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
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Cover from Miranda de Ebro Concentration Camp to Cracow, Poland, General Gouvernment, Sent by a Polish Prisoner
Envelope with red ink stamp "2239" in bottom left corner, three black circular ink stamps, one blue circular ink stamp, 4 postal stamps on the top right corner, two black, and two Franco stamps: one green, on purple. These postal stamps are partially covered by brown censor strip along the right border. Handwritten address in light blue on the back reads, "Miranda de Ebro (Burgos), C. de Conc. [Campo de Concentración], España-Espanien”.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash:At the time this letter was posted, there were over 5000 detainees in Miranda de Ebro, one of almost 200 concentration camps used throughout Spain to house those hostile to Franco regime, including 600-700 remnants of the International Brigade, as well as men attempting to escape France via Spain to Portugal or Gibraltar.
Cover to "Kommandant" of Amersfoort Durchgangslager
Envelope with purple postage stamp marked “NEDERLAND 10 CENT” in top right corner, addressed to “Dem Herrn Kommandant.”
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Amersfoort in the Netherlands was considered a Durchgangslager or Police transit camp. Prisoners were eventually to be sent on to major extermination centers such as Auschwitz, Sobibor, or Mauthausen. Conditions were as appalling as the worst of concentration camps. Prisoners could be Dutch or Belgian political prisoners, Soviet prisoners of war, or Jews. Hunger, disease, poor hygiene, as well as cruelty and violence from the guards and administration were commonplace.
Correspondence from Buchenwald Inmate
Envelope: Green envelope on Buchenwald stationery. Addressed in black ink to Herma Winklharon.Letter on Buchenwald stationery. Includes orange printed text and lines. Message handwritten in black ink.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Censored formula lettersheet from inmate in Buchenwald Concentration Camp to Vienna to family member.
Postcard from Brcko with USTASE Insignia
Front: Tan postcard with message written in green ink. Hand stamp with name of sender in black on bottom right corner. Back: Teal printed postcard lines, with printed stamp and border on the right side. Next to printed stamp is a pasted purple stamp. Two black circular handstamps, one between the printed and pasted stamps, and one lower on the border. Address written on printed green lines in green ink.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Postcard from Brcko (1942) with Ustase insignia. The Independent State of Croatia was a fascist puppet state ruled by the Usstase under the leadership of Ante Pavlic, subsequent to the invasion of Yugoslavia by the Nazis in April, 1941. Actions against Jews commenced immediately. Leaders of the Catholic Church joined the anti-Semitic propaganda. In August 1941 concentration camps were established, including Jasenovac and Stara Gradiska for women and children. It has been estimated that as many as 100,000 people were murdered in Jasenovac concentration camps by the end of the war, including Jews, Roma, Croats and Serbs.
Stock Certificate for Degussa and Dessauer (1000 Reichsmark)
Certificate, detailed markings within pink center and brown border inside a plain white border, "Reichsmark 1000.-" printed in top right corner.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: By 1942, the Jews of Europe were marked for total extermination, and by 1942, when these stock certificates were issued, Zyklon B had become the preferred means of industrial scale murder in the Third Reich. Ultimately more than one million people were murdered in gas chambers at extermination centers such as Auschwitz and Majdanek through the Nazi use of canisters of Zyklon B. Death from dropping crystals of Zyklon B down openings in the gas-chamber room was terrifying, painful and agonizingly slow, and was visited on men, women, and children. The canisters themselves- the Zyklon B packaging system- were developed by Bruno Tesch and Walter Heerdt of Degusa, a German specialty chemical firm. Degusa had already purchased, Degesch the company that developed the hydrogen cyanide-based formula of Zyklon in 1922 for use as a pesticide. Degusa thus owned the chemical formula and the packaging system for Zyklon B. By the year of these stock certificates [2019.2.10 and 2019.2.11] the Nazis, through a demonic matrix of major German industrial firms, were able to achieve the ultimate rationalization of the processes underlying the mass production of death: Dessauer produced and manufactured Zyklon B; Degussa owned the formula; Degesch provided the labels and canisters; Tesch and Stabenow (Testa) distributed Zyklon B for Degesch to the SS for its use in concentration camps; industrial conglomerate I.G. Farben, whose massive facilities at Auschwitz employed slave labor, controlled more than 40 percent of Degesch; and Topf and Sohne made the crematoria and its ventilation system. Bruno Tesch’s role in selling the Zyklon B to the SS with the certain knowledge of its use in murdering humans cost him his life: he was tried for his crimes in executed in 1946.
SS Feldpost Auschwitz-Oswiecim Reichsfuehrer SS
Envelope: Green, 'Auschwitz-Oberschles' handstamp in upper right corner. Back: Three words written at top. Letter: Large handwriting in blue ink,
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Feldpost sent in 1942 by SS man who worked at Auschwitz. Unusual handstamp that carries both the German and the Polish name of the town where the camp was located.
Seizure of Residence in Riga, Latvia Notice
A "Beschlagnahmeverfügung" [seizure order] with eviction message printed beneath, and a green hand stamp with the Reichsadler. This notice was issued by SA Colonel and Riga-area Commissar Joachim Fust.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Notice meant to be stuck to a door or window of a private home, stating that the home has been seized and that it is prohibited for anyone to remove any furniture. Issued by the Riga area commissar, Fust, who was a ranking member of the S.A. 22 April 1942. In all probability meant for the seizure of Jewish property in Riga.
