Concentration camps were a feature of the Nazi state since its inception. The first camps were initially used for detaining political prisoners deemed “enemies of the state”: communists, trade unionists Jews and other dissidents. In short order, the list included homosexuals, alcoholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses. Prisoners were taken into “protective custody” to be “reeducated”. No term limits were given for their sentence. Dachau, founded in 1933, was the first major concentration camp. Himmler – in his role of head of the SS – appointed Theodor Eicke as camp commandant. Eicke would create in Dachau the brutal, inhumane paradigm for all Nazi camps to follow. While the number of Jews placed in concentration camps increased after the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938, World War II was to be a major turning point: the number of camps to accommodate ghettoized Jews increased; and the intended purpose of camps changed from one of exploitation of prisoners who were able to work, to the industrial scale murder of Jews with the goal being the “final solution to the Jewish problem”.
Forced labor was a significant aspect of all concentration camps. Prisoners were compelled to work under harsh, punitive conditions from early morning until late in the day. Each workday was preceded by a mandatory roll call-the Appel- in which prisoners would stand at attention for hours waiting for their numbers to be called irrespective of weather conditions before marching off to work. At day’s end the exhausted prisoners would undergo yet another roll call. Fainting in this absurd ritual often meant being executed on the spot. Treks to the worksite in inadequate and ill- fitting clothes and shoes would themselves exhaust the prisoners before they even began their workday. This daily routine was meant to humiliate and terrify the prisoners, much like the work itself. Prisoners often perished within weeks or months from malnourishment, psychological stress, overwork, and disease.
The mass murder of Jews by mobile Einsatzgruppen firing squads began in earnest in June 1941 as part of Operation Barbarossa. However, this method of “murder by bullets” (Father Patrick Desbois) would prove both impractical and emotionally taxing even for some of the SS, creating the need for “efficiencies” by bringing Jews from ghettos and cities to stationary killing sites located near railroad tracks to make victim transport easier. Six camps (Chelmno, Sobibor, Belzec, Treblinka, Majdanek and Auschwitz) were built with the express purpose of murdering Jews, improving upon the more primitive technology utilized in Hitler’s T-4 “euthanasia” program to murder German citizens who were disabled or emotionally disturbed: the so-called “unworthy of life”. Gassing in chambers disguised as showers would supersede other less efficient methods, such as starvation, injection of sedatives, or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Auschwitz would evolve into the epitome of the hybrid camps, constituting a concentration camp to hold and punish prisoners deemed enemies of the Nazi state; an extermination camp (Birkenau or Auschwitz 2); and a series of forced or slave labor camps (e.g. Buna-Monowitz) providing cheap, dispensable labor to factories and businesses serving the German war effort. At the height of operations, the lethal insecticide Zyklon B was utilized in chambers attached to crematoria that could asphyxiate more than 4,000 Jews per day, an improvement over earlier carbon monoxide technology for murdering Jews. More than one million Jews perished in these chambers. As a slave or forced labor camp, Auschwitz comprised subcamps located near factories and industrial sites to provide cheap slave labor producing goods for the Third Reich. For example, Buna, also known as Auschwitz III or Monowitz, was a subcamp utilizing slave labor for the IG Farben Industries to make synthetic rubber. The SS would sell Jews to IG Farben, and the latter would profit from a never-ending supply of cheap labor. Conditions were horrid, prisoners who perished from starvation, disease, and overwork would be replaced by new prisoners. Aircraft factories, mines, and other war material plants took advantage of proximity to concentration camps to profit from the cheap labor of prisoners.
--Michael D. Bulmash, K1966
Browse the Bulmash Family Holocaust Collection.
