“Cease immediately!”

This Sunday was the second day of the operation to clear the Buchenwald concentration camp. More than 7,000 inmates had already been forced to leave on death marches, and the SS assembled another 4,500 for departure that evening. The internal camp underground organization used a makeshift transmitter to send out an appeal for help to the American troops and its Soviet members called for open resistance.

Unnoticed by the SS, a large wooden crate left the camp on this day – with inmate no. 9 093, Eugen Kogon, inside. It had been packed in block 50, the “Epidemic Typhus Serum Institute”, and labelled in such a way that it could pass through the gate without being inspected. From his hiding place in Weimar, Kogon forged a letter to Buchenwald calling on SS commander Hermann Pister to stop the clearance. “Cease! Cease immediately!”, he wrote, then signing as the British Major James Macleod.

(Harry Stein)

Source: Letter forged by Eugen Kogon, 8 April 1945 (National Archives Washington).

Reference: Volkhard Knigge et al. (eds.), Buchenwald: Ostracism and Violence, 1937 to 1945, Göttingen 2017.