The media endlessly reports the horrific crimes committed by Germany in the so-called Holocaust. This article shows that, at least in Buchenwald, many of the crimes committed in the camp were by Communist inmates.

Accusations of German atrocities rarely account for Communist control over life within Buchenwald camp including food and property such as clothing.


Crimes Committed by Communist Inmates at Buchenwald

In addition to crimes committed by Germans, many of the crimes committed against Buchenwald inmates were by the underground Communist camp organization that gained almost total control of Buchenwald after 1943. This situation was reported in a U.S. Army intelligence document dated April 24, 1945, entitled Buchenwald: A Preliminary Report. The confidential report noted that as large numbers of inmates began arriving at Buchenwald during the war, the understaffed SS had to turn over an ever larger share of camp administration to the inmates themselves. By 1943 the well-organized and disciplined Communist inmate organization had obtained almost total control of Buchenwald’s internal operation. The report states:


      The trusties had wide powers over their fellow inmates. At first they were drawn almost exclusively from the German criminals. This period lasted until 1942. But gradually the Communists began to gain control of this organization. They were the oldest residents, with records of 10-12 years in the concentration camps…They clung together with remarkable tenacity, whereas the criminal elements were simply out for their own individual welfare and had little group cohesiveness. The Communists maintained excellent discipline and received a certain amount of direction from outside the camp. They had brains and technical qualifications for running the various industries established at the camp.

Their advances were not made without resistance from the criminals, but gradually the criminals were eliminated from power, partly by intimidation, partly with the aid of the SS. Numbers of the criminals were killed by beatings, hangings, or injections of phenol into the heart or of air or milk in the veins. The injections were a specialty of the camp doctor, who became a partisan of the Communist faction.

Besides the top positions in the trusty organization, there were a number of key Communist strongholds in the administration of the camp. One was the food supply organization, through which favored groups received reasonable rations while others were brought to the starvation level. A second was the hospital, staffed almost exclusively by Communists. Its facilities were largely devoted to caring for members of their party…Another Communist stronghold was the Property Room…Each German trusty obtained good clothing and numerous other valuables. The Communists of Buchenwald, after ten or twelve years in concentration camps, are dressed like prosperous business men. Some affect leather jackets and little round caps reminiscent of the German navy, apparently the uniform of revolution.[1]

As a result of all this:

“The trusties, who in time became almost exclusively Communist Germans, had the power of life and death over all other inmates. They could sentence a man or group to almost certain death…The Communist trusties were directly responsible for a large part of the brutalities committed at Buchenwald.”[2]

The report states that Dr. Waldemar Hoven, the Buchenwald physician, had been a Communist ally who killed numerous criminal and anti-Communist political prisoners with lethal injections. The SS tried and convicted Dr. Hoven for murder, but he was reprieved after 18 months in jail because of the wartime shortage of doctors. The Communists tried to protect Dr. Hoven after the war; however, he was sentenced to death by a U.S. military tribunal and executed in 1948.[3]

The report mentions that the Communists in Buchenwald killed large numbers of Polish inmates who refused to submit to their rule. The Communists also forced French inmates to give up thousands of Red Cross parcels. Communists in Buchenwald maintained close relations with the well-organized underground Communist party on the outside. The report states:

“From Buchenwald an inmate went out regularly to establish contact with a Communist courier bringing news and instructions. Bound by his loyalty to the Party, the contact man never made use of his opportunity to escape personally.”[4]

The Communist Buchenwald inmates had a military organization that had three machine guns, 50 rifles, and a number of hand grenades. Ernst Federn, a Jewish former Buchenwald inmate, explained after the war how the Communist camp organization eliminated opponents and undesirables. Federn recalled that Emil Carlebach, the leader of the Jewish section of the Communist camp organization,

“declared quite frankly that for him only his [Communist] friends counted, that everybody else might as well perish.”

Federn reported that he witnessed Carlebach order one murder and commit another murder while Federn was an inmate at Buchenwald.[5]

Similarly, an Englishman who spent 15 months in Buchenwald reported after the war that the Communist camp organization did not consider non-Communist Jewish inmates particularly worth trying to keep alive.[6]



Discover more in Chapter 8, Germany’s War:

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[1] Fleck, Egon W. and Tenenbaum, Edward A., Buchenwald: A Preliminary Report, U.S. Army, 12th Army Group, April 24, 1945. National Archives, Record Group 331, SHAEF, G-5, 17.11, Jacket 10, Box 151.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Weber, Mark, “Extermination Camps Propaganda Myths,” in Gauss, Ernst (ed.), Dissecting the Holocaust: The Growing Critique of Truth and Memory, Capshaw, AL: Thesis and Dissertations Press, 2000, p. 294.

[4] Ibid., pp. 294-295.

[5] Federn, Ernst, “That German…,” Harper’s, August 1948, p. 106f.

[6] Burney, Christopher, The Dungeon Democracy, New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1946, pp. 21ff, 28f, 32-34, 44, 46, 49.

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