But it appears we can. For an excellent account of life in the concentration camp system, including the activities of the communists within them, look no further than Nikolaus Wachsmann’s excellent book “KL”
However, let us look at an excellent example of distortion and cherry picking of sources from Mr John Wear. Let us start with his first source: “U.S. Army intelligence document dated April 24, 1945, entitled Buchenwald: A Preliminary Report.”
The German communists were the first prisoners to arrive at Buchenwald. Nazi brutality in the concentration camp system meant that in order to survive, these men had to stand together. Yes, they fought their own corner, often to the detriment of others. Being well organised, the SS looked to them to take on certain administrative roles in the camp. As a result, they were able to make their lives slightly easier. Certainly when the camp was liberated, the American soldiers arrived to find a well organised system in place where discipline was well maintained, as opposed to other camps.
What is interesting about Mr Wear’s article is what is NOT stated from the Preliminary Report. Yes…the communists held a lot of power in the camp, and yes…some communists were responsible for brutalities and even murder. Some, including the eventual camp leader were good men, but far be it for Mr Wear to mention that fact. Mr Wear, however does not give a reason for WHY the Communists acted as they did. The Preliminary Report does…on page 10. Please allow me to quote from the report:
The Communists’ excuse for their conduct […] is entirely logical. The camp lived under an unspeakable reign of terror before they took power. […] They assumed power to make Buchenwald a better place to live. To be able to do so they had to produce a certain output of work, order and discipline. Thus their means were justified by the end. The Communists motives’, in so far as such things can be reconstructed, are entirely human. Only the fittest could survive 12 years of concentration camp. Fitness consisted of convincing the SS of one’s usefulness and in this fight for survival this trait was bound to appear. […] They became hard, surviving not for themselves, but in the name of the proletarian future of Germany and thereby justifying the extreme means of survival,
In other words, those men did what was needed to survive in a system created and maintained by the Nazis under the guise of the SS. Other prisoners were not important. The Communists were ultimately not responsible for the brutalities at Buchenwald, the system was.
The report states that Dr. Waldemar Hoven, the Buchenwald physician, had been a Communist ally who killed numerous criminal and anti-Communist political prisoners with lethal injections.
Hoven was a totally inept dropout who joined the SS. The only information about him that appears in the Preliminary Report is from the man himself. Even the Americans who wrote the report knew why he was keen to ingratiate himself with the Communists; it was to give himself some life insurance in the case of victory by the allies (p 12) . Hoven of course, tried to make out he had suffered by receiving a death sentence and an 18 month prison sentence. It was a lie. Charges were laid against him by K. Morgan for illicit prisoner killings but he was never convicted before the end of the war.
“KL” p 727 n 290
Hoven was trying to save his own neck. The trouble was it didn’t work. He was hanged in 1948.
The Communist Buchenwald inmates had a military organization that had three machine guns, 50 rifles, and a number of hand grenades.
Indeed they did. None were used on prisoners in the camp but were to be used as part of an attempt to take over the camp from the Germans as the Allies approached.
Mr Wear is guilty of trying to shift the blame from the SS regarding the brutal nature of the concentration camp system and to put said brutality in the hands of the prisoners themselves.