Neuigkeiten aus dem Archiv

The Archive and the collection at the Memorial Site got their start from an initiative of the survivors of Dachau concentration camp, who collected material for an exhibition in the former maintenance building in the late 1950s. In the process, contact and communication with their former comrades was of key importance. Their work is not only the foundation of our collection on the history of Dachau concentration camp, but also on the history of the Memorial Site.

Digitization project in 2016

Thanks to a project embracing all memorial sites and financed by the German Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media, it was possible last year to digitize more than 30,000 pages from the legacies of former inmates and inmate organizations. This marks a big first step on the way to securing this material for the long term and making it accessible. Follow-up projects are needed to digitize more of the inventory.

 

Ordner im ArchivNew finding aid

Finding aids and databases are the most important tools for using the Archive. An overview of the Memorial Site’s inventories is provided by the finding aid that will also be accessible to Archive visitors in the future. After a two-year project phase, the inventory of written documents and the photo collection of the Archive, which take up an area of about 250 meters, were screened and their contents summarized in a 350-page book. The finding aid is arranged by topic and has the same structure as the Archive. Along with files on individual persons, which were compiled according to the core themes of “inmate nationalities”; “inmate categories”, “subcamps”, and “work details”, the materials on medical care, for instance, or on medical experiments, rations, personnel matters, cultural activities, and “protective custody documents” provide a glimpse of daily life at Dachau concentration camp. The inventories on the camp SS, the Dachau Trials, and the history of the Memorial Site are still in preparation.

Thanks to the finding aid, visitors as well as the staff of the Memorial Site can quickly and comprehensively grasp the thematic structure of the Archive, as well as its specific inventories.  It describes the contents of the files, references the origin and term of the material, and indicates its scope and location. Users also learn whether the archived material is available in its original form or as a copy. The finding aid is a significant addition to the Archive database and facilitates scientific work.

 

Survivors, relates, and their “treasures

Even in 2017, communication with the survivors of Dachau concentration camp and their relatives is still tremendously important to the further expansion of the Archive and collections.

The number of inquiries reaching the Archive is constantly increasing. There were nearly 1,700 in 2016, most of which came from relatives of former inmates. Among these last year was a young schoolgirl who is a sixth-generation descendant of one of the former inmates from the initial stages of Dachau concentration camp. Descendants often know little or nothing about their relatives. In many cases, relics from time spent in a concentration camp are handed down carefully from generation to generation and finally lead to an inquiry with the Memorial Site. Again and again, families are ready to gift material on their relatives to the Archive, usually as scans or copies, but sometimes even the originals. One major goal of the Memorial Site’s collecting activities is to be able to present the former inmates of Dachau concentration camp and its subcamps in all their variety and uniqueness, and in this way to reveal the human beings behind the SS “numbers”. Some of these “new additions” in 2017 are presented here by way of example:

New acquisitions

Notizbuch von FroidureNotebook of Édouard Froidure (1899−1971)

Belgian survivor Édouard Froidure, a clergyman from Brussels, noted down the names, dates of birth and death, as well as the addresses of Belgians who died at Dachau concentration camp. We can assume that he wanted to make contact later with their relatives. This list of names, as well as the other things he jotted down in his notebook, were important pieces of evidence for the survivors. They wanted to use them to record the crimes perpetrated at Dachau concentration camp and establish a system of information. We thank the Secretary General of the Comité International de Dachau (CID), Roger de Taevernier, for handing over this document to the Memorial Site’s Archive.

 

Zeichnung von PorulskiDrawings by Michał Porulski (geb. 1910− date of death unknown)

The Memorial Site acquired original drawings by the trained draftsman and Dachau survivor Michał Porulski from the estate of the Polish Dachau inmate Aleksander Wojno (1901−1999). The six drawings handed down to us forcefully illustrate the inhuman working conditions and especially the brutal behavior of the guards when enforcing camp punishments. Porulski, who stayed at Dachau for a time after the liberation, also crafted the so-called Dachau Album, now in the possession of the daughter of a Jewish survivor.

 

Photos: © KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau