Państwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau w Oświęcimiu
- Auschwitz State Museum
The State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oświęcim came into existence in 1947, according to the Decree of Polish Parliament (Sejm). The archive is a part of the Museum. It gathers, preserves and makes accessible the documents are concerning the history of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Camp and other Nazi concentration camps. In the organizational structure of the archive works An Office for the Former Prisoners (Biuro ds. Byłych Więźniów). It issues certificates for the former prisoners and their families are concerning the inprisonment. Its task is also a coordination of contacts between former prisoners.
Some 1,100,000 European Jews from Hungary, Poland, France, the Netherlands, Greece, Bohemia and Moravia, Slovakia, Belgium and many other countries , as well as many prisoners of other nationalities and Soviet prisoners of war, perished in KL Auschwitz-Birkenau. From 1942 the Birkenau camp operated as an extermination camp. In spite of the destruction, the documentation from KL Auschwitz-Birkenau constitutes one of the best preserved bodies of camp files, running to more than 200 linear metres of original documents. The surviving materials have been divided into the following collections (all files are ordered by issuer):
• Akta Oddziału I – Kommandantur (Files from Department I – camp commandant’s office): orders (more than 230), files relating to the SS (around 3 linear metres of personnel files), files concerning prisoners (mail, releases, escapes – including telegrams sent after escaped prisoners). • Akta Oddziału II – Politische Abteilung (Files from Department II – Political Dept.) , the camp Gestapo: transport lists dating from 1941 and the lists of some transports of Jews from 1942 (Zuganglisten – arrivals lists) – around 3 linear metres, prisoners’ personal files (Häftlingspersonalbogen) – around 3 linear metres, personal files of Soviet POWs (48) and Greek Jews, records of deaths (Sterbebücher) – 46 volumes, and disciplinary reports on “crimes” committed by prisoners. • Akta Oddziału III – Schutzhaftlagerführung (Files from Department III – camp director): a few of the main record books (including two books from the Roma family camp), the record book for the penal company, the bunker record book, the card files for Soviet POWs (around 3.5 linear metres), two volumes of the Stärkebuch (the records of the daily counts), the main Nummerbuch (book of numbers), two record books for Blocks 16 and 4, a card file for prisoners in Block 11, and punishment reports. • Akta Oddziału IIIa – Arbeitseinsatz (Files from Department IIIa – labour details): correspondence (3 binders, in all 391 items, dating from 1943) – chiefly detailing prisoner handovers, lists – i.e. daily breakdowns of numbers of prisoners in labour details (including around 200 breakdowns from the women’s camp in Birkenau); in light of the original breakdowns for various periods (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.), the preserved documentation represents a very small fraction, though it does offer a certain insight into the nature of employment (which included experimentation), prisoner numbers, and the places they worked. • Akta Oddziału IV – Verwaltung (Files from Department IV - administration): food ration cards for the SS officers, orders for the workshops, authorizations for transportation, orders for wood and coke for the crematoria, and blank forms and other printed materials (in all around 2.5 linear metres). • Akta Oddziału V – Standortarzt (Files from Department V – camp doctor): various documents, including lists of patient names, patient histories, hospital ledgers, lists of medications, and reports to the Political Department on the removal of gold dentures and on cremation of bodies. • Akta Oddziału VI – Truppenbetreuung (Files from Department VI – Troop Supplies): no files have been preserved. • Akta Oddziału VII – Landwirtschaft (Files from Department VII – Farm): 1 binder of correspondence (in the village of Rajsko there were gardens and an experimental cultivation programme of the plant kok-saghyz for an ersatz rubber supply). • Akta Centralnego Zarządu Budowlanego Formacji Wojskowej SS i Policji w Oświęcimiu (Zentralbauleitung der Waffen-SS u. Polizei, Auschwitz O/S, Files of the Central Construction Board of the Waffen-SS and Police in Oświęcim) – 248 volumes: this office was subordinate not to the camp administration but to the WVHA , which was established to plan and carry out the extension of the camp and the crematoria. Many of the plans for barracks, buildings, crematoria and gas chambers, as well as plans for further projects have been preserved, as have lists of prisoners employed, correspondences, and stamps. Many of the Construction Board files (around 60%) are now in Moscow archives (the originals) and in the PMAB Archive (copies). • Akta Instytutu Higieny (SS Hygiene Institute Auschwitz, Bakteriologische Untersuchungsstelle Süd-Ost): chiefly results of analyses performed for the SS hospital and for camp prisoners (in all, including correspondences, around 8.5 linear metres, 64 volumes). • Akta podobozów oświęcimskich (Files from Auschwitz sub-camps, including those in Brzeszcze, Jaworzno, Trzebionka and Goleszów): letters written by prisoner labourers and official letters from the camp doctor; these materials have survived in very poor condition (in all approx. 4 linear metres). • Bilety kolejowe Żydów z Grecji (Train tickets of Jews from Greece). • Wspomnienia (Memoirs) – 251 volumes; 1,446 separate texts, approx. 56,000 pages. • Oświadczenia (Accounts) – 161 volumes; around 3,500 statements by former prisoners, forced labourers and local residents, approx. 30,348 pages. • Ankiety (Questionnaires) – 192 volumes (filled in by former prisoners, approx. 20,000 pages). • Ankiety tematyczne (Themed questionnaires disseminated among former prisoners by Stanisław Kłodziński for the periodical Przegląd Lekarski (27 volumes, 7,901 pages). • Kampfgruppe Auschwitz – original files of the camp resistance movement, including notes passed to prisoners by members of the Polish underground formation Armia Krajowa (AK, Home Army) and other people, e.g. J. Światłoch, A. Banaś, S. Kłodziński and J. Cyrankiewicz, as well as reports written by prisoners who escaped (Tabeau, Wetzler, Vrba, Chybiński, Rosin-Mordowicz) – 40 volumes. • “Bürgermeister Oświęcim 1940-1945” (Files from the record group “Mayor of Oświęcim 1940-1945”). • Spuścizny po byłych więźniach (Letters and papers of former prisoners): miscellaneous documents donated by former prisoners themselves or their families, including letters from the camp, postcards, telegrams, notifications of death, death certificates, other certificates, lists of items left in deposit, notifications of parcels, premium bonds, certificates of release, notes, and photographs.