Original Prisoner Photographs for Josef Stafl (1886-1942), Auschwitz Concentration Camp Inmate
A: black and white photograph of profile of a male, ‘Pole 25670 K.L.Auschwitz’ below. B: black and white photograph of male in glasses wearing a striped hat and matching collared shirt, looking away from camera.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash:
Mr. Stafl was from the town of Nymburk (Neuenberg in German on the Elbe in the Czech Republic. He was arrested by the Gestapo and deported to the small prison (Kleine Festung) at Theresienstadt Ghetto/Concentration Camp. He was transported to Auschwitz on January 14, 1942 and received prisoner number (Haftling Nr.) 25670. He had been transferred to the hospital Block 28 (in the main camp Auschwitz I) due to illness or inability to work. He perished at Auschwitz three months later, April 4, 1942.
Frida Weber Signed Postcard
Postcard with black and white image of a woman, “Frida Weber ‘Mignon’” printed in white in upper left corner, signature in bottom right corner.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Frida Weber was a noted Jewish opera singer in Germany. She had been married to the popular Berlin singer Alexander Flessburg. Ms. Weber-Flassburg had recorded operas, songs, and operatic melodies, some with her husband. In this postcard she is pictured in the opera Mignon. After Hitler came to power in 1933, Frida Weber-Flessburg as a Jewish musician was banned from singing. Indeed, her name had appeared in the infamous Lexikon der Juden in der Musik. Subsequently her marriage failed, and after 1939, with the outbreak of WWII, she would be working in the armaments industry for the German army. Along with several other residents of her Berlin apartment building, she was ultimately picked up by the Gestapo in January 1943 and after a brief internment in a Berlin transit camp, Freda was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau where she was murdered.
Picture Postcard of Dachau
Front: Panoramic view of the small town, many of the buildings covered by trees. A church is in the middle and is the tallest building in the picture. Back: Handwritten note. Leftside is the message in German cursive. Right side has the address on it. The upper righthand corner has a green stamp of Beethoven. The bottom has several numbers written in pencil.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: A panoramic view of Dachau, a town in Upper Bavaria, mailed five years before it was to become the site of the infamous concentration camp, the first in Germany and the model for all to follow. Created by Himmler in March, 1933, the first inmates were political prisoners, communists and socialists. Within its first two years the prison population was to swell to over 100,000. Dachau was essentially born with the Third Reich and died with it, having lasted the entire 12 years of its existence.
Norway: The Donau and the Monte Rosa
black and white photograph of 'Donau' ship Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash:The deportation of the Jews of Norway followed an expectable sequence of steps involving arrest, confsication of property, having one's ID stamped with the letter "J," filling out forms detailing property, holdings, etc. Ultimately, deportation involved the active collaboration of the Norweigian police, the Quisling government, German SS and Gestapo. With less than 2000 Jews residing in Norway, and with shipping being scarce to send Norway's Jews to the extermination centers, one would not think that Germany would go through the effort required to send them to Poland. However, in the Autumn of 1942, shipping was made available and on November 26, 1942, 532 Jews were dported on the ships Donau and Monte Rosa. A total of 768 Jews were deported, and ultimately sent to Auschwitz. Only 28 survived the war. Quisling faced a firing squad; his name was to become a term of derision meaning traitor or collaborator.
Donau and Monte Rosa
Postcard with black and white photograph of two steam ships on front, and message written in blue ink on the back.
Information Provdied by Michael D. Bulmash: The deportation of the Norwegian Jews followed an expectable sequence of steps involving arrest, confiscation of property, having one's ID stamped with the letter "J," as well as filling out forms detailing property and holdings. Ultimately, deportation involved the active collaboration of the Norwegian police, the Quisling government, German SS and Gestapo. With less than 2,000 Jews residing in Norway, and with shipping being scarce to send Norway's Jews to the extermination centers, one would not think that Germany would go through the effort required to send them to Poland. However, in the Autumn of 1942, shipping was made available and on November 26, 1942, 532 Jews were dported on the ships Donau and Monte Rosa. A total of 768 Jews were deported, and ultimately sent to Auschwitz. Only 28 survived the war. Quisling faced a firing squad; his name was to become a term of derision meaning traitor or collaborator.
