Denials of Guilt

On 16 April 1945, 1,000 men and women of Weimar had to tour Buchenwald by order of General Patton, the commander of the Third U.S. Army. On the camp grounds, liberated inmates and U.S. soldiers confronted them with evidence of the crimes. They showed them the wretched conditions of the Little Camp, instruments of torture, human specimens from the camp pathology department, the crematorium ovens, and the corpses of dead inmates.

The American photographer Margaret Bourke-White was present during the encounter between the survivors and the people of Weimar: “It was when the civilians began repeating, ‘We didn’t know! We didn’t know!’ that the ex-prisoners were carried away with wrath. ‘You did know,’ they shouted. ‘Side by side we worked with you in the factories. At the risk of our lives we told you. But you did nothing.’” Just days later, the city’s representatives denied that the town citizens bore any blame for the crimes.

(Michael Löffelsender)

Source: Margaret Bourke-White, Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly: A Report on the Collapse of Hitler’s “Thousand Years”, New York 1946.

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