In this episode we’re going to be discussing the plight of 168 Allied Airmen who found themselves imprisoned in Buchenwald concentration camp. It’s something that even to this day governments seem unwilling to admit to.
“As we got close to the camp and saw what was inside… a terrible, terrible fear and horror entered our hearts. We thought, what is this? Where are we going? Why are we here? And as you got closer to the camp and started to enter [it] and saw these human skeletons walking around; old men, young men, boys, just skin and bone, we thought, what are we getting into?” — Canadian airman Ed Carter-Edward’s recollection of his arrival at Buchenwald.
Joining me is Frederic Martini, his father was shot down over France in 1944 and was one of the Buchenwald airmen. His written about his father’s experiences, the book is Betrayed.
While the official government story has always been that no Allied POWs were held in German concentration camps, 168 Allied airmen were beaten, experimented on, and otherwise mistreated in Buchenwald, where the famous rocket scientist Wernher von Braun obtained slave labor for his V-2 factory, the he Mittelwerk.
After the war, the US Army brought von Braun and his associates to America, as part of the ultra-secret Project Paperclip. The US government concealed von Braun’s wartime activities, and promoted an alternate history that sheltered him from prosecution for war crimes. This involved suppressing information about Buchenwald, Dora-Mittelbau, and the Mittelwerk. In the process, the records of the Buchenwald airmen were classified, and they would be inaccessible for decades. While the government was endorsing a fabricated history for von Braun, it treated the accounts of the Buchenwald airmen as delusions or attempts to obtain undeserved benefits from the VA.
The author didn’t intend to write a book about a massive government cover-up. He simply wanted to honor his father, Frederic C. Martini, an American airman who was shot down over occupied France in World War II and then imprisoned in Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Over seven years of research, an even darker picture emerged: that an unconstrained military intelligence operation disrupted the lives of American ex-POWs.