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Arthur Werner, "He really knows"

On April 11, 1945, US troops entered the Buchenwald concentration camp to find its remaining prisoners now in control of the infamous site. Between 1937 and 1945, the camp incarcerated approximately 250,000 people, with a significant number of Jewish prisoners. The camp also imprisoned communists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Roma and Sinti, people suspected of same-sex relationships, and others designated "career criminals." While not a killing center in the same fashion as the Operation Reinhard camps, prisoners were deliberately killed at Buchenwald in several ways, including lethal injections, hangings, and mass shootings. At the end of the war, around 21,000 prisoners remained in the camp.1

The crimes of the Buchenwald concentration camp were widely covered in national and local newspapers throughout the United States. These included headlines like "Horrors of Buchenwald Viewed by Congressman" (Charleston Gazette, April 23, 1945); "Official Army Report on Buchenwald Atrocity Camp" (St. Louis Post Dispatch, April 29, 1945); and "Editors Inspect Horror Camp at Buchenwald" (The Waynesville Mountaineer, May 19, 1945).2 Buchenwald and its conditions were also widely reported in the many letters of American servicemen writing home to their families. On May 15, 1945, one Jewish soldier named Irving P. Eisner wrote:

"I don't know how to begin this letter, but I'll try this. Today, I visited 'Buchenwald' (I hope that got by the censor). I learned a lot today about life and death at a concentration camp, for the past three, four, five, and six years for political prisoners. You know who those are—anti-Nazis by religion and nationality. Six years ago while I was in high school, millions of people were suffering and dying beyond approach of human thought."

Eisner goes on to ask his father to help search for the living relatives of one of the survivors he met in the camp.3 Newsreel footage of the camp was also widely shown.

This editorial, which appears in the Piqua Daily Call of Piqua, Ohio was written by Arthur Werner—a survivor of the camp. Titled "He Really Knows" by the paper's editorial department, the short letter responds to an article published earlier about conditions in Buchenwald. Werner confirms that the "terrible happenings" of the camp are indeed true, and invites readers to send their questions or "doubts" directly to him. Werner's editorial speaks to the presence of Jewish refugees in both large and small towns throughout the United States. It also serves as a potentially interesting commentary on the role of survivors as witnesses, even at this early date. Just one year earlier, Werner had also written a letter and sent a donation to the War Refugee Board, which notes his status as a survivor and its importance.

Evelyn Zegenheim, "Buchenwald Main Camp," in Geoffrey P. Megargee, ed., Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945, Volume I: Early Camps, Youth Camps, and Concentration Camps and Subcamps under the SS-Business Administration Main Office (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), 290-296.

To learn more about coverage of this and other Holocuast-era events in newspapers throughout the US, see History Unfolded: US Newspapers and the Holocaust, a project of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. For more on reactions and responses among the American public, see the primary sources in the Americans and Holocaust section of Experiencing History.

For more information on Eiser, and to read the letter in full, see Leah Wolfson, Jewish Responses to Persecution, Volume V, 1944-1946 (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015), 55-58.

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Piqua Daily Call
Date Created
April 20, 1945
Page(s) 4
Author / Creator
Arthur Werner
Piqua Daily Call
Piqua, Ohio
Reference Location
Buchenwald (historical)
Document Type Newspaper Article
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