Auschwitz Museum gains access to tracing service database

The main gate of the German Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau with the sign 'Arbeit macht frei' (Work makes Free) in Oswiecim, Poland, May 2003. Photo: Frank Leonhardt , EPA/PAP

Access to archives of the International Tracing Service (ITS) will help to determine identity and fate of many of Auschwitz camp prisoners.

"The existing digital database of the Museum is based on original documents from the time of the camp's operation. Using incomplete documentation, we were able to determine the identity of about 60 percent of the 400,000 registered Auschwitz prisoners. Thanks to the cooperation with ITS, we will be able to determine the identity and details of the fate of many more people," said the head of the Auschwitz Museum repository, Krzysztof Antończyk.

Museum based in Oświęcim, Southern Poland, also has the possibility of copying documents stored in Bad Arolsen in Germany, which are of great importance to the history of Auschwitz. They were produced by the SS command of concentration camps.

“The materials cover the files of the employment branch of the camp, personal files, cash-deposit files, lists of personal belongings of prisoners and death certificates, among other files. In total, there are over 2 million documents,” explained Paweł Sawicki of the Auschwitz Museum press office.

Those files will be used to answer enquiries made by the families of former prisoners, for research purposes, for publications which commemorate prisoners, and to educate guides and teachers.

"We want to bolster other memorial sites, archives and research institutions by giving them easy access and interpretation of the information that is in our archives. (...) I also hope that for relatives of victims it will be a chance to learn about the history of the persecution of their loved ones," emphasised ITS Director, Floriane Azoulay.

It is expected that in this way, it will be possible to obtain close to 90,000 documents for the Oświęcim institution.

“All of the data about prisoners obtained by us, will supplement the database that is available on our website," said Ewa Bazan, the museum's coordinator of the project.

Nazi Germany established the Auschwitz camp in 1940 for the imprisonment of Poles. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was built two years later. It became a site for the extermination of Jews. A network of sub-camps also functioned in the complex. Germans killed at least 1.1 million people in Auschwitz, mainly Jews, as well as Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and people of other nationalities.