Rare Early Dachau Postcard From Inmate Otto Marx
Front: Off-white paper. Postcard split in half by red printed line. Right side has address written in pencil. Green stamp with a male face on it put on horizontally so that the head is looking up. Black circular Dachau stamp over with the date 22 Sep 33. Red, printed description in German: "Konzentrationslager Dachau." with purple 'Konzentrationslager Dachau gepruft' stamp over it. Back: Handwriting in pencil. Nearly rubbed off in several places. There is a fold horizontally across the postcard, as well as a vertical fold on half of it.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Postcard (type 1) from Jewish inmate Otto Marx with violet two-line censor marking (type C-1), sent to his wife Marta Marx in Weiden with 6 PF stamp tied by "Dachau/22/Sep/33" CDs .Dachau was Nazi Germany’s first concentration camp, opened on March 22, 1933, and became under Theodor Eiche a training center for SS guards and the model for other concentration camps.
Early Postcard from Concentration Camp in Ettersberg, Germany
Front: Postcard split in half by a decorate, triple green line. The right side has the address written in pencil. Green postage stamp in top right. Back: Cramped pencil writing.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Postcard from Prisoner J. Taney in the concentration camp of Ettersburg which would later become infamous as the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany near Weimar. Konzentrationslager KL cover to an Elly Taney in Nuremburg. In 1934, when this cover was mailed, Ettersburg was one of the very first concentration camps established by the Nazis and was officially a "voluntary labor" camp, before being renamed Buchenwald in 1937. This is one of the very earliest concentration camp covers.
Buchenwald Arbeitsbuch [Work Booklet] for Georg-Heinz Moses
Front: Grey paper booklet with Nazi eagle emblem and swastika.Interior: Includes pages with handwritten name "Georg-Heinz Moses," as well as stamped and written information.Back:Handwritten name: "Arbeitsbuch."
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Nazi-issued work booklet with handwriting. Grey paper booklet with Nazi emblems/page designs. Mr. Moses was likely one of 30,000 arrested after Kristallnacht and imprisoned in concentration camps.
[Related items: 2014.1.58, 2014.1.59, 2014.1.60]
Court Document Sentencing Otto Toebs for Homosexual Acts
Two documents on tan paper with typewritten and printed German. The first is titled, "Straffache."
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Two documents from the Prussian court in Berlin, sentencing one Otto Toebs to KL (Konzentrationslager) Lichtenburg for "widernatuerlicher Unzucht (perverse sodomy)." He is sentenced to one year for each act. KL Lichtenburg was among the first concentration camps in the Nazi system and was in operation from 1933 to 1939. Its first commandant was the sadistic Theodore Eicke, who ran it from May 1934 to July 1934. Promoted to SS-Brigadefuhrer in January 1934, he claimed the title of Concentration Camps Inspector for himself in May. In this role Eicke reorganized the camp system at Dachau, and utilized Dachau as a model to train guards in disciplinary techniques for concentration camp service and disciplinary measures for prisoners. All regulations for both guards and prisoners at all concentration camps throughout Germany were to follow the blueprint Eicke created at Dachau. Eicke had a role as well on the Night of the Long Knives in June, 1934, in shooting Ernst Rohm, head of the SA who was himself a homosexual. Nazi attacks on homosexuality -- closing gay bars, arresting people suspected for being gay and sending them on to concentration camps -- were all part of Hitler's campaign against all forms of "degeneracy" in the Third Reich.
Concentration Camp Index for Emil Rosenfelder
Front: Half-sheet titled "Rosenfelder" with biographical information.Back: Cursive script.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: A document for a Jew -- Emil Rosenfelder -- who has been stripped of his citizenship.
Postcard from George-Heinz Moses in Concentration Camp Buchenwald to Leipzig
Front: White postcard with printed orange postcard lines. Handwritten message in purple pencil.Back: Includes printed orange postcard lines, green postage stamp, several hand stamps, and handwritten address.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: In all likelihood Mr. Moses was one of 30,000 arrested after Kristallnacht and imprisoned in concentration camps.
