Rubble Men

On 19 February 1945, the Gauleiter of Thuringia proclaimed: “And we shall prevail!” in an attempt to boost the public morale. The same day, the municipal building office had 1,051 concentration camp inmates brought from Buchenwald to Weimar. There they were put to work in the most dangerous of operations: to recover the dead and clear the rubble after a heavy air raid on the city ten days earlier. Over a thousand had perished. More than half of them were concentration camp inmates and forced labourers.

Every day, a gang of inmates marched from the Ettersberg to the city and back. As they carried out their work, they sometimes came in contact with residents. Gudrun Salzmann, then 19 years old, later recalled how inmates recovered her piano from the first floor of her destroyed house: “And then, down on the street, I played an ‘Impromptu’ by Schubert. It was the strangest concert of my life. The inmates stood around me.”

(Sabine Stein)

Reference: Walter Steiner, Renate Ragwitz, Frank Funke and Anke Bickel, Weimar 1945: Ein historisches Protokoll, Weimar 1997.