In November 1944 168 Allied airmen were being held in the concentration camp at Buchenwald. They were scheduled to be executed and cremated on orders from SS Reichsfuehrer Heinrich Himmler. By sheer luck, it seems that Luftwaffe Oberst Hannes Trautloft was the German officer who discovered them during an inspection tour of bombed facilities as Inspector of day Fighter on Adolf Galland's orders.
This information was not known for decades due to the fact that Trautloft never remembered or stated the camp by name, and he never discussed it outside of a small group of Luftwaffe officers who gathered at his office near Lake Wannsee in late 1944. It was not until some of the survivors of Buchenwald saw his photograph and identified him as the man who saved their lives, albeit indirectly.
Trautloft's mission was to examine facilities producing materiel for the Luftwaffe when he stumbled across the camp. His direct intervention and actions, along with his superior, General of the Fighters Adolf Galland saved all but two of these men. The April 10-14, 2014 ceremony paid tribute to the airmen, and recognized the brave German officers who defied Nazi Germany's highest authorities to do the right thing.
The identity of Trautloft as the savior of these airmen went undiscovered, until old interviews resurfaced with the men involved in the plot to overthrow Reichsmarschall and Luftwaffe Commander in Chief Hermann Goering. Colin Heaton and Anne-Marie Lewis in The German Aces Speak II shared this data with Adam Makos for his book, A Higher Call and also authors Mike Dorsey and Gerald Baron, as well as the Buchenwald survivors, which brought this information to light.
Oberst Hannes Trautloft who discovered the secret camp at Buchenwald
Generalleutnant Adolf Galland who upon receiving a call, interceded for Trautloft to save the Allied Airmen before they were executed
Link to the April 4, 2014 article in the Thüringer Allgemeine
Advertisement for The Lost Airmen of Buchenwald
Southern Sense Radio Show of August 12, 2014
Authors Gerald Baron and Colin Heaton on the show discussing the events and books at the link below
The German Language Air Force Review also has the story:
Advertisement for the Memorial Ceremony
Bernd Schmidt (far left) and the last survivors
Niagara this Week Articles
Mike Dorsey with his book about the Airmen in Buchenwald
Author Gerald Baron
Colin and Anne's as well as Adam Makos' works chronicle the amazing events at Buchenwald in November 1944 as related from interviews and research with the Allied prisoners and German officers involved
Russian National Holocaust Memorial in Moscow