Authors: PhDr. Ivana Rapavá, PhD., Mgr. Jana Švarcová, Mgr. Jan Vajskebr
The Buchenwald concentration camp was established near the German town of Weimar in the federal land of Thuringia back in 1937. Even though the camp was classified, in terms of its character, among the medium-intensity persecution facilities by the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps the actual conditions of imprisonment and treatment of its inmates were very harsh. The countless cases of inmates´ deaths could be attributed, to a considerable extent, to the practice of deploying prisoners to grueling labor, both in the Buchenwald concentration camp and in its branches.
Although the concentration camp was primarily intended for political opponents of the Nazi regime, its inmates also included so-called antisocial elements, Roma/Szinti, Jehovah’s witnesses, homosexuals, and naturally a great many Jews.
All in all, some 280,000 people of different nationalities passed through Buchenwald and its branch camps. Some 56,000 of them died there as a result of torture, medical experiments and exhaustion. Furthermore, 8,000 Soviet POWs were executed in the camp during special summary executions.
The first Czech prisoners from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia were deported to the camp already in 1939, their overall number rising after waves of mass arrests. A special group of inmates comprised the so-called hostages, special or honorary prisoners (Sonder-/Ehrenhäftlinge), i.e. members of the prewar Czechoslovak elites arrested immediately after the outbreak of the Second World War. Until June 1943, as many as 1,747 Czech prisoners were transported to Buchenwald of whom 138 perished in the camp, 500 were set free and others were moved to different prisons and concentration camps. Other large waves of newly arriving Czech prisoners came in 1943 and 1944. By September 1944, their numbers peaked out, as corroborated by primary sources, totaling 4,443 inmates, plus 168 special prisoners. According to available data, some 7,800 Czech prisoners were jailed in Buchenwald and its branches of whom 800 died there. For other inmates, Buchenwald was only a transit camp on their way to other prisons, penitentiaries and concentration camps, for still other prisoners it eventually proved to be the site of their long-desired liberation by the US Army in April 1945.
As documented by extant sources, most Czech prisoners were arrested on political grounds, part of them were branded as antisocial elements (Asozial), work shirkers (Arbeitsscheu) or persistent offenders (Berufsverbrecher).
The key purpose of the submitted database is to provide on-line access to the list of inmates of Czech nationality, or rather Protectorate state nationality. The backbone for its collected data was a set comprising original prisoner cards from the Buchenwald concentration camp, now stored in the National Archives in Prague. In all probability, these were the prisoners liberated in the camp at the end of the war. Their overall number totals some 3,700 people. However, their list need not be complete. It is highly likely that the cards of the “hostages“ (e.g. the prisoner card of the Czech journalist Ferdinand Peroutka or the former Prague Mayor Petr Zenkel, both liberated in the Buchenwald concentration camp) are missing. That is why other partial sources and documents, such as, for example, the data and database called “The Gestapo Police Prison in the Small Fortress Terezín 1940-1945,“ or the “Personal Records of the Inmates of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp“, kept in the collection named Occupation Prison Documents in Prague’s National Archives, will be used for further supplementation of data and their eventual comparison.
Difficulties that may arise when working with the database
In view of the fact that only one type of archive documents has been hitherto processed, the database of the Czech inmates in the Buchenwald concentration camp is not quite complete. Work on its expansion is continuing.
- name and surname: the sources are noted for a considerable variability in the spelling of names; in many cases these are without diacritical signs (so important for the Czech language), which today makes identification of individual persons difficult. Therefore, when searching for a specific name, it will be sufficient for researchers to give only the root of the sought word.
- places of birth and residence are left in their original, unchanged, usually German version
- category of inmates, if mentioned at all, covers those who had been guilty of anti-Nazi acts or thinking, or who had been classified in the categories termed in German as Asozial, Arbeitsscheu, Berufsverbrecher
- the words ”předal“ (handed over) refer to the locations of the office agencies where the given inmate had been detained
- further imprisonment and date of transport indicate those Nazi persecution facilities where and when the given inmate had been incarcerated after then
- reason for the termination of imprisonment: this is usually not given since, according to the research carried out so far, these inmates were liberated by the US Army at the end of the war (on April 11, 1945)
- date of termination of imprisonment: as a rule, this is not given since it is presumed that these inmates were liberated by the US Army
- note: this is used to supplement information on the given person