cologne. Oster was taken to the Lodz ghetto in occupied Poland in 1941 and later to theAuschwitz-Birkenau death camp, where both his parents died.

In January 1945, he was sent on a “death march” to Buchenwald as the Nazis forced inmates westward in the face of advancing Soviet forces.

Seventy years later, Oster recalled that moment upon entering the former camp through the wrought-iron gate that bears the words “Jedem das Seine” (“To each his own”) with its clock stopped at 3:15, the time of the liberation.

“We had no idea the Allies were in Europe, and when we heard noises at about a quarter past three, we looked out of the window -- which took a great effort -- and one of my friends said with a weak voice 'I think we are getting liberated',” Oster told Associated Press. “And we thought he had lost his sense of reality like so many people there.”

A minute of silence was held Saturday afternoon at the site's former assembly ground, bringing together former inmates and liberators -- on whom Buchenwald also left an indelible impression.

James Anderson, a 91-year-old from Indianapolis, went in as an army medic on that day and recalled that many prisoners were so weak they could no longer move.

“The devastation was so tremendous,” Anderson said, his voice trembling. “I was a kid, and to see this it was hard for me to believe this was actually happening, you know, and the prisoners were so glad to see us, they would hug us and everything.”

The US commander, Gen. George Patton, was so disgusted by Buchenwald that he ordered residents of nearby Weimar to march the few miles up the hill to see what had been going on so close nearby.

“The younger generation should get to see this,” Anderson said. “It was unbelievable.''