Welcome to Buchenwald Concentration Camp; Previously Unseen WWII Photos

in #wwii3 years ago

I grew up never knowing my grandfather personally, he died when I was three years old. I feel like I do know parts of him though, through writing these posts about him and his time in WWII, as well as the stories handed down by my family. Exploring the war through his photographic eye, reveals as much about him as it tells his story about his experiences in the war.

He was my mother's father and through her stories and memories, I know a few things about him. We always knew he loved to laugh, smoke cigars, and drink whiskey; we also knew he was in the war. We Don't know much about his time in the war, like most he seldom talked about it. One tale that was handed down is that he was there at the end of the war, he had witnessed concentration camps, and he participated in the clean up after the war had ended.

As I grew older and learned more about The Second World War, I began to doubt the story about concentration camps because I knew he was in Germany and there were few actual camps there, most being out East. Well, it's not that I didn't believe it, I just accepted it as family lore and never really questioned it anymore after a while.

Then a few years ago my grandma showed me an old film canister filled with several rolls of film inside. I was fascinated to see that there were so many rolls of film just sitting there for all those years. I immediately asked if I could have them developed so we could see what was all on the film. I took them to a film specialist and he said he could digitize them for a price. I said just do it and send me the bill.

A couple months later he called me up and told me they were finished. I went straight to his store and he remembered me right away. He said, “You know there's a lot of pictures here and they turned out really well, but I have to tell you there are some photographs from concentration camps on here.”

I was a little taken back. So the stories were true, I thought to myself. I guess somehow I knew all along. I paid the man and thanked him a million times then turned to my wife and said, “Time to go!”.

We raced home and what I found was over 400 photographs from WWII on a single CDROM disc. I went through each one clicking away next, next, next. There was so much to see. All the landscapes, soldiers, civilians, battlefields, blown up buildings, wrecked planes... It was like being transported back in time. Then I got to a series of 5 photographs that I will never forget. There it was, Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

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My grandfather's assignment in the war was to be his unit’s photographer, and that's the reason we have so many photographs. I learned this later on after I had asked my Grandma more about it.

There is something to be said when there are only five pictures taken of this concentration camp, it was difficult to photograph. I will only share these four with you. Here we have this first picture of the set, the gallows.

This photograph says a lot. The gallows, itself, being the centerpiece and the ever-present and overarching guard tower in the background. Laying on the ground in front of the gallows we have a stretcher that almost appears to be staged. It just seems so out of place and I cannot think of a good reason why it would be there. On the right side of the photograph you can see rubble and earth piled up in two piles. The camp was heavily bombed by the Americans in 1944 and 388 prisoners were killed, so it could likely be leftovers from the attack or from the liberation itself, but it is impossible to say for certainty.

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All of these photographs from the camp are so intimate. It is as if my grandfather was experiencing tunnel vision, which is easy to imagine being in a place like that. There are no sweeping pictures showing the scale of the place, no buildings, not even a shot from outside the camp. Only these few up close and personal shots.

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A shot of the ovens in the crematorium.

It is reported that there were over 56,000 prisoners that perished at the camp so that shows you the need to have a room like this. There are several reports of deaths occurring right in the crematorium itself. It is said that when Soviet prisoners of war were subjected to vaccination experiments and survived, they would be led to the crematorium and strangled to death before being cremated. After the war, the Soviets took over the camp and over 7,000 German prisoners died here during the Soviet control. You can find more information about the death toll here.

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You can see here a photograph of the sign hanging in the camp hospital. The majority of the prisoners held here during the war had died of diseases. The Nazis were working hard on trying to create a vaccine against these diseases and much work was done at this camp. Most of the reports about experiments on prisoners were testing of different vaccinations. Later on during the war, the prison camps had been cut off from supply routes due to the allied bombing which left the camps without much means for medical treatment.

Even though I have been to war and have seen combat myself, it is very difficult for me to imagine a place like this. It was a single camp where so many people had died, it must have been a horrific experience.

