Guest Blogger (Day 4) - Grahame Soden ARPS

28 February 2014

Region: London

All images © Grahame Soden ARPS

In contrast to Belsen, which has developed into a place of peace, learning, and colour, Buchenwald is your worst nightmare. I have been there 3 times and will not go again. On one visit I was alone in the cell-block for 10 – 15 minutes. Alone, apart from the ghosts of those who were to die sooner or later and were inflicting pain on those who were to die very soon …

It is a monstrous place – nothing can prepare you for the shock of seeing the crematorium or the killing-room, with meat-hooks still in place on the walls.

 

Desolate, bleak, haunted. Just outside the perimeter fence, across a narrow road, the guards had constructed a tiny zoo enclosure where animals could look through their barbed-wire fence, at the prisoners looking back through their own fence ….

 

Buchenwald was built in 1937 and operated as a forced-labour Concentration Camp until 1945. Although it was not officially an extermination camp, some 58,000 people met their deaths there.

From 1945 to 1950 the Soviets ran it as NKVD Special Camp 2. I doubt that the regime changed much; just the guards’ uniforms were of a different colour.

It is near to the city of Weimar, which was home to the German poet Goethe. Legend has it that Goethe had a favourite oak tree, in the shade of which he would sit and write. With terrible cynicism, Buchenwald was built around this tree.

The railway network was integral to the operation of the camps. With typical German efficiency the Reichsbahn (the State Railway Company) invoiced the military for every transportation to the camps; so much per head, per kilometre.

They say that truth is the first casualty of war; it is also the last. After the war, much of the German civilian population claimed not to have known about the camps and what went on in them.

I do not believe them. I do believe that they could have done little, without risking certain death themselves, but not knowing was not possible.

  • the camps were not too far from towns,
  • they had new railway lines & platforms built and many more trains rumbled through the countryside towards them;
  • someone built & maintained the crematoria;
  • someone drove the trains;
  • someone supplied the camps with food, services etc;
  • someone saw the smoke, heard the screams, and smelled the stink.

No, not knowing was not an option.

For more about Grahame and his current work, visit his website.

For more about Grahame and his current work, visit his website.

For more about Grahame and his current work, visit his website. - See more at: http://www.rps.org/regions-and-chapters/regions/london/blogs/2014/february/guest-blogger-day-1---grahame-soden-arps#sthash.3KRNzHpO.dpuf

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- See more at: http://www.rps.org/regions-and-chapters/regions/london/blogs/2014/february/guest-blogger-day-3---grahame-soden-arps#sthash.yCcHpDT3.dpuf