Several hundred children and well over ten thousand young people under the age of 21 were deported to the concentration camps Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora between 1937 and 1945. Thousands of them died. The online exhibition Children in Concentration Camps is dedicated to their fate. It follows the routes over which the children and young people were deported, recounts the reasons they were imprisoned, and examines the conditions of their existence: What specific experiences did children and young people have in the camps, what distinguished them from the experiences of adults? What happened to the survivors after liberation? What role do the Child Survivors of Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora play in public memory?

Herrenkinder and Outcasts: Childhood in the National Socialist Era

The Nazi state’s racist social order treated children and young people no differently than adults. The children of Volksgenossen (ethnic Germans) grew up believing that they belonged to a superior Herrenrasse (master race). Children of Jews, Sinti and Roma, of parents who were ill, considered asocial, and dissidents were excluded and persecuted. Many of them were murdered during the Second World War.

Children in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp

From July 1937 to April 1945, approximately 266,000 people from countries all over Europe were imprisoned in Buchenwald Concentration Camp, including numerous children and young people. The minors were sometimes deported to Buchenwald with their parents, but generally they were alone. Political prisoners organized rescue initiatives to protect them and improve their chances of survival.

Children in the Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp

In August 1943, the first prisoners from the Buchenwald Concentration Camp arrived at the Dora subcamp near Nordhausen where they worked as forced laborers building a rocket plant in a tunnel system. From the spring of 1944 onwards, the SS used prisoners for other construction projects in numerous subcamps in the region. The chances of survival were slim, especially for the children and teenagers used as forced laborers.

Hauled off to Concentration Camps

The biographies of children and young people under the age of 21 who were deported to the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camps and their numerous subcamps show the diversity of the victim groups among the minors: Jews, Sinti and Roma, political prisoners deported from occupied territories, girls in subcamps, those deemed to be anti-social, and labor re-education prisoners.

Deaths in Buchenwald or Mittelbau-Dora

Thousands of children and young people died in the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camps. Because many records are missing, not all names are known. For many of the dead, there is very little information available other than their names, prison numbers and dates of death. Photos exist only in a few cases.

Realms of Experience

Childhood and adolescence in a concentration camp – that meant the omnipresence of violence, abuse, disease and death. How did the young prisoners react to such a hostile environment? What helped them to survive?


The Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camps were liberated on 11 April 1945. However, many prisoners, including children and young people, had been sent on evacuation transports beforehand. Some were able to escape during the death marches, others were liberated weeks later in other camps – if they survived the forced marches.

After liberation

Some children and young people died after liberation as a result of hunger, emaciation and disease. Survivors tried to get home as quickly as possible, but for many there was no longer a home because their parents had been murdered or deported to other countries.