The PMAB archival holdings also include case files (for the most part copies) from the trials of camp staff members held in Polish and German courts, and microfilm copies of documents held in foreign archives; in all around 800,000 frames. Besides recordings of around 2,000 interviews with former prisoners, there is also a collection of feature films and documentaries, and a very extensive photographic archive. The museum also has a vast number of items salvaged from the camp, and other exhibits connected with the camp and its functioning. These will be profiled as a group in Part II of the Guide (Chapter 13). On a final note, it is worth stressing that documentation held in Russian archives has been partially copied and is accessible in this form at PMAB. The museum library has a specialist collection (currently in excess of 30,000 volumes), including – aside from maps, atlases and encyclopedias – special collections of books and periodicals published in the Third Reich. In 2006 the museum opened an International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust. The collections of the museum’s archive are constantly being expanded, chiefly through the efforts of the Biuro ds. Współpracy z Byłymi Więźniami (Bureau for Cooperation with Former Prisoners), which gathers a full range of information on former prisoners. Prisoner data is currently being entered into a centralized computer database, Repozytorium Cyfrowe (Digital Repository). The most important databases being created by PMAB are as follows:
• Repozytorium Cyfrowe Muzeum (the Digital Repository), a project aiming to enter into a single, unified database all information on former prisoners irrespective of source. At present some 650,000 records have been entered into the database from original SS documents (70 fonds of former camp documents), including:
− 28,000 records of data from Häftlings-Personal-Kartei KL Mauthausen, − 24,000 records from the card file Lagerschreibstube KL Mauthausen, − 30,000 records of data referring to various photographs, − over 13,000 records from the hospital ledger from Block 28, − over 25,000 records from the Monowitz hospital ledgers, – over 31,000 records from the Roentgen (x-ray) ledgers.
In the future a full database will permit rapid access to, and statistical processing and analysis of information:
• Online database containing source data on the victims of the camp). Information may be sought in this database by: given name, surname, occupation, camp number, date of birth, place of birth, and place of residence. The data available here come from just two of the scores of archival fonds that exist: the Death Books and the records ledgers from the Sinti and Roma camp. This means that there is online information on former prisoners for around 180,000 of those who perished in the camp. The fuller database on former prisoners, which has not been made available online, is still under construction by PMAB archivists. For more accurate information, contact the Office for Information on Former Prisoners at the museum.
• A database of death certificates, compiled on the basis of preserved Death Books (Totenbücher) of prisoners at KL Auschwitz. In 46 volumes of file, the Politische Abteilung (the Political Dept., the camp Gestapo) recorded the deaths of almost 69,000 registered prisoners between 29 July 1941 and 31 Dec. 1943. For this reason the database does not include the names of most of the Jews deported to KL Auschwitz, who arrived at the camp in mass transports and for the most part underwent selection at once and were sent to their deaths. Where a death certificate does exist, it includes the following information: certificate number, date of issue, given name and surname, religion, place of residence, date of death, time of death, place of death (always Kasernenstrasse [“Barracks Street”] Auschwitz, not the camp), date and place of birth, father’s given name and surname, mother’s given name and surname, spouse’s given name and surname, name of the doctor confirming the death, date, signature, and cause of death (fictional).
Archival and Other Holdings
The holdings of the archive in Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum is composed from six parts:
- Original documents created by the camp's offices.
- Original documents created by the prisoners KL Auschwitz beyond of formal structure of the camp's administration (e.g: documents of the camp's resistance movement).
- Copies of the documents conected with KL Auschwitz received from other institutions.
- Documents created after 1945 (trials' records, reports and memories of former prisoners).
- The pictures' collection.