This was a long post I know, but if you made it this far thank you so much for visiting, it is my passion to share these posts with you. Check out my blog for many more WWII pictures and follow me to see what's new each week. @balticbadger

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There are many more photographs, so please come on back next Monday and join me on this amazing journey through Germany during World War II!

Thanks, everyone for stopping by and please upvote and Re-steam this post! I am really enjoying all the comments and feedback from all you folks, thank you very much! If you have any information on any of these photographs, please, please share it in the comments.

I own all of these photographs so please respect my family history and ask permission prior to use.

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This is fantastic work. Thanks for choosing to post it on the STEEM network. This is the kind of content that can anyone can appreciate, not just cryptocurrency enthusiasts.

If we are luck enough to attract more bloggers like you, this whole project will be a huge success.

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Wow, thanks so much! That means a lot to me. Steemit is such a good platform I know it will grow in the future. I cannot wait to see where we are headed!

You are welcome.

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Done!

I'm sure there's some sort of historical society that would love to have some of those pics, and it would preserve your grandfather's work from being lost.

I will definitely be contacting the WI veterans museum. They have a great conservation program. Thanks!

I hope this post get a lot of attention. I resteemed it because it was one of the most intresting (and horrible) thing I have read for a long time at steemit. Nice text - if I can say "nice" about this.

Thank you so much! Means a lot! History needs to be preserved.

Wow, that is an amazing, but unnerving discovery.
To be honest, without you putting them into context, I wouldn't have really known what I was looking at in that first photo. I certainly didn't recognise the stretcher or gallows as that. They're not like ones I'm used to seeing.
Thank you for sharing.

Anytime I see anything related to this war, I feel ashamed for the human race. The cruelty we are able to execute on someone else can't be described with words.

My grandma never talks about the war. When I ask she says she doesn't remember it, but I know she does. The only thing she mentioned once was that there were a few Jewish families in our town and they were taken away at some point. Nobody came back...

Even though there is nobody on these pictures, they are so powerful. They even tell a story. I understand how excited you were when you got to hear that there were photos from the concentration camp. I would probably not go through them as I wouldn't know what to expect..

Thank you for sharing such a personal post (in a way)! Congratulations on the curie vote!

Its really sad what everyone did and is still doing to eachother. I can imagine the mindset, it’s easy to influence 18year olds in the army I was one. Just sad the people we put in power are still the same types. No care for humanity only profits. The generation that ruled after that war did more damage to the earth than all other generations combined. And now their children are in power with no sign of giving up.

My husband was also in army when he was 18. Luckily he realized it was not for him after 2 years. I agree with you that they caused a lot of damage. All those people remain at top position or hide somewhere and live comfortably. Look at the war in Yugoslavia. How long did it take to catch those leaders? And how many of them faced the justice? And if they did, all of the sudden they got very 'sick' and spend rest of their lives comfortably somewhere in a clinic.. it's sad, but with power and money you never lose..

Hi balticbadger,

This post has been upvoted by the Curie community curation project and associated vote trail as exceptional content (human curated and reviewed). Have a great day :)

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Truly an honor! This made my day, heck my week! Thank you @curie!!!

Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it

I don't enjoy concentration camps, but it was a good article, I have visited:

Auschwitz
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auschwitz_concentration_camp

and

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poston_War_Relocation_Center

The Poston Internment Camp, located in Yuma County (now in La Paz County) of southwestern Arizona, was the largest (in terms of area) of the ten American concentration camps operated by the War Relocation Authority during World War II.

/FF

Things have not changed much since then in quite a few parts of the world

So true! Sadly it receives little media attention.

Sadly humanity has yet to learn from atrocities like this.

I am so sad that I found this past payout- I teach 10th grade language arts and we are currently reading Night with my students.
In the background of the photo with the gallows, it looks like there is a soldier digging through the rubble. There's a good chance that it may not have been from the bombings, but actually a mass grave and cover-up, as reports of those are numerous. It's sad that there isn't more information about these, but how cool that you found them!

