A British delegation visits Buchenwald (1945)

In May 1945, a British parliamentary delegation visited the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald and filed a report on surviving inmates:

“The size of the camp is indicated by the fact that its maximum capacity was said to have been 120,000. On April 1st last, the number in camp was 80,813.

A few days before the arrival of the American forces (April 11th) the Nazis removed a large number of prisoners, variously estimated at 18,000 to 22,000. Some of those whom they wished to remove (because “they knew too much”) were able to hide from them. It was impossible to form any accurate estimate of the percentages of various nationalities still remaining in the camp; we met many Jews and non-Jewish Germans, Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, French, Belgians, Russians and others.

A detailed report presented to us by representatives of an anti-Fascist committee stated that, up to April 1st, the total number of those who had died or been killed at Buchenwald, or immediately on removal therefrom to subsidiary “extermination camps”, was 51,572 — at least 17,000 of them since January 1st 1945…

Although the work of cleaning the camp had gone on busily for over a week before our visit, and conditions must therefore have been improved considerably, our immediate and continuing impression was of intense general squalor; the odour of dissolution and disease still pervaded the entire place.

One of the first of a number of huts that we entered was one of the best… This hut was one of those now used as transit hospitals for some of the worst cases of malnutrition. Many were unable to speak: they lay in a semi-coma or following us with their eyes. Others spoke freely, displaying sores and severe scars and bruises which could only have been caused by kicks and blows. They lay on the floor, on and under quilts. All of them were in a state of extreme emaciation.

We were told by the US authorities that, since their arrival, the number of deaths had been reduced from about 100 per day to 35 on the day before our visit. The usual clothing was a ragged shirt, vest or cotton jacket, beneath which protruded thighs no thicker than normal wrists. One half-naked skeleton, tottering painfully along the passage as though on stilts, drew himself up when he saw our party, smiled and saluted.

The medical members of our delegation expressed the opinion that a percentage of them could not be expected to survive, even with the treatment they were now receiving, and that a larger percentage, though they might survive, would probably suffer sickness and disablement for the rest of their lives.”