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Survivors, mourners mark liberation of Buchenwald

April 9, 2017

Speakers emphasized the near to protect democratic values and European unity at the memorial event. The labor camp in eastern Germany was liberated by US troops 72 years ago.

Weimar Gedenkfeier zur Befreiung des KZ Buchenwald
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Schutt

Survivors and mourners gathered near the city of Weimar in eastern Germany on Sunday to mark the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp 72 year ago. Around 500 people, including 25 survivors, attended the event, placing wreaths and flowers in honor of the dead and listening to talks from eyewitnesses.

Those witnesses included survivors from Hungary, Italy, Israel and Germany, according to German news agency DPA. Eva Puzstai, Gilberto Salmoni, Naftali Fürst and Günter Pappenheim, who are also members of the International Committee of Buchenwald-Dora, used the opportunity to symbolically pass on responsibility for taking care of the site and protecting the memory of the dead to the younger generation of the organization's members.

Established in July 1937 at Ettersberg in Thuringia, Buchenwald was one of the first and became one of the largest concentration camps on German soil. It held mostly Jews, as well as many other groups who became targets of the Nazi regime, including ethnic Poles and Slavs, Roma and Sinti, as well as Freemasons, Jehovah's Witnesses, communists, homosexuals, the mentally ill and the physically disabled.

Some 56,000 people lost their lives at Buchenwald and its 139 satellite camps as they were forced to work creating equipment for Hitler's war machine. Victims died due to starvation, exposure, execution or medical experiments. Buchenwald was the first camp to be liberated by US troops, who arrived at the main camp on April 12, 1945.

Most of the survivors who attended Sunday's memorial were young children when they lived through the horrors of the camp. The speakers called on the gathered crowd to protect democratic values and European unity, a message on increasingly relevance as the European Union faces some of its toughest challenges yet and a wave of right-wing populism remains on the rise in the West.

Elizabeth Schumacher
Elizabeth Schumacher Elizabeth Schumacher reports on gender equity, immigration, poverty and education in Germany.