The Lucky Ones - Allied Airmen and Buchenwald

In the spring of 1944, the Second World War was not yet over and Allied Airmen were still risking their lives by flying through enemy fire. In June 1944, amongst those shot down over France were 168 airmen from Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. They were captured by the Gestapo and temporarily incarcerated in Fresnes Prison, a civilian jail just outside of Paris. Instead of being classified as military prisoners-of-war, they were accused of being spies and saboteurs. Though they were subjected to beatings and other forms of cruelty, they did not lose hope of being liberated by the approaching Allies. Instead, on the morning of August 15, 1944 – ten days before the liberation of Paris – they were herded into cattle cars and sent into the depths of East Germany. Theirs was the last train to leave Paris for Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

The airmen tried to establish themselves as military personnel in the concentration camp, however, they were not recognized as such for several long, difficult months. Instead, they were subjected to the subhuman conditions of life in Buchenwald. They witnessed horrific beatings, hangings, and torture, as bodies were piled like cordwood awaiting the crematorium. Suffering, starvation, disease and constant threats were the order of each day. Several of the airmen became ill, two died and all were deeply disturbed by the horrors they witnessed . . . but they were The Lucky Ones.

In the National Film Board of Canada's film, The Lucky Ones, former Allied airmen recount their personal and collective stories of life before, during and after Buchenwald. The Lucky Ones is the Allied airmen's final testimony to the horrors they experienced in Buchenwald, an eloquent rebuttal to those who claim the holocaust never happened. A clip from the film is a glimpse into the memories of these airmen, including reflections from Ed Carter-Edwards, one of the 26 Canadian Airmen who was incarcerated in Buchenwald.

Buchenwald was liberated on 11 April 1945, the first such major camp to be reached by the Western Allies. To honour the 59th Anniversary of the Liberation of Buchenwald, the French Association of Buchenwald Dora et Kommandos has arranged a commemorative visit and ceremonies for its members and Mr. Ed Carter-Edwards has been invited to attend as a guest of honour. The events will take place from April 9 to 14, 2004, and will include tours of the concentration camps, memorial ceremonies and other official events. This commemorative visit will provide survivors with an opportunity to reflect and remember.

Read the transcript.

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