Twenty days of systematic murder of prisoners in the Majdanek concentration camp are detailed in a thick office binder in the huge archive of Nazi documents in this central German city.
The binder contains hundreds of pages written on both sides. Each one has a table containing the following information: first name, last name, date of birth, address, date of death – all written out in a careful longhand. The blue ink has faded over the years, but the Jewish names jump out. Lists upon lists of towns and cities throughout Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany. In the last column, the date of death, there is not much variety: one of 20 days in September, 1942. The title on the binder reads: Lublin-Majdanek, crematorium list 08.09-1942 – 28.09.1942.
The lists were apparently brought out of the Majdanek concentration camp after it was liberated by the Russians. On the shelves around this one binder, on the first floor of the International Tracing Service (ITS) complex, are thousands more binders – the original records of the dead at the Buchenwald and Matthausen concentration camps, lists made by the Gestapo of deportees from Holland, who were captured at its headquarters after Germany surrendered, etc. All the documents are cataloged according to the names of victims and survivors, reflecting the efficiency of the Nazi bureaucracy.
This is the largest archive of Nazi documents in the world – more than 33 million pages of records, stored in six buildings in Bad Arolsen, a Baroque town north of Frankfurt. The archive was established after World War II by the Allies, taking advantage of the town’s location between Germany’s four areas of occupation, and the fact that it had suffered practically no damage from bombardment. It is funded by the German government and operated by the Red Cross. Searching among the 17.5 million names recorded there, staffers assist people seeking information on the fate of their families or submitting demands for reparations from the German authorities.