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Holocaust History: Concentration Camps

This LibGuide is a starting point for general research on the concentration camps, with resources on genocide, survivor memoirs, and primary sources.

Brief History

The Buchenwald concentration camp, established in 1937, is located five miles northwest of Weimar, Germany. Eventually administering 88 sub-camps, Buchenwald became one of the largest concentration camps on German soil. The camp imprisoned Jews, Poles, Slavs, the mentally ill, physically disabled, political prisoners, Roma, criminals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and prisoners-of-war. There were no women prisoners until several years after the camp’s opening. in late 1943 or early 1944.

At its height, in February 1945, the prisoner population numbered 112,000. Prisoners worked as forced laborers in 12-hour shifts in local armaments and munitions factories, as well as in a quarry and in various camp workshops. There were no gas chambers at the camp, but hundreds died due to disease, malnutrition, exhaustion, beatings, and executions. Between July 1937 and April 1945, the SS imprisoned 250,000 people in Buchenwald.

In early April 1945, soldiers of the U.S. Army neared Buchenwald. The Germans forced the prisoners to march from the main camp to various sub-camps. Many of the prisoners died due to exhaustion. In anticipation of liberation, some prisoners stormed the guard towers to seize control of the camp. Other prisoners made a sustained effort to protect the approximately 900

Jewish boys in the camp, including future Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel. Many of the German guards and officers fled in advance of the approaching Allied forces. On April 11, 1945, the United States 83rd Infantry Division entered Buchenwald, finding more than 21,000 people in the camp.


The following summary derived information from the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.

Sala and Aron Samueli Holocaust Memorial Library

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