Correcting a Buchenwald historical inaccuracy

Posted on 27 June 2019 by admin

One of the world’s greatest horrors unleashed on mankind, the mass extermination plan against Jews and others deemed inferior by the Nazis under Adolf Hitler, is known as “the Holocaust,” which was carried out throughout Nazi-occupied Europe.
One of the first and largest of the concentration camps was Buchenwald, located near Weimar, Germany. More than a million people each year visit Buchenwald, which operated from July 1937 to April 1945. When visitors travel through Weimar, they see signs crediting the Soviets for Buchenwald’s liberation. In truth, it was the American army, under General George Patton, who first reached the camp April 11, 1945. The Soviets did not come to the area until July 3, 1945, almost three months later. However, as a part of the Potsdam Agreement, the eastern sector of Germany, which included Buchenwald and its surrounding cities, was turned over to the Soviets.
Almost immediately after the Soviets took possession of Buchenwald, they took credit for the area’s liberation. However, since the Soviet Union’s fall and Germany’s reunification in 1990, there has been a need to place a historic marker to properly credit Buchenwald’s liberators, the U.S. Army.
According to Jerry Klinger, president of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, the cities closest to Buchenwald, Weimar and Thuringia, still have publicly posted signs crediting the Soviet Union with the Buchenwald liberation. But no signs exist crediting the United States.
The organization approached the Buchenwald Foundation with a proposal to pay for a single American Liberators Memorial to be placed at the front entrance, properly crediting the American forces with being the first to reach and liberate the camp. If approved, it would be the only Buchenwald memorial crediting Patton’s Third Army as the camp’s liberators.
Before the American rescuers arrived, many prisoners attacked fleeing Nazi guards, and were consolidating their control of the camp.
Instead of having to face the Nazi enemy, Patton’s troops had to fight the powerful stench and horrible unhealthy living conditions, while treating starving and sick survivors.
The Army medics did what they could to help save whom they could, as many were dying before their eyes. An enraged Patton sent military police with army interpreters such as Rudy Baum, my friend of blessed memory, to nearby towns, forcing residents to see, up close, how their death camp looked and smelled inside.
“Nothing I have experienced in my entire life can compare with the impact that Buchenwald had on me,” wrote Rudy, in his 1996 memoir, “Children of a Respectable Family.” “When I talk or think about the Holocaust, it brings back to my mind pictures of the emaciated, dying victims in the camp. It embodies all the evil inflicted by the Nazis on mankind in general, against the Jews and especially against my family. It is the epitome of man’s inhumanity to man, which hopefully will never happen again. Only through a miracle could a human being survive the indescribable brutalities and atrocities, including floggings, starvation and mass executions committed by the Nazis.”
Rudy is gone, as are many of his fellow veteran liberators. But hopefully, the American Liberators Memorial in Buchenwald will become a reality for those remaining survivors, liberators and all future visitors to see.

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