Trees Dedicated to Holocaust Victims Are Destroyed at Buchenwald

Seven trees memorializing people who died at Buchenwald during the Holocaust were chopped down on Tuesday near the former concentration camp outside Weimar, Germany, in what the International Committee of Buchenwald Dora called a “horrible act of vandalism.”

The foundation that runs the Buchenwald memorial complex announced the news on Twitter. The trees were part of the 1,000 Beeches project, an effort to plant trees along the 118-mile route that prisoners from Buchenwald were forced to march in April 1945 when the Nazis tried to evacuate the camp as U.S. forces closed in, according to the charity in charge of the project. “Buchenwald” is the German word for “beech forest.”

One of the trees honored the 1,600 children who died at Buchenwald, the foundation said. The other trees that were cut down each honored a former prisoner and were planted by relatives of those prisoners in 2015. In a statement, the International Committee of Buchenwald Dora condemned the vandalism and said it was “deeply outraged.”

“Only education can defeat ideology,” the statement said.

The city of Weimar, about 170 miles southwest of Berlin, has offered a reward of 10,000 euros, or about $10,200, for any information about the vandals.

Buchenwald was one of Germany’s largest concentration camps and was among the first camps to be established, before the start of World War II. From July 1937, when it opened, until April 1945, about 250,000 people were imprisoned there, at least 56,000 of whom were killed, according to Sara J. Bloomfield, the director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The International Committee of Buchenwald said it was “deeply outraged” by the vandalism to the trees.Credit…Bodo Schackow/picture alliance via Getty Images

“This is an attack on the actual truth of the Holocaust, because it is the very site where some of these crimes happened,” Ms. Bloomfield said. “It’s a form of vandalism that is of a different magnitude in a world where truth is so much under assault.”

According to the museum, on April 11, 1945, as U.S. forces drew closer, Buchenwald prisoners stormed the watchtowers and overtook the guards, seizing control of the camp. American soldiers arrived later that day to find 21,000 people at the camp, including Elie Wiesel, who went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for speaking out against the world’s forgetfulness about the Holocaust. Mr. Wiesel’s father died at Buchenwald.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, then the supreme commander of allied forces in Europe, visited a Buchenwald subcamp called Ohrdruf on April 12, 1945, according to the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give firsthand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda,’” Mr. Eisenhower said at the time, referring to the atrocities the Nazis had committed during the Holocaust.

President Barack Obama visited Buchenwald with Mr. Wiesel in June 2009. Mr. Obama recalled that his great-uncle, Charles T. Payne, was one of the liberators of the Ohrdruf subcamp, and underscored Buchenwald’s role in ensuring that the horrors of the Holocaust would never be forgotten.

“To this day, there are those who insist that the Holocaust never happened — a denial of fact and truth that is baseless and ignorant and hateful,” Mr. Obama said. “This place is the ultimate rebuke to such thoughts, a reminder of our duty to confront those who would tell lies about our history.”

Clay Risen contributed reporting.

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