The “Block of Death”

On 1 March 1945, 229 persons died in the Buchenwald concentration camp and its subcamps. Block 61 in the Little Camp alone counted 135 dead. The inmates called it the “Block of Death”. It served as a sick ward. In January 1945 it became the scene of a murder operation. The SS deliberately killed sick and dying inmates there with lethal injections. The order had come from SS headquarters in Berlin. The aim was to lower the number of sick inmates.

It was the SS medical orderly Friedrich Wilhelm who carried out the killing. He forced inmate nurses to assist him and keep the murders quiet. The Czech Jarosla Bartl later reported: “The orderly Wilhelm killed weak and sick inmates right at the entrance to the barrack – many of those who had been sent to Block 61 on account of illness died without ever seeing the barrack."

The SS discontinued the killing in Block 61 in mid-March. It is uncertain how many inmates fell victim to the murder campaign.

(Michael Löffelsender)

Reference: Harry Stein, Buchenwald Concentration Camp 1937–1945: A Guide to the Permanent Historical Exhibition, Göttingen 2010.