Los Angeles Times 11.4.2005
April 11, 2005
WEIMAR, Germany — Elderly survivors of Buchenwald laid flowers Sunday and observed a moment of silence for victims of the Nazis, 60 years after U.S. troops liberated the concentration camp.
Flags from about 30 countries hung in a cold drizzle to symbolize the nationalities of the 240,000 people imprisoned in the camp between 1937 and 1945. About 56,000 died — worked to death, shot or killed in medical experiments.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and U.S. veterans came to the camp memorial outside Weimar for the commemoration, which kindled vivid memories for the survivors, most in their 70s and 80s.
Georg Sterner, a Hungarian Jew, recalled looking out from Barracks No. 37 when the first U.S. tank crashed through the barbed-wire perimeter fence on the morning of April 11, 1945.
"We were hanging out of the windows," said Sterner, who was 17 then. "It came slowly, slowly. It stopped between the trees. It revved the engine … made a lunge, and broke through."
Once inside, shocked soldiers found about 21,000 starving survivors and piles of corpses.
"It was so incredible — stacks of bodies, the smell, the total shock and confusion, people walking around by the thousands," said Jerry Hontas, who arrived the next day as a 21-year-old Army medic.
"We were so shocked we couldn't talk to each other for days," said Hontas, of Boca Raton, Fla. "We had no concept of this kind of insane cruelty."