The “Bismarck Tower” Labour Detachment

On the first ten days of March 1945, 1,000 persons died in the Buchenwald Little Camp alone. The SS camp physician had already sounded the alarm at the end of February: due to the failure of coal deliveries, corpses were piling up in the crematorium. From there, rats spread throughout the camp. The fear of disease grew.

This prompted the SS to start having the bodies moved to natural sinkholes downhill from the Bismarck Tower about one kilometre from the camp. For decades, the site had been a day-trip destination for the people of Weimar. Now the “Bismarck Tower” detachment had to drive the naked corpses there on lorry trailers, throw them into the pits and cover them with earth and lime.

The detachment soon comprised 200 inmates. By April they had buried 2,900 dead in four sinkholes. Three of these mass graves later became part of the Buchenwald Memorial of the German Democratic Republic.

(Harry Stein)