Committee Member’s Memory of Buchenwald

By Mike Speakman, Nominations Officer

13th May 2020

Anne Marie’s mention of visiting the Buchenwald concentration camp, and the impact it made during her recent livestream prompted a memory.

In the early 1970s, I think it was 1972, I went to Denmark with a small group of British Policemen.  We went in full uniform and our job was support a British Trade Fair in Copenhagen. I was the youngest of the group, in my early twenties.   Needless to say, we were hosted very well by the Danish police.   One evening we ended up at the home of a Danish policeman in his basement which was fitted out as a bar. (I learned later that every house in Denmark had to have a room as a potential fallout shelter for use in the event of a nuclear attack. It was after all the height of the cold war).  That evening I had noticed that there were candles displayed in the windows of houses and on the streets and I asked our host why?  He explained that this was the day every year that the Danes remembered those who had fought and died in the resistance against the German occupation.  The war was less than 30 years ago at that time and it was apparent that memories were still vivid. Indeed, whilst walking down the main street in Copenhagen in full bobbies’ uniform, we were continually being dragged off the street into bars by people who said they had been in the resistance and wanted to buy us a drink. The Danes were definitely big admirers of the British and were followers of our culture, particularly Coronation Street which was shown on Danish Television.

Anyway, when talking to our host about the remembrance of the resistance he told me he had been imprisoned in Buchenwald concentration camp, not because he was Jewish (I had no idea whether he was or wasn’t) but because he was a policeman.  On occupying Denmark, the Germans had rounded up most of the policemen and imprisoned them. They feared that policemen would be quite capable or organising resistance to them and wanted them out of the way.

Our host wouldn’t talk about his experience in Buchenwald but at one point he grabbed my arm very firmly and looking me straight in eyes very intensely, made me promise that I would never let anything like that happen again.  That was rather a big promise for a twenty something bobby to make but nevertheless I did promise him.  He had obviously been traumatised by his experience and I have never forgotten that evening or the look in that man’s eyes.  I have no time for Holocaust deniers and feel privileged to have met someone who had been in a concentration camp.

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