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Buchenwald was a Nazi concentration camp established on Ettersberg Hill near Weimar, Thuringia, Germany, in July 1937. The name "Buchenwald" means "beech forest" in German, such a forest surrounded the area where the camp stood. The prisoners were used as slave labour in local armament factories.
Despite not technically being an extermination camp, mass killings of prisoners of war took place in the camp, and many inmates died during medical experiments, or fell victim to arbitrary acts perpetrated by the SS.
The camp was also the site of illegal large-scale testing of vaccines for epidemic typhus in 1942 and 1943, all in all testing 729 inmates, around 280 of whom died. Because of their long association in cramped quarters in Block 46, the bacterium killed more and infection lasted longer than typhus in healthy adults.
Female prisoners and overseers
The number of women prisoners held in Buchenwald was about a couple of hundred to one thousand. The first women prisoners were twenty political prisoners and two female SS guards (Aufseherin) who arrived in Buchenwald from Ravensbrück to serve in the camp's brothel in 1941. Later the SS fired the two SS women on duty in the brothel because they were accused of corruption, and their positions were replaced by SS men. The majority of women prisoners, however, arrived in 1944 and 1945 from other camps, i.e. Auschwitz, Ravensbrück and Bergen-Belsen. Most of the women were Jewish. Only one barrack was set aside for the female prisoners, and this was overseen by the female Blockführerin, Franziska Hoengesberg. Many of the women prisoners were later shipped out to one of Buchenwald's many female subcamps in Sömmerda, Buttelstedt , Mühlhausen, Gotha, Gelsenkirchen, Essen, Lippstadt, Weimar, Magdeburg and Penig , to name a few. When the Buchenwald camp was evacuated, the SS sent the male prisoners to other camps, and the 500 remaining women (including one of the secret annex members who lived with Anne Frank, "Mrs. van Daan" - her real name was Auguste van Pels ) were taken by train and foot to the Theresienstadt camp and ghetto in Czechoslovakia. Many, including van Pels, died sometime between April 1945 and May 1945. Because the female prisoner population at Buchenwald was comparatively small, the SS only stationed twenty-three female guards in the camp. Ilse Koch served as head supervisor (Oberaufseherin) of twenty-three female guards and hundreds of women prisoners in the main camp. Today twenty-one female SS guards are known by name; Maria Balkenhol, Elisabeth Baessler, Elli Ebert (who served at Buchenwald and Ravensbruck), Frieda Friedrichs (who served at Buchenwald, Magdeburg and Comthurey), Karoline Geulen, Elisabeth Hirsemann, Franziska Hoengesberg, Maria Isert, Frieda Jahnke, Elisabeth Max, Elfriede Motzkuhn, Louise Nauth, Else Purucker (who served in Buchenwald and Taucha), Charlotte Rafoth, Lieschen Rech, Wilhelmina Sadrinna, Martha Schaefer (who first served at Flossenbürg then Buchenwald), Irmtraut Sell, Emma Theissen (who served at Buchenwald and then Essen subcamp), and Amalie Wilde. Eventually, more than 530 women served as guards in the vast Buchenwald system of subcamps and external commandos across Germany. Only twenty-three women served in Buchenwald, compared to over 2,000 men.
- Jean Améry writer
- Bruno Bettelheim child psychologist
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer protestant theologician and prominent member of the Confessing Church
- Hélie Denoix de Saint Marc, resistant, later involved in an attempted putsch against the French government
- Léon Blum French politician, former head of the French government
- Maurice Halbwachs French sociologist, died in the camp in 1945
- Curt Herzstark
- Jura Soyfer writer, dramatist
- Ernst Thälmann leader of the Communist Party of Germany
- Elie Wiesel writer, Nobel Peace Prize winner
==Footnotes==All the information on these female overseers came from Daniel Patrick Brown's book THE CAMP WOMEN The Female Auxiliaries Who Assisted the SS in Running the Concentration Camp System.
- Memorial website
- Nuernberg Military Tribunal, Volume I, pp. 508-511
- Neurnberg Military Tribunal, Volume II, pp. 69-70
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