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Archive/File: holocaust/germany/buchenwald reuter.040395b
Last-Modified: 1995/04/10
 
 Hitler's forgotten victims to be remembered at Buchenwald
    By Richard Murphy
    BUCHENWALD, Germany, April 3 (Reuter) - Half a million
 gypsies murdered by Nazi Germany, long neglected by history,
 will receive belated recognition this month when a memorial in
 their honour is unveiled at the former Buchenwald death camp.
    The bleak hillside camp on the outskirts of Weimar also
 hopes to lay to rest other lingering historical controversies
 when it commemorates the 50th anniversary of its liberation at
 ceremonies on April 8 and 9.
    A new museum will pay tribute to all the estimated 51,000
 people who died in Buchenwald, not just the communists singled
 out for glorification by the regime that ruled former East
 Germany until 1989.
    It will also acknowledge another fact hushed up under
 communism -- that for five years after World War Two, Buchenwald
 remained in use as an internment camp run by Soviet occupation
 forces. Around 10,000 inmates, mostly Germans, died.
    For Germany's small gypsy community, which likes to be known
 as the Sinti and Romany people, the erection of a new monument
 near one commemorating the 11,000 Jewish victims of Buchenwald
 is the culmination of a long struggle for recognition.
    ``For more than four decades, the holocaust on the Sinti and
 Romany people was excluded from historical recollection, in west
 Germany as well as in former east Germany,'' says Edgar
 Bamberger of the Sinti and Romany Documentation Centre in
 Heidelberg.
    ``It is therefore all the more important that, on the 50th
 anniversary of the liberation of Buchenwald, for the first time
 in Germany, a monument is being erected on the site of a former
 concentration camp to recall the suffering of the Sinti and
 Romany people under national socialism.''
    Like Jews, gypsies were branded racially inferior by the
 Nazis and earmarked for mass extermination.
    Prisoners at Buchenwald, which was built in 1937, were
 worked to death as slave labourers in the camp quarry or at
 outlying arms factories.
    There were no gas chambers but thousands were shot, hanged
 or tortured to death by the camp's SS guards.
    Within the perverse hierarchical system operated by the
 Nazis, gypsies belonged with Jews right at the bottom of the
 racial scale.
    ``We were at the bottom of the heap,'' says gypsy Franz
 Rosenbach. ``You were not recognised as a person, you were a
 number.''
    Several hundred survivors from dozens of countries are
 expected to attend the commemoration ceremonies.
    ``There are not much more than 100 survivors left in
 Germany,'' says Reinhold Lochmann, a German communist.
    He and other survivors are keen to ensure that the successes
 of a Buchenwald resistance committee in saving the lives of
 prisoners and ultimately in liberating the camp should not go
 unrecognised.
    Some conservative west German historians have challenged
 assertions that political prisoners, many of them communists,
 organised effective resistance to the brutal SS camp regime.
    But Florial Barrier, a retired French printer who now lives
 in Tours, says he was a member of a clandestine international
 prisoners' committee which secretly stockpiled weapons and tried
 to save individuals from death.
    ``International solidarity did exist,'' he says. ``The
 organisation made sabotage possible, it took care of the sick,
 provided food and ultimately secured the liberation of the
 camp.''
    U.S. military archives support the prisoners' claim that
 they seized control of Buchenwald on April 11, 1945, taking
 around 125 SS men prisoner.
    U.S. soldiers who arrived on April 13 reported finding the
 camp in the hands of a well organised committee of prisoners.
    ``I took part in the liberation of Buchenwald,'' Barrier
 says. ``This armed operation had been in preparation for years,
 at first thanks to the German prisoners, later with the
 participation of all other nationalities.''
    Robert Buechler, a Czech Jew imprisoned as a child in
 Buchenwald, recalls political prisoners sharing the food parcels
 which only they were allowed to receive with other inmates and
 believes they saved many lives, especially towards the end.
    ``I cannot prove it, but I am convinced that these political
 prisoners, the illegal movement here, contributed to the saving
 of around 600 children,'' he says.
    For all survivors, returning to Buchenwald reopens bitter
 wounds which the passage of 50 years has done little to heal.
    Reinhold Lochmann's voice dwindles to a whisper as he
 describes scenes of unimaginable brutality which took place
 virtually daily on the camp parade ground.
    One of his worst memories is of a prisoner being forced into
 a small wooden box, which was nailed shut. The screaming
 prisoner was then abandoned on the parade ground to starve to
 death.
    ``After two or three days, it was over,'' Lochmann recalls.
    But he is cheered when he remembers how some prisoners,
 rising above their barbaric conditions, were capable of acts of
 often life-saving kindness and generosity to their fellow men.
    ``Solidarity was vital for survival,'' he says. ``If I had
 not found good friends and comrades in Buchenwald, I would have
 been driven to despair within the first few days.''
    Robert Buechler, whose parents were murdered in Auschwitz,
 finds one bleak consolation as he surveys the desolate remains
 of Buchenwald.
    ``For me there is some satisfaction -- they wanted to kill
 us, but I am still here.''


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