A plan to house refugees in a former concentration camp in Germany has come to fruition, with some 21 male asylum seekers now living in the barracks of the camp that once housed thousands of prisoners of the Nazis.
Buchenwald was one of the largest and most notorious Nazi concentration camps on German soil in World War II. But faced with a massive influx of refugees fleeing war-torn places such as Syria, Germany has scrambled to accommodate new arrivals, and resorted to using the barracks.
According to the Daily Mail online, which headlined its article “Housed in a notorious concentration camp,” some of the asylum seekers have been living in the camp for several months, and have received from the German government a sum off 135 euros (approx. $150) for essentials.
Eritrean refugee Abdurahman Massa told the Mail that the former purpose of his temporary accommodation does not bother him. “This is good for me,” he said.
The website Friday showed images of refugees standing in a carpeted room containing bunk beds, cooking facilities and even a television.
An Algerian refugee identified as Diaoyre told the Mail that he had been living at the former camp for a week. “It is good here,” he told the paper. “Many others don’t even have this.”
An estimated 56,000 people from all over Europe died at Buchenwald between 1937 and 1945; they were 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.
The local council began considering using the site for asylum-seekers in January. At the time, the Spiegel newspaper quoted Birgit Naujoks, head of the refugee council in North Rhine-Westphalia state, calling the plan “alarming and disconcerting — at the very least insensitive.”
The former barracks had previously been used previously for various purposes, including storage, as an artist’s workshop and as a kindergarten, German media reports said.
Buchenwald opened in July 1937, originally for political prisoners. That changed in 1938, after the Kristallnacht pogrom, when close to 10,000 Jews were sent to the concentration camp. The SS also sent Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma and German military deserters to Buchenwald, along with prisoners of war from other nations.
From 1941, medical experiments were conducted on prisoners at the camp, including tests of vaccines for typhus, typhoid and cholera. Hundreds of prisoners died as result of these experiments.
AFP contributed to this report