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Buchenwald. Ed Carter-Edwards called it home for two months during World War II and gave a moving first-hand account of his trials there on Friday, May 24 at the Royal Canadian Legion in Dunnville.
Buchenwald was a concentration camp, where Hitler sent Jews, homosexuals, political adversaries, and in this case, Prisoners of War. It was not a “death” camp like Auschwitz*, but rather a labour camp, although many people died there due to illness from the inhuman conditions, starvation and experimentation at the hands of the SS.
Prisoners of War were not normally detained in concentration camps, it was against the Geneva Convention, and as a consequence, after the War, most of the Allied governments denied the POWs had ever been there, in an attempt to facilitate peace negotiations with Germany.
Ian Durand of the RCAF Museum, presented the movie The Lost Airmen of Buchenwald to the audience prior to Carter-Edward’s talk. The documentary tells the forgotten story of the airmen who were captured and detained at Buchenwald. The SS justified this action by calling them “saboteurs”. Carter-Edwards’ plane went down in Occupied France. The underground attempted to smuggle him and a few others out of the country to safety. At this time, the French Underground had been infiltrated by a spy, who ultimately turned in the fleeing airmen.
Online sources including Wikipedia report that the men were in civilian clothes so it was assumed they were spies, but Carter-Edwards described having his dog tags ripped off and thrown in the gutter. It’s interesting to note the difference between “popular Historical record” and reality.
As the movie ended, Durand called for a moment of silence, and people reflected on Carter-Edward’s experiences, and how the airmen were rejected upon returning home. One man was called a liar. Our own Canadian government denied Carter-Edwards medical coverage because there was no record of his detainment.
After the film, as the former airman recalled his experiences, and losing men in the camps, his voice broke. But when he finished speaking, he smiled ear to ear. He took my hand in his because that’s what he does when he talks to people one on one. He told bawdy jokes. Survivor Ed Carter-Edwards turns 90 this year- he will continue to remain an example of the unconquerable human spirit for all time.
*Auschwitz was a a network of “work” and “extermination” camps in Germany- annexed Poland. http://en.auschwitz.org/m/