The motto “Jedem das Seine“ displayed over the entrance to the Buchenwald concentration camp, is an old German proverb derived from the Latin phrase “suum cuique“ meaning “to each his own” or “to each what he deserves.”
Built in the woods of Thuringia, above the municipality of Ettersberg, Buchenwald was one of the largest concentration camps established within the old German borders of 1937. By 1938, prisoners from all over Europe and the Soviet Union, mentally ill and physically-disabled people, gypsies, Freemasons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, recidivist criminals, homosexuals, prisoners of war and ~10,000 Jews were interned in the camp.
Buchenwald inmates were deployed in forced labor, treated with extraordinary cruelty and frequent summarily executed by SS-Totenkopfverbände guards.
SS Totenkopfverbände Colonel Karl Otto Koch, the commandant of Buchenwald, with his wife, Ilse.
Medical experiments performed on the prisoners included infecting them with contagious diseases such as typhus, typhoid, cholera and diphtheria in order to determine vaccine efficacy.
In January 1945, as Soviet forces advanced across Poland toward Germany, more than 10,000 prisoners (most of the Jews) were force-marched from Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen camps in Poland to Buchenwald.
In early April 1945, as U.S. forces approached, the Germans began to evacuate ~28,000 prisoners from the main camp and several thousand more from the sub-camps of Buchenwald. About a third of these prisoners died from exhaustion or were shot by the SS. Underground resistance leaders who held some administrative jobs within the camp were able to obstruct Nazi orders and delay the evacuation of many prisoners.
On April 11, 1945, in expectation of liberation, starving prisoners stormed the watchtowers and seized control of the camp. Some guards were killed and the remainder forced to flee into the woods. Later that day, Patton‘s 6th Armored Division arrived to liberate the camp,
One of the first American soldiers to enter the camp described the experience:
“We were tumultuously greeted by what I was told were 21,000 men, and what an incredible greeting that was. I was picked up by arms and legs, thrown into the air, caught, thrown again, caught, thrown, etc., until I had to stop it. I was getting dizzy. How the men found such a surge of strength in their emaciated condition was one of those bodily wonders in which the spirit sometimes overcomes all weaknesses of the flesh. My, but it was a great day!” – Captain Frederic Keffer
From 1937 to April 1945, the SS imprisoned ~250,000 persons in Buchenwald. Since camp authorities never registered a significant number of the prisoners, mortality figures are only estimates: but at least 56,000 male prisoners (~11,000 Jews) were murdered at Buchenwald by the SS.
After liberation of the camp, villagers of Namerin were forced to file past bodies of victims murdered by the SS on the forced march.
How the Nazis used music to celebrate and facilitate murder: