German town mulls housing refugees in Buchenwald
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German town mulls housing refugees in Buchenwald

Authorities from Schwerte may put asylum seekers in satellite camp of notorious Nazi extermination site

The front gate at Buchenwald whose inscription reads, 'To Each What He Deserves.' (Courtesy of Paul Paul Pugliese)
The front gate at Buchenwald whose inscription reads, 'To Each What He Deserves.' (Courtesy of Paul Paul Pugliese)

BERLIN — Asylum-seekers in Germany may be housed in a former Nazi concentration sub-camp under plans being mulled by a town that have sparked criticism, reports said Tuesday.

Faced with an influx of refugees fleeing war-torn places such as Syria, Germany is scrambling to accommodate new arrivals, resorting to converted schools and makeshift villages of freight containers.

But town authorities in Schwerte in western Germany are considering moving around 20 asylum-seekers into a former satellite camp of Buchenwald,  according to several German media outlets.

Buchenwald was one of the largest and most notorious Nazi concentration camps on German soil in World War II.

Forced laborers, mostly from eastern Europe, worked at the sub-camp during the Nazi era but the refugees would be housed in a part of the site that had been the camp warden’s barracks, Spiegel Online and regional online news site Ruhr Nachrichten said.

The national DPA news agency said members of the town council and administration visited the old barracks Tuesday but declined to comment.

Spiegel quoted Birgit Naujoks, head of the refugee council in North Rhine-Westphalia state where Schwerte is located, calling the plan “alarming and disconcerting — at the very least insensitive.”

The former barracks has previously been used previously for various purposes, including storage, as an artist’s workshop and as a kindergarten, the reports said.

The Oscar-nominated documentary "Liberators" falsely claimed a battalion of African-American soldiers had helped to free the Buchenwald concentration camp. (US Army, US Defense Visual Information Center, Image #HD-SN-99-02764, Wikimedia Commons)
Inmates at the Buchenwald concentration camp, days after liberation (photo credit: US Army/US Defense Visual Information Center/Wikimedia Commons)

Christine Glauning, head of Germany’s Nazi Forced Labour Documentation Center, said this did not automatically mean it should also be used in future.

She was quoted by Spiegel as saying it was a place of “exploitation, oppression and boundless violence.”

An estimated 56,000 people from all over Europe died at Buchenwald between 1937 and 1945; starved and worked to death in horrendous conditions, killed in medical experiments or summarily executed.

Around 250,000 people were imprisoned between 1937 and 1945 in Buchenwald and its 136 nearby sub-camps where prisoners carried out forced labor in factories for the Nazi war effort.

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