August 24,1944 Bombing - Beginning of the End

We turned and got to the SS guy and I said to one of the my friends “Yeah we’ll help him. Just let me at him with this rock.” I picked up a big rock, but I never used it.  I thought about it though.  We didn’t kill him with the rock, but I took his wallet. I was looking for papers, maybe money, whatever I could find. I took this picture and left the wallet with the dying soldier. (That’s how Henry got the picture from inside the crematorium – off a dying SS man who carried it in his wallet as a grisly memento.)

On the way back to the camp, we found more hands and feet that had been cut off by bombs. When we passed any dead SS officers we grabbed their guns and brought those back to camp.

We got back to the camp but it was very strange. We came into the barrack, and saw a friend with a wound here, a cut here. Luckily the old Belgium guy and Czech guy were ok. So I take my friends wounded bad, loaded up with guns, and drag them to the hospital. Now there was no one to tell you what to do. We took the guns we’d found and gave them to Kowalski,  also to the Rivier in the camp hospital to use. (I’m not sure of the translation of rivier yet) I think these guns were later used against the SS guards by the Resistance. After we gave the guns to Kowalski, Stanley and I just leaned against the wall of the puff, and slid down to the grass, and shook like hell. For about five minutes I just shook like with tremors. I couldn’t help it; my nerves were shot from being bombed and everything else that I saw and had happened. The fear struck me to the core.

During that attack about 80 SS and 30 guards from Buchenwald died. There were 315 prisoners dead, 525 critically wounded, and lightly wounded about 900 prisoners. So the U.S. gave the Germans hell and we were very happy for that.

During the bombing one of the US bombs fall on the wood shop and started fire. The fire went to the Goethe oak tree and burned it down. The oak tree was gone. So we knew that everything is all right that the end of war is near. The Americans bombed directly on the housing of the SS, and the arms factories.

Where are you getting those numbers from?

From the commission. (Henry skims through one of his books written in Polish by his friend Edmond Polak. I certainly wasn’t in a position to question something written in Polish.)

Even with the casualties, the Germans cleaned everything up and kept the camp going for eight more months. After that bombing, there was an even more powerful communist underground in the camp. Remember towards the end of the war there were fewer German guards – they kept getting pulled to fight at the front. The ones left behind were the older and younger ones. This underground helped us to survive and defend ourselves at the end of the camp.
Historical note: The Americans strategically aimed their bombs at the armament factory and SS housing and garrison.  No damage occurred within the inmates’ living area. There were damages to the crematorium, the laundry and depot barracks.  At the time of the attack, the camp had over 31,000 inmates – at near limit of capacity. The only air raid shelter was for the SS – so prisoners near the armament factory had to remain near the factory; 2,000 were injured and many died.

By November 1944, a total of 388 inmates lost their lives as a result of the air strike.  Over one hundred SS men and members of their families died as well. The Germans were never able to resume much functionality of arms production. Many records were destroyed in the air strike attack, so there are fewer records, and no photos of Henry; however there were some records documenting his stay there.
Unfortunately for a few prisoners, the SS had built an isolation barrack for prominent prisoners in the midst of the SS area, separated from the camp.  One royal prisoner, Princess Mafalda of Hesse died from lack of treatment for her injuries. From February 1945 to the end of the war the SS used the basement of one of the troop barracks for special detention prisoners.