Death on the Train

On 26 January, a train with dozens of open freight wagons brought nearly 4,000 inmates, primarily Jewish men and boys, to Buchenwald from Auschwitz. Thousands of inmates had already reached the Ettersberg from the hastily cleared camp in Silesia over the previous days. But never had there been as many new arrivals as there were on this day.

After marching through ice and snow, the men had been forced into the wagons in Gliwice. Then they rolled westward for days. Over 100 inmates were packed into each of the hopelessly overcrowded cars. Lack of space, cold, hunger and thirst soon claimed the first victims among the inmates, who were already debilitated from being exploited as labourers. Hundreds perished along the way.

A few months after his liberation, Erich Altmann, who was 40 years old at the time, wrote a book called Im Angesicht des Todes, in which he described the struggle for survival on the trip to Buchenwald.

(Michael Löffelsender)

Source: Erich Altmann, Im Angesicht des Todes: 3 Jahre in deutschen Konzentrationslagern, Luxembourg 1947.