Buchenwald: We are the Hollow Men
The liberation of the camps as deliberately and carefully scripted events has often interested me. Rarely is it possible to confirm suspicions that the footage presented may have be selected and shaped to give a misleading impression of what really was normal conditions in the KZ system.
During mid or late April 1945 Buchenwald was inspected by a delegation of British politicians, including one Mavis Tate. Close-ups were shown of the crematorium, various implements to kill or torture prisoners and a pile of emaciated bodies on the back of a trailer.
The emaciated bodies looked like this:
I admit I have studied only a minor amount of anatomy during my life, but the one corpse that I did get to poke at looked nothing like that hollow head on the top left of the pile. The shape of the bone around the eye socket is all wrong and even if (why?) an eye was gouged out, this should leave a bleeding mess, not a completely empty cavity.
I stress I have no expertise in such matters, moreover all my reading suggests towards the final months epidemics most certainly did get out of control. So one struggles to understand the need to introduce a wax-work corpse or whatever this might represent into liberation footage, even if one assumes the Allies were unethical enough to actually do so.
Curiously, the Allies actually recorded that they did take at least one wax-work human prop. for their Greulpropaganda films of liberation. From the shotsheet of one of their footage of the delegation’s visit we see:
“MPs’ car arrives at Buchenwald past dummy on flogging bench” top line.
This flogging dummy seems to be remarkably similiar to the emaciated flogging dummy that appeared in the very first Dachau museum in 1945
There is, of course, nothing illegal about rolling into German concentration camps equiped with a camera and an emaciated wax doll. But it does suggest a high degree of premediatation of exactly how the liberation story was going to be portrayed and statements later by film crews that they were totally suprised and flabbergasted by the conditions they depicted seem to be a little cute in this context. It brings us perhaps a little more confidence in knowing what to make of the Hollow Man in the top photograph.
Little Grey Rabbit has his own opinion on Buchenwald New Crematorium. At this point I wish to say nothing more that like Dachau and Majdanek, there was an old crematorium for which copious correspondence and blueprints exist in the archives (whereas the Buchenwald New Crematorium has no surviving plans). I would also note that like Dachau, there exists an oral tradition that the New Crematorium was not genuine.
What can be said here is Buchenwald New Crematorium, in outward appearance much like a bakery, was built in the very middle of the camp, quite close to the camp entrance – in no way concealed or separated from the main camp area. Today and in liberation footage, it is shown with a tall fence surronding it.
However, this fence was not present when originally built in 1942
The building is at the top right of this montage and at this time point in 1942 is not surronded by a fence or courtyard.
Curiously, it is not surronded by fence or closed off courtyard in this still taken just after liberation either.
There is colour footage of the “hollow man” stills. However, for whatever reason the releaser of this archival footage has chosen to crop the footage significantly. Some portion of the “Hollow man” can be still be seen.