[Related items: 2014.1.57, 2014.1.58, 2014.1.60]
Waffen SS Wehrpass for Herbert Fandke, A Guard at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
Small, green booklet titled "Wehrbaß" with Nazi seal on cover. Interior includes a photograph of a man, as well as other biographic information.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Wartime issue Waffen SS Wehrpass issued August 30, 1938 in Celle, Germany to concentration camp guard Herbert Fandke. Fandke was a guard at KZ Sachsenhausen. In 1944, Fandke served in flak regiments in Russia and Kurmark. This document doubled as an assembly and muster order document.
Postcard from George-Heinz Moses in Buchenwald to Leipzig
Front: White postcard with printed orange postcard lines. Includes a handwritten message and Georg-Heinz Moses' signature.Back: Includes printed orange postcard lines, green stamp and handwritten address.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: In all likelihood Mr. Moses was one of 30,000 arrested after Kristallnacht and imprisoned in concentration camps.
[Related items: 2014.1.57, 2014.1.59, 2014.1.60]
Letter from Siegfried Mundstein on Dachau Concentration Camp Stationery
Tan Dachau stationery with printed text in upper lefthand corner and printed lines. Includes a handwritten message from Siegfried Mundstein.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: A letter signed "Siegfried" on Dachau Concentration Camp inmate stationery with Nazi censor markings on last page. In this letter Siegfried Mundstein -- a Jewish inmate -- wrote to his wife. In full:"Dearest Magda! I have received your last letter of September 7 with great joy and thank you very much for the birthday congratulations. Thank the dear parents, your dear mother as well as the dear children for the congratulations. I am happily up and healthy and hope to see you all again soon. The weather was nothing special this week, but now the days are pretty again. Now, dear Magda, what about business worries? Are you the boss of the place, and are you finished with the scrubbing work? I am glad that the dear children are well behaved and healthy. Since a new school year is beginning, I wish Walter and Heinz really good success and want both of them to receive many good marks. Hopefully the children will not forget their Papa if he is also so many months away from you all. I am glad that dear mother and Malerine are healthy and are often with you. The news from Malerine is very pleasant and has definitely made Uncle Karl very happy. Thank your father again for his note and let's get ready to have the same joy. Now, Papa, how are things with you and Mama? You should remain only healthy as always. Hopefully, dear Papa, you will soon be rid of business worries, granting you and Mama, for the love of God, an exceeding old age. Your love and things as much as those of my beloved mother we must give the power without ceasing. Dear Magda, the sun will shine for us again, [and] with united strength we will begin a new life. You and the children are kissed a thousand times from your dearly loving Siegfried.Many kisses to the dear parents, mother, Malerine, Georg and Ernst. Greetings to the Pick family."
Postcard from Kristallnacht Prisoner in Dachau
Front: White postcard with handwritten message in black cursive.Back: Black printed postcard lines and text with handwritten address.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Nine days after Kristallnacht, postcard from a Dachau Jewish prisoner, identified by title "Schutzhaftjude" before his name, to his family in Speyer.
[Related items: 2014.1.57, 2014.1.58, 2014.1.59]
I.G. Farben Partial Debenture
Front: White paper with green ink and border. Emblem with shields on top. Includes text in German and a grey signature. Bottom includes several more shields.Interior: Two columns with German text.Back: Five boxes with printed German text and dotted lines, as well as a blue signature.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: I.G. Farben 100 Reichsmark debenture from 1939. Refundable date was in August 1959, but by this time the partial debenture was already invalid. On reverse are two German Bank signatures. The I.G. Farben chemical conglomerate was one of the most powerful companies in Nazi Germany, formed out of a union of Bayer, Hoechst, and BASF in the 1920s. I.G. Farben was so enmeshed with the Nazi regime that it ran its own slave labor camp at Auschwitz, known as Auschwitz III or Buna, where prisoners were forced to produce synthetic rubber and oil. The very large Buna factory was located close to Auschwitz and the inmates--at its peak more than 83,000--worked for the company under execrable conditions. When they were no longer able to work, they were simply moved to Birkenau, or Auschwitz II, where they were gased using another I.G. Farben product, the pesticide Zyklon B, produced by the German pesticide company Degesch, a company which I.G. Farben partially owned. After the war, I.G. Farben executives were indicted for war crimes, 12 of the 24 executives being sentenced to prison terms. The company was broken up into four consitutent corporations after the war, the Allies finding it too corrupt to exist as the conglomerate it was during the war.
