Concentration camps were singularly terrible places, and there were a lot of them — around 44,000 of varying types and sizes, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. But for this, let’s look at Buchenwald.
Adolf Hitler was famously fond of his dog Blondi, but it turns out, that’s not the only time animals got the A-OK from high-ranking Nazi officials. Buchenwald, says DW, actually contained a small zoo on the grounds — a zoo, they say, that wasn’t too far from the crematorium.
At the time the zoo opened in 1938, the camp was under the control of Karl Koch and his wife, Ilse. (She, says History, was the one who liked to select the prisoners who had what she deemed the most “artistic” tattoos, have them killed, skinned, and made into things like lampshades and gloves.) The zoo was, of course, both funded by assets seized from the prisoners, and off-limits to all those save the ones that were tasked with taking care of the animals, which included monkeys, birds, and fish. The idea was that it was meant to provide “diversion and entertainment” for guards who wanted to go there on their breaks. Koch liked to go there, too, because there was also a bear pit and he was particularly fond of throwing people in and watching the carnage.