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January 17, 2021 6:21 pm

Buchenwald Memorial Warns Visitors Sledding on Mass Graves at Site of Former Concentration Camp


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

The snowy landscape at the Buchenwald former concentration camp. Photo: Twitter/Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation.

The Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation on Thursday asked visitors to respect the site of the former concentration camp in Germany by not engaging in winter sports at the memorial, after some were seen sledding on its mass graves.

“For the winter time, we ask visitors to the memorial to behave in a manner that is appropriate to the dignity of the place,” the foundation said in a German-language statement in its website. “We cannot tolerate violations of the visitor regulations at this location. In particular, we will report cases of disturbances to the peace of the dead due to winter sports activities near the grave complex. We ask for your understanding.”

The director of the foundation, Jens-Christian Wagner, told the German news website Der Spiegel that “masses” of visitors visited Buchenwald and the former subcamp Mittelbau-Dora in eastern Germany last weekend, and most of them came to have fun in the snow, Agence France-Presse reported. “Some of the sledge tracks ended at the mass graves,” he said, adding that “as time passes, historical sensitivity is fading.”

Buchenwald historian Rikola-Gunnar Lüttgenau told the BBC that while sporting activities are already banned at the site, “last weekend it was used heavily, many sledge tracks were found on the graves, and the car park was full.”

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“Now because of the pandemic winter sports facilities are closed in Thuringia [region], so they are using the memorial,” he said, also noting that disturbing the peace of the dead is an offense punishable by a fine in Germany. “Unfortunately more and more people have been disrespecting the place, horse-riding or riding motorbikes in the woods.”

The Buchenwald former concentration camp marked the 75th anniversary of its liberation in April 2020. More than 76,000 men, women and children died at Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora during World War II, according to AFP.

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