Immigration Document for Georg-Heinz Moses
Green paper with printed text, as well as stamped/handwritten German information. Includes a photograph of Georg-Heinz Moses and a signature.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: 1939 police immigration document issued by the German consulate in Malmo, Sweden. In all likelihood Mr. Moses was one of 30,000 arrested after Kristallnacht and imprisoned in concentration camps.
[Related items: 2014.1.57, 2014.1.58, 2014.1.59]
Postcard from Deborah Lifchitz, 1939
Front: Tan postcard with printed blue postcard lines, including a message and address written in purple ink. Above the message are five postage stamps of varying colors, as well as several hand stamps.Back: Message continues in purple ink.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Deborah (Deba) Lifchitz was a French Jewish linguist, a student of Oriental languages, and expert on the Semitic languages of Ethiopia. She worked at the Musee de l’Homme in Paris in the Africa Department. She authored important works on the Ethiopian language. Born in Russia, Deba obtained French citizenship in 1937. With the Nazi occupation of France, she lost her position at the museum. Though taken in by writer and ethnologist Michel Leiris, Deborah was eventually arrested by the French police, sent to a French internment camp, and deported to Auschwitz where she was murdered in 1943.
Deborah (Deba) Lifchitz. 1939 French 70C. post card airmailed from Paris 23.11.1939 by Deba to her mother Henrietta Lifchits, Hadera, Palestine. Message in French handwritten to her, addressed in Hebrew and written two and a half months after the outbreak of WWII: "My dear ones, Your postcard received, I am pleased to learn that you also got my postcards even though it was delayed. The Tubman's are also here, you may write to them at the address. How is mother? How are you? How do you feel? And your work? Lately we are very busy at the museum in preparation of several exhibition halls, especially the Salle de L'Afrique. Very fortunately the opening is tomorrow and I will be able to return to my work... I embrace you and send my love, yours Deba." Her return address is given as "Musee de L'Homme." Hexagonal Palestine censor mark.
Concentration Camp Form
Two sided form with all lines left blank. Top left of front side begins with 'Konzentrationslager':
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Two sided concentration camp personal form that asks individuals name, address, military history, party affiliations, criminal record, etc.
Belgian Author Rene Lambrechts (1923-1981) VORLAUFIGER FREMDENPASS
Booklet with 'DEUTSCHES REICH' on cover, 16 pages total with photograph attached on page 3, various handstamps throughout.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash:
Third Reich “Provisional”alien passport for Belgian inmate and forced laborer of multiple concentration and work camps including the infamous Dora-Mittelbau near Nordhausen. Possibly a “guest worker” because not from the “racially inferior” countries?
[Related items: 2019.2.103]
Postcard from Romania
Front: Image of 'Musee militaire du Parc Carol a Bucarest' next to two postage stamps, one green with 'Posta Romana 1839-1939 and image of man and woman' other brown with profile of man. Back: Handwritten message.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Anti-Semitism in Romania prior to World War II was extreme, but escalated to mass murder once the war began. As in Germany, Romanian Jews were stripped of their civil rights. In January 1941, the Fascist Iron Guard Legionnaires attacked and laid waste to the Jewish Quarter of Bucharest. Thousands of Jews were slaughtered. The Romanians became an ally of the Nazis with the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The Romanian army under dictator Ion Antonescu, cooperating with Einsatzgruppe D, massacred over 100,000 Jews in Bessarabia and Bukovnia. As well, massacres occurred in the Western Ukraine and Odessa. Throughout the summer of 1942, survivors of the massacres in Bessarabia and Bukovnia were deported to death camps in Transnistria, where 120,000 perished from starvation, hypothermia, disease and murder. Antonescu himself ordered the execution of more than 35,000 Jews from Odessa during the siege. In all, approximately 400,000 Jews were murdered during Antonescu's dictatorship. Targu-Jiu was a concentration camp for political internees and Jews.
