Photographers' Blog

KZ: Two letters, literally hell

Weimar, Germany

By Lisi Niesner

U.S. troops arrived at German KZ (concentration camp) Buchenwald, near Weimar on April 11, 1945. The hands of the tower clock on top of the entrance gate are exactly set to a quarter past three: the time of liberation.

Walking through a memorial side of a former concentration camp feels indescribably oppressive. Between July 1937 and April 1945 a quarter of a million people were imprisoned in KZ Buchenwald with a death toll of around 56,000. This is a place as inhuman as it may be possible, full of sorrow, torture and death.

Prisoners had to endure a dreadful extent of humiliation, starvation, coldness and disease. Many worked to death, others died in medical experiments or were murdered arbitrarily. Here on the grounds of the former concentration camp, you become even more aware of the terrible magnitude of the systematic genocide by the Nazis.

Visitors enter the inmate’s camp through an iron gate with an inscription which is just readable from the inside, “to give each his due”.

Survivors, their relatives and others gather annually on April 11, at 15:15 pm for a commemoration ceremony at the memorial to all inmates’ of Buchenwald located at the former muster ground. Twice daily, the prisoners had to line up for a roll call. They had to stand, to march, to form lines and sometimes to sing for hours. Naked prisoners were flogged there and others were hanged on gallows for all to see.

Walking with survivors: Audio slideshow

Shanghai-based photographer Nir Elias tells of his hike with survivors of the Sichuan quake.

  • Editors & Key Contributors