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Liberated Prisoners at Buchenwald, Germany

Margaret Bourke-White (American, 1904-1971)

Liberated Prisoners at Buchenwald, Germany, 1945

  • Gelatin silver print
  • 10 5/8 x 10 5/8 in. (26.9 x 26.9 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Purchase: Lillian Gordon Bequest, 2000-77
  • © Estate of Margaret Bourke-White/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Not on view



Liberated Prisoners at Buchenwald, Germany


Liberated Prisoners at Buchenwald, Germany


Encourage students to look at this photograph carefully:

  • What do you notice about the people in this photograph? Describe their physical attributes, clothing, and expressions. Based on what you see, what can you say about them?

  • Describe the setting. What can you say about the conditions? What clues are there as to where they are?

  • Think about how the photograph is laid out. How do the shapes and lines, the arrangement of the figures, and the way the photograph is cropped contribute to the effect of the image?


After giving students ample opportunity to examine this photograph, lead them in a discussion of related topics and themes:

  • Photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White took this picture in the days immediately after the Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated. How does this photograph compare with what you know of the concentration camp? What does this photo tell you about life in the Buchenwald camp? What does it not tell you?

  • They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Do you think a photograph can fully capture the experience of an environment like this? Why or why not?

  • Bourke-White's photographs of Buchenwald were published in Life magazine in 1945. How do you think Americans might have reacted to the photographs at the time? Do you think the impact of an image like this changes over time? Would people react the same way today?

  • Photojournalist like Margaret Bourke-White try to tell stories about the world with their photographs. Think about some iconic images you have seen of, for example, the collapse of the World Trade Center, the wars in Iraq or Darfur, or Hurricane Katrina or look for some strong images in a recent newspaper. What are the stories they are telling? What makes these images powerful or effective?


  • Concentration Camps
  • Liberation
  • Photojournalism