Life Insurance Document for Margot Loewenstein
Front: A tan card stapled onto a larger green card. Tan card includes typewritten information, as well as several stamps, including a large red Star of David with the word "Jude."Back: A printed chart with writing.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: A disturbing set of three typed documents (2012.1.44, 2012.1.45, 2012.1.46) from Berlin. Each is ominously stamped "Jude" in a large red Star of David, concerning the life insurance policy of one Margot Lowenstein of Hamburg, who fled Nazi Germany in August 1939 for England. Under German law, Jews who left the country or were forcibly deported were forced to forfeit any benefits or monies due on existing life insurance policies. The document, loosely translated, in part reads: "According to our records, the claimant is a Jew who has left the country and has forfeited her German nationality. At present the above policy is due... We waive the certificate of insurance in the interest of the Reich..." This is a morbid reminder of the lengths the Nazi regime went to bilk Jews out of every last penny.
Mauthausen Camp Death Certificate
Off-white paper with bold German title, including printed and typewritten information, with a black signature at the bottom.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: A pair of certificates (2012.1.3, 2012.1.4) certifying the death of an inmate. The first, dated march 1940, states that John Metz, a forty-one year-old prisoner, died of "chronic illness and a heart attack." The second document, dated January 20, 1943, notified Alexandra Rutkiewski that her husband perished of a "lung infection" and that his body was cremated. Even more insultingly, it states as well that a death certificate is available for 72 pfennigs. Of course, many of the inmates at Mauthausen were worked to death in the granite quarry while receiving only starvation rations. Prisoners were divided into two groups: one that hacked the granite and the other that carried the 100 pound slabs up the 186 steep steps to the top of the quarry. Regardless of the real cause of death, for SS "doctors," "the official version was always euphemized to conceal the reality of "life" in this category three camp where prisoners were subject to "vernichtung durch arbeit" (extermination through work). For all prisoners life in Mauthausen meant "ruckkehr unerwunscht" (return not desired)."
Auschwitz File Form Reporting German Jewish Man Has Been “Transported”
Typed information, 'Simon' in top right. Purple hand stamp at bottom, red pencil markings.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Gunter Ernst Leopold Simon of Berlin, already stripped of his citizenship, is transported to Auschwitz. Signed in pencil by the Camp's attorney at bottom with a red grease-pencil notation at right reading "transport."
Letter from Theodor Eicke
Tan paper with typewritten messages on either side, bearing several signatures.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Theodor Eicke (1892-1943) was a German Military Officer, Commander of the SS-Divison Totenkopf of the Waffen-SS and one of the key figures in the establishment of concentration camps in Nazi Germany. Eicke was involved in the execution of SA chief Ernst Rohm during the purge known as the "Night of the Long Knives". As a division commander of the SS Totenkopf, Eicke writes in1940 to Berlin concerning a notorious SS Obersturmfuhrer Friedrich Fritz Hartjenstein. Eicke discusses a transfer of Hartjenstein, indicating that there was no room for an officer of his rank in his (Eicke's) division. Hartjenstein would join Eicke's Totenkopf division later in 1941. As commandant of the Dachau concentration camp, and inspector of concentration camps in general , Eicke was a stern disciplinarian who set- for the SS who ran the camps-merciless standards for managing the prisoners . He was killed in 1943 when his aircraft was shot down in the Soviet Union.