Some Americans are surprised to find that there is no gas chamber shown to tourists in the former Buchenwald camp because in the first few years after the war, there were numerous claims that a gas chamber was part of the Buchenwald death factory.
There are still many people today who believe that there was a gas chamber at Buchenwald.
On June 3, 2009, President Barack Obama said in a speech in Cairo, Egypt:
Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful.
On June 8, 2009, an article by Daniel Farber on the CBS News web site, included these words:
He (Obama) was just at the Buchenwald concentration camp, where tens of thousands of Jews and other persecuted people were gassed…
On June 5, 2009, United Press International reported the following:
The former (Buchenwald) concentration camp was where about 56,000 people, mainly Jews, were worked as slaves or killed in gas chambers during World War II.
According to an article in The Salem News in Beverly, Massachusetts on May 21, 2009, William Haley, a doctor with the 102nd Calvary Reconnaissance Squadron, saw “the liberated Buchenwald concentration camp at the end of the war. Along with the Jews and others sent to its gas chamber, he learned, were hundreds of American and British flyers killed in revenge for bombing raids.”
“On April 4, 1945, elements of the United States Army’s 89th Infantry Division and the 4th Armored Division captured the Ohrdruf concentration camp outside the town of Gotha in south central Germany. Although the Americans didn’t know it at the time, Ohrdruf was one of several sub-camps serving the Buchenwald extermination camp, which was close to the city of Weimar several miles north of Gotha. Ohrdruf was a holding facility for over 11,000 prisoners on their way to the gas chambers and crematoria at Buchenwald. “
Although he didn’t mention a gas chamber, Buchenwald’s most famous survivor, Elie Wiesel, said the following in an interview with Time magazine on March 18, 1945:
‘In Buchenwald they sent 10,000 to their deaths every day. I was always in the last hundred near the gate. They stopped. Why?”
The Buchenwald Memorial site estimates that the total number of deaths at Buchenwald, from all causes, during its 8 years of existence, was 56,000.
Buchenwald was one of the four main concentration camps in Germany and Austria; the other three were Dachau, Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen. Dachau had a gas chamber in the crematorium building, disguised as a shower room, that was only used a few times, according to the Dachau Museum. Sachsenhausen also had a gas chamber in the crematorium building, disguised as a shower room, which was blown up by the East German military in the 1950’s. Mauthausen had a gas chamber disguised as a fully functioning shower room in the crematorium building, but the Nazis removed the gassing apparatus before they abandoned the camp, according to the Mauthausen Museum.
In the Buchenwald crematorium, there is a small room with a shower stall and a toilet; there is no shower room near the ovens that could have been used for the mass gassing of prisoners at Buchenwald.
Toilet and shower for the use of the crematorium workersDoor into shower room in the center, elevator on the rightThe photograph above shows the ovens used to cremate the bodies at Buchenwald. On the right hand side of the room, one can see the hand-operated elevator used to bring the corpses up from the execution room in the basement. To the left of the elevator door is the door into the small room which has a shower stall and a toilet; it is shown in the first photo above.
Many otherwise well-informed people mistakenly believe that “gas ovens” were used in the concentration camps to kill the Jews. On the Hannity and Colmes TV show on 12/13/06, Alan Colmes showed a photo of two cremation ovens at Buchenwald with the remains of partially burned bodies visible, as he said: “A number of people at this conference and your organization have said things like ‘The gas chambers did not exist.’ I want to put up on the screen the furnaces that were used to kill Jews.”
The Nazi gas chambers used either carbon monoxide or Zyklon-B for gassing. According to this web site, Zyklon-B gas was first tested on humans at Buchenwald:
In January or February, 1940, 250 Gypsy children from Brno in the Buchenwald concentration camp were used as guinea pigs for testing the Zyklon B gas.
However, the Auschwitz Museum maintains that the first use of Zyklon-B to gas prisoners was in a prison cell at the Auschwitz main camp.
At the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal in 1946, the French prosecutor submitted an official report which stated:
Everything had been provided for down to the smallest detail. In 1944, at Buchenwald, they had even lengthened a railway line so that the deportees might be led directly to the gas chamber. Certain [of the gas chambers] had a floor that tipped and immediately directed the bodies into the room with the crematory oven.
Buchenwald crematorium buildingThe crematory ovens at Buchenwald were on the ground floor of the building shown in the photo above. If the French prosecutor was correct in his description of the gas chamber, this means that the Buchenwald gas chamber was on the first floor above the oven room, or on what Americans would call the second floor of the crematorium building. As you can see in the photo above, the gas chamber would have been in the attic of the crematorium building.
Sir Hartley Shawcross, the chief British prosecutor at the Nuremberg trial, stated in his closing speech that murder had been conducted “like some mass production industry in the gas chambers and the ovens” in Buchenwald and other Nazi concentration camps.
Jean-Paul Renard, a French priest who was an inmate at Buchenwald, wrote a book about his camp experiences in which he stated:
I saw thousands and thousands of persons going into the showers. Instead of liquid, asphyxiating gases poured out over them.
In a book published in 1947, Georges Henocque, another French priest and the former chaplain of the Saint-Cyr Military Academy, wrote a detailed description of the inside of the gas chamber in Buchenwald, which he claimed that he had visited.
In a book entitled “Black Book on the Martyrdom of Hungarian Jewry,” published in Switzerland in 1948, Hungarian Jewish writer Eugene Levai wrote that the Nazis had killed tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews in the gas chambers at Buchenwald.
A book by Earl Raeb, entitled “The Anatomy of Nazism,” which was distributed by the ADL in 1979, also mentions the gas chamber in Buchenwald.
There are also claims that there was a gas chamber at the Bergen-Belsen camp which was liberated by the British on April 15, 1945.