Regardless I’m glad you got to see them!! Thanks for stopping by I appreciate the wonderful comment!

Without a doubt, you found a treasure, not for what it is worth but for the memories and history that it brings. Behind those images hides a raw and cruel history. I see the photos and I respect your late grandfather for the images captured and for the time in which he lived. Excellent post, you caught me from beginning to end. Continue like this.

Thank you so much for the lovely comment!

Superb post. Horrific just thinking about it. We have it so easy in this life (and complain about things like HF20)

Its really hard to imagine

These were Most definitely horrible times . But I would just like to say, this is great content , the way you've put this together is pretty impressive . I love history so I enjoy this very much , especially how informative yet entertaining it was . Keep up the great work my friend !

Thanks a lot!

This is quite interesting, those are great pictures. Although I must say that I expected to see something more murky about the concentration camps. They were relatively normal during the war, both the Allies and the Axis had some of these fields where they used people as labor.

I will follow you. I hope to see more pictures of your grandfather, this historical period is really interesting.

Yes, even the Americans had some pretty brutal camps set up after the war. In Russian several million Germans died in camps following the war.

Badger congrats on the curie ! Great post. Those photos of the oven are chilling. I visited Ausschwitz (too lazy to look up properly spelling) and it was creepy out. So well planned out. How could this shit happen?? I’m always weary of the Germans . You live there’s yourself so you know the crack. There’s still something underlying there that was slightly unnerving while I lived there. A staunch nationalism. The Germans are sheep so they follow leaders so I know how it started but then it spiralled into the concentration camps. Mental

Thanks you very much!! Never been there. I went to a Gestapo prison in Köln and that was creepy. Right on a Main Street and everyone walk by the windows everyday.

You think this was long to read? I did not even realize that. Each photo Gave me goose bumps.
Thank u for this great treasure of history.

Thank you so much for stopping by! I am glad you enjoyed it.

Stark photos of a place of unimaginable suffering. The atrocities committed there were truly horrible. But it could happen again, even today. The humanity collectively hasn’t gotten any wiser since those times…

Yes it is truly sad that human kind must endure such atrocities. They stand as a reminder to us to live good and honorable lives, to take care of ourselves, our families, and our people. Unfortunately the human mind has a very short term memory, perhaps this is an evolutionary characteristic who knows. But it is up to us to be better. Thanks for stopping by always good to see you here too!

Horrors of war. I knew just very little about WWII before I read this post. This pictures however speak a lot. Over 56,000 human souls perished in one concentration camp alone! I mean, this is so horrific. Thanks to your grandpa who has given us this revelation through pictures.

I will stay close to learn more about the war in your subsequent posts. Thank you

I really appreciate your comment! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, there are lots more yet to come.

howdy sir badger! wow another powerful post, the images say everythiing even though no people are there. I didn't know they Russians took it over after the war and took revenge on the Germans.
Alot of deaths there, you'd think if anyplace on earth was haunted it would be places like that..well, I don't know if that one is still there but I know there are a few still intact so people don't forget.
another great post sir!

Yessir it is still there. Yeah in the end more Germans died than anyone really. (And Even more if you don’t desperate the germans who died at their own hands) Well except for in China and Japan. Those numbers are unbelievable. Humans are a brutal species

Sir badger! So wherever the Russians took over in Germany they were ruthless and cruel? Do you know how much of Germany they conquered?
I thought the Allied forces took over Germany so I was surprised to hear that the Russians took over that concentration camp.

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Dang, that's heavy stuff. It makes me start imagining what it might have been like there during that time. I would think there was a lot of fear and uncertainty. And then when the bombing started that must have added to the trauma because then both sides were attacking them. It's sad to think of all the pain and death that occurred in places like this. It's important to see the photographs because hopefully the reminders can keep us from doing more things like this. Maybe.

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