I am currently reading the new book by Flink Whitlock, which is entitled The Beasts of Buchenwald. The Beasts in the title are Ilse Koch and her husband, Karl Otto Koch, who was the Commandant of the camp. I am not quite to the end yet, but so far, I have not seen any mention that Buchenwald was a Class II camp. In January 1941, Heinrich Himmler had designated Buchenwald as the only Class II camp and Mauthausen and Gusen as the only Class III camps.
What did these classifications mean and why is this so important? Well, to give you an idea of the importance, the main Auschwitz camp was a Class I camp. Class I camps had a sign on the gatehouse that read “Arbeit Macht Frei” and non-Jewish political prisoners had a chance of being released. According to the Auschwitz Museum, 1,500 non-Jewish prisoners were released from the Auschwitz main camp. Buchenwald had a sign on the gate that read “Jedem das Seine” and the prisoners had almost no chance of being released.
The “Jedem das Seine” sign on the gate faced the inside of the camp, so that it could be easily read by the prisoners. This sign can be translated as “To Each his Own” or as “Everyone gets what he deserves.” The class III Mauthausen camp, which had been designated as “Rückkehr unerwünscht” (Return undesirable) had no sign on the gate and prisoners had no chance of being released.