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Buchenwald Concentration Camp Opens

Prisoners standing during a roll call. Each wears a striped hat and uniform bearing colored, triangular badges and identification numbers.

Prisoners standing during a roll call. Each wears a striped hat and uniform bearing colored, triangular badges and identification numbers. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Robert A. Schmuhl

July 15, 1937

SS authorities open the Buchenwald concentration camp for male prisoners in east-central Germany.

Together with its many satellite camps, Buchenwald was one of the largest concentration camps established within German borders. Women were not part of the Buchenwald camp system until late 1943 or early 1944. An electrified barbed-wire fence, watchtowers, and a chain of sentries outfitted with automatic machine guns, surrounded the main camp. The SS often shot prisoners in the camp stables and hanged other prisoners in the crematorium area.

Most of the early inmates at Buchenwald were political prisoners. However, in 1938, in the aftermath of Kristallnacht, German SS and police sent almost 10,000 Jews to Buchenwald where the camp authorities subjected them to extraordinarily cruel treatment and many died. The SS also interned recidivist criminals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), and German military deserters at Buchenwald.