April 11, 2020 is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Buchenwald by the United States Army. Actions by prisoners in the days leading up to the arrival of the American GIs interfered with the forced march planned by the fleeing SS in charge of the camp. These actions may have saved the lives of many of the prisoners who would not have survived such a march.

Buchenwald was a concentration camp near Weimar, Germany, in operation from 1937 to 1945. Toward the end of World War II, in early 1945, many prisoners resisted and delayed the complete German evacuation of Buchenwald, and on April 11th the prisoners seized control of the camp from the Germans. Later that day, soldiers from the 6th Armored Division of Patton’s Third Army arrived to find 21,000 former prisoners in control of the camp. It is estimated that about 250,000 people were imprisoned at Buchenwald between 1937 and 1945, and at least 56,000 male prisoners throughout the Buchenwald camp system were murdered by the SS.1

Monument to the victims of Buchenwald
Gift of Samson and Rosalyn Goldstein, Yaffa Eliach Collection donated by the Center for Holocaust Studies

This photograph of the monument to victims of Buchenwald was most likely taken by Chaplain Samson Goldstein, who wrote on the back of the photo: “Buchenwald, April, 1945. Wooden monument erected by inmates to commemorate the number killed at Buchenwald.” “KLB” on the monument is an abbreviation in German for “Konzentrationslager Buchenwald”. On the right face of the monument is a Star of David. This temporary monument was replaced with a permanent monument in 1958.

Rabbi Goldstein was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi in New York City, and enlisted in the United States Army in November 1942 as a chaplain. He landed at Omaha Beach in July 1944 and advanced with the 5th Corps of the US First Army through Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany and Czechoslovakia. He donated several photographs from Buchenwald along with other items related to his army service to the Center for Holocaust Studies in 1976, now part of the collection of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

1 https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/buchenwald

Header image: Liberation of the Nazi camp of Buchenwald. Photo taken by Jule Rouard – Belgium.