White Busses to Freedom

On 27 February 1945, the Buchenwald SS had a list drawn up. It contained the names of 471 Norwegians and 75 Danes. What none of them knew: over a week earlier, in secret negotiations with Himmler, Count Folke Bernadotte of the Swedish Red Cross had obtained his consent to the assembly of all Scandinavian inmates at the Neuengamme concentration camp, from where they would ultimately be released.

In Buchenwald, the arrangement pertained primarily to Norwegian students who had been arrested and deported in late 1943. All attempts to “re-educate” them by force in various camps had failed. The Danes still in Buchenwald – the last of 1,953 policemen who had been in custody there since the autumn of 1944 – were likewise unbroken in spirit.

After its departure on 1 March, their train remained on a siding in Erfurt for several days and only then continued on to Neuengamme, where it arrived five days later. Weeks more would pass before the white busses of the Swedish Red Cross finally came to carry them to freedom.

(Harry Stein)

Reference: Oliver von Wrochem (ed.), Skandinavien im Zweiten Weltkrieg und die Rettungsaktion Weiße Busse: Ereignisse und Erinnerungen, Berlin 2012.