- The audio-visual collection. The archival holdings were be discovered in the camp's area and in the places of their secret preservation. The archive also received the documents from the former prisoners, their families and various factories which exploited job of the prisoners. The original documents preserved in the archive are only a part of documents which were be created in the camp's offices. The significant part of records were be transfered to Germany. The other part were taken over by Soviet Army and relocated to the USSR. They are preserved in the archives in Russia and post-soviet countries. The archive possesses the following kinds of documents: I) Documents of the camp's offices. The original camp's documents were created between spring 1940 and January 1945 in the offices of six departments:
- 1st Department (The Camp Commander): the personal records of SS-soldiers and the camp's staff, a collection of commander's orders (1941-1944), telegrams on the escapes from the camp, telegrams to the prisoner's families about the death of a prisoner, the remarks books of the officers of duty (Fuhrer vom Dienst) from May 18, 1941 to March 2, 1943).
- 2nd Department (Political): the checklists of the new arrived prisoners, personal charters of prisoners, the prisoner's death-registers, the reports with motions on a punish for the prisoners.
- 3rd Department (the Camp Management): a register-book of the Gipsy Camp, the day condition's book, the book of the bunker in 11 block, the register-book of the prison-blocks (No 4, 16 in KL Auschwitz and No 22 in the women in KL AuschwitzII-Birkenau), the book of the camp's punitive campaign, register of the death Soviet prisoners of war. 3a Department (the Prisoners' Job): the letters between the Department and various offices in the Third Reich and other Nazi Concentration Camps, the registers of prisoners (copies; the original documents are located in the Moscow Archive), the lists of prisoners according to particular job-group, a register of prisoners working as a electricians and locksmithes.
- 4th Department (Economic and Administrative): documents on demand of the crematories' fuel, the permissions for cars with the transport of Cyclone B and other transports, the letters with the prisoners' families on the things left in the camp's deposit.
- 5th Department (the camp's hospitals): the books of the camp's hospitals (for blocks 20, 21, and 28 in Auschwitz I), reports on the prisoners' death, the book of Roentgen point, reports on the extractions of gold teeth from the prisoners corpses, ill-registers. II) The Prisoners' Letters. There are letters and postcards sent legally from the camp. III) Documents of the SS-Hygiene Institute: the main books (9 volumes), auxilliary books (8 volumes), the orders of making various kinds of examinations in the blood and other secretian samples. IV) Documents of the Building Battalion (Zentralbauleitung SS): the maps of KL Auschwitz I and KL Auschwitz II, the technical documentation and cost-estimations of various building projects (e.g: project of the gas chambers and crematories). V) Documents of the Camp's resistance movement: reports on the situation in the camp sent in the secret channels, illegal letters (so-called: grypsy), the registers of prisoners' death made by Antonina Piątkowska. VI) The Trials' Records: records of Rudolf Hoess' trial, records of the trial of 40 members of the camp's staff in the Polish High National Tribunal. VII) The Copies of Transport Checklists: the checklist of the Jews deported to KL Auschwitz from Drancy (near Paris), Westerbark (Holland) and Theresienstadt (Terezin, Czech) and deported by Gestapo from Berlin. VIII) The documents are concerning other concentration camps: the checklists of prisoners transported to KL Auschwitz from KL Dachau and from KL Auschwitz to KL Dachau, KL Buchenwald, KL Flossenburg, KL Gross-Rosen, KL Stutthof, KL Ravensbruck (women), and KL Mauthausen, original personal registers of the Mauthausen Camp. IX) Documents of Camps branches:
- Blehchammer in Sławęcice (near Blachownia Śląska),
- Charlottengrube in Rydułtowy,
- Chelmek in Chełmek,
- Eintrachthutte in Świętochłowice,
- Furstengrube in Wesoła (near Mysłowice),
- Golleschau in Goleszów,
- Gunthergrube in Lędziny,
- Janinagrube in Libiąż,
- Jawischowitz in Brzeszcze Jawiszowice,
- Neu-Dachs in Jaworzno,
- Trzebinia w Trzebionce. X) Documents from the hospital;s for former prisoners of Auschwitz of the Polish Red Cross created in 1945 in the Camp area, in Oświęcim and in Brzeszcze (e.g: the list of liberated prisoners). XI) Reports (over 3500) and memories (over 1500) of the former prisoners, members of the camp's conspiracy, and compulsory workers. The significant part are written by Polish, a part: in other languages (German, English, French, Russian, Czech and Hebrew. XII) Photographs: the negatives of the camp's photographs of prisoners (39000), the private photographs brought to the camp by Będzin Jews (2400), photographes made by SS-soldiers during a selection of Hungary Jews in Birkenau Camp, photographes made after Camp liberation. XIII) Audio and video records (feature and documentary films devoted to Nazi crimes and World War II history., audio-records with memories and reports). For further information see A. Skibinska (ed.), chapter 4.
The archive is open Monday-Friday 8.00 - 14.00.
Alina Skibińska (ed)