Buchenwald concentration camp was a Nazi concentration camp established on the Ettersberg (Etter Mountain) near Weimar, Thuringia, Germany, in July 1937, and one of the largest and first camps on German soil. Camp prisoners worked primarily as forced labor in local armament factories. Inmates were Jews, Poles, political prisoners, Roma and Sinti, Jehovah's Witnesses, religious prisoners, criminals, homosexuals, and prisoners of war (POWs). Between April 1938 and April 1945, some 238,380 people were incarcerated in Buchenwald by the Nazi regime, including 350 Western Allied POWs. One estimate places the number of deaths in Buchenwald at 56,000.  Although Buchenwald technically was not an extermination camp, it was a site of an extraordinary number of deaths. A primary cause of death was illness due to harsh camp conditions, with starvation - and its consequent illnesses - prevalent. Malnourished and suffering from disease, many were literally "worked to death" under the Vernichtung durch Arbeit policy (extermination through labor). Many inmates died as a result of human experimentations or fell victim to arbitrary acts perpetrated by the SS guards. Other prisoners were simply murdered, primarily by shooting and hanging.

Up until 1942, the majority of the political prisoners consisted of communists and Anarchists; later the proportion of other political prisoners increased considerably. Among the prisoners were also writers, doctors, artists, former nobility, and princesses. They came from countries as varied as Russia, Poland, France, Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Latvia, Italy, Romania and Spain (some Second Spanish Republic exiles). Most of the political prisoners from the occupied countries were members of the resistance.

On April 4, 1945, the U.S. 89th Infantry Division overran Ohrdruf, a subcamp of the Buchenwald. It was the first Nazi camp liberated by U.S. troops. Buchenwald itself was partially evacuated by the Germans on April 8, 1945. In the days before the arrival of the American army, thousands of the prisoners were forced to join the evacuation marches. A detachment of troops belonging to the US 9th Armored Infantry Battalion, U.S. 6th Armored Division, US Third Army arrived at Buchenwald on April 11, 1945 under the leadership of Captain Frederic Keffer.

Later in the day, elements of the U.S. 83rd Infantry Division overran Langenstein, one of a number of smaller camps comprising the Buchenwald complex. There the division liberated over 21,000 prisoners, ordered the mayor of Langenstein to send food and water to the camp, and sped medical supplies forward from the 20th Field Hospital.

Third Army Headquarters sent elements of the U.S. 80th Infantry Division to take control of the camp on the morning of Thursday, April 12, 1945. Several journalists arrived on the same day, perhaps with the 80th, including Edward R Murrow, whose radio report of his arrival and reception was broadcast on CBS and became one of his most famous:

“I asked to see one of the barracks. It happened to be occupied by Czechoslovaks. When I entered, men crowded around, tried to lift me to their shoulders. They were too weak. Many of them could not get out of bed. I was told that this building had once stabled 80 horses. There were 1,200 men in it, five to a bunk. The stink was beyond all description. They called the doctor. We inspected his records. There were only names in the little black book, nothing more. Nothing about who these men were, what they had done, or hoped. Behind the names of those who had died, there was a cross. I counted them. They totaled 242.  242 out of 1,200, in one month.  As we walked out into the courtyard, a man fell dead. Two others, they must have been over 60, were crawling toward the latrine. I saw it, but will not describe it.”