Established in 1937, primarily for political prisoners and “asocials,” Buchenwald sits atop Ettersberg just a few miles from Weimar. Buchenwald was one of the largest camps on German soil, with well over 100 satellite camps. Approximately 240,000 prisoners passed through these camps, 19% of whom died by execution, starvation, or exposure. In 1945 many Jews, including Elie Wiesel, arrived in Buchenwald after surviving death marches from Auschwitz. On April 11, 1945 members of the camp’s resistance overwhelmed the few remaining members of the SS and gained control of the camp before the liberating forces arrived on the same day.
Today Buchenwald hosts a number of education programs for German youth. There are a number of memorials where the barracks used to stand. The crematory remains intact, and not far away, across the fence, stands the remnants of the small zoo constructed for the entertainment of the families of the camp staff.