Letter and Envelope to Elice Raoux, Montfort, France Regarding Jewish Citizens of Rouen, France
White envelope and letter handwritten in blue ink.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Partial translation: "Just a word in a hurry to inform you that all the Jewish people of Rouen have been arrested in the night from Friday to Saturday. Men, women and children have all been taken away and they came to Drancy Saturday morning. I think that "the Tigress" [an unknown individual] is among them. Deportations to the East are envisaged. Try to send news of yourself to Camille because you are the only person who connects him to the civilized people. I am not sure, but there is a great probability that Holstein would be among the prisoners, seeing as Levy Risle and his whole family have been arrested a preceding night..."
Stock Certificate for Degussa and Dessauer (1000 Reichsmark)
Certificate, detailed markings within green center and orange border inside a plain white border, "RM 1000.-" printed in top right corner.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: By 1942, the Jews of Europe were marked for total extermination, and by 1942, when these stock certificates were issued, Zyklon B had become the preferred means of industrial scale murder in the Third Reich. Ultimately more than one million people were murdered in gas chambers at extermination centers such as Auschwitz and Majdanek through the Nazi use of canisters of Zyklon B. Death from dropping crystals of Zyklon B down openings in the gas-chamber room was terrifying, painful and agonizingly slow, and was visited on men, women, and children. The canisters themselves- the Zyklon B packaging system- were developed by Bruno Tesch and Walter Heerdt of Degussa, a German specialty chemical firm. Degussa had already purchased, Degesch the company that developed the hydrogen cyanide-based formula of Zyklon in 1922 for use as a pesticide. Degussa thus owned the chemical formula and the packaging system for Zyklon B. By the year of these stock certificates [2019.2.10 and 2019.2.11] the Nazis, through a demonic matrix of major German industrial firms, were able to achieve the ultimate rationalization of the processes underlying the mass production of death: Dessauer produced and manufactured Zyklon B; Degussa owned the formula; Degesch provided the labels and canisters; Tesch and Stabenow (Testa) distributed Zyklon B for Degesch to the SS for its use in concentration camps; industrial conglomerate I.G. Farben, whose massive facilities at Auschwitz employed slave labor, controlled more than 40 percent of Degesch; and Topf and Sohne made the crematoria and its ventilation system. Bruno Tesch’s role in selling the Zyklon B to the SS with the certain knowledge of its use in murdering humans cost him his life: he was tried for his crimes in executed in 1946.
Rare Postcard from Auschwitz Prisoner in Block 11
Postcard marked "Postkarte" in black print on right side, "Konzentrationslager Auschwitz" in black print on left side, red postage stamp of Hitler in top right corner. Back includes "Auschwitz 1.5.1942." written at the top.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Block 11 was located in Auschwitz I, near the execution wall, in the main camp, and was intended exclusively for punishing prisoners through torture. Prisoners could be confined to dark cells for varying periods of time, or even confined to cells for death by starvation. They could be forced to stand in the so-called standing cells- four prisoners in less than 1 square meter of space- for days and sometimes weeks, while still being required to work the next day. This prisoner, Paul Muller, writes a reassuring message, reporting that he is healthy.
Postcard from Concentration/Extermination Camp Stara Gradiska
Front: Tan with black printed postcard lines and text. Includes writing in pencil and several black hand stamps.Back: Black printed postcard lines and text with writing in pencil. Includes a purple hand stamp.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Stationary from the concentration/extermination camp Stara Gradiska to Zagreb. Censored with the stamps removed. Stara Gradiska was a notorious extermination center in Croatia, a sub-camp of Jasenovac, specifically constructed for Serbian, Jewish and Romani women and children. Like Jasenovac, it is run by the Ustasia. Inmates were tortured, strangled, starved, and gassed. On one night in late August 1942 -- over a month after this letter was written -- one guard slit the throats over 1,360 prisoners.
Postcard Sent by Woman Before Her Deportation
Tan postcard with red printed postcard lines and message written in black ink. Addressed to Ludwig Eppstein from L. Katzenberg.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Postcard mailed from mother-in-law L. Katzenberg to Ludwig Eppstein, her son-in-law. Mailed from Hoppstadter (Nahe) to Italy. Translation:"My love ones, happy with your birthday wishes. To my great sorrow have no news from our beloved ones... We are getting ready to move, it should be happen next week [deportation to the death camps in the east] ... I know you are about to experience rough times I wish I was able to spare it from you... It will be most difficult to send you any mail from there... My sole comfort is that Marinca does not have to go through this... Hope for the best and that we will meet again in the future. Mother."
Identity Card for Janette Kornreich, from Bukovnia: "Oficiul Judetean Al Evreilor Cernăuţi Carte de Identitate."
Front: Identification card with stapled black and white photograph of a young girl crossed out in blue ink and large yellow Star of David. Titled, "Oficiul Judetean Al Evreilor Cernăuţi Carte de identitate."Back: Printed and written text including identification number 39939.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: This identity document shows 11 year old Romanian student Janet Kornreich, who lived in Cernauti in Northern Bukovina, and includes signatures and seals from 1941, 1942 and 1943. Almost the entire Jewish community of northern Bucovina was destroyed by the deportations to the death camps over the Dniester river. The ultimate fate of Janette Kornreich , is unknown. While she may have been swallowed up in the nightmare that was Transnistria, there is a hopeful hint of a different outcome in her record at Yad Vashem: Janet’s parents had converted to Christianity (she is on a list of converts) and Janette therefore may have been spared the fate of other Jews. As well her ID is signed for 1943 when the very worst aspects of the murderous treatment of the Jews in Transnistrian slave labor camps were beginning to abate, and she may have survived.
Censored Letter from Auschwitz to Krakau
Front: Creases to fold into sixths; printed 'Konzentrationslager Auschwitz' at center left. Address written in pencil, red 'Deutsches Reich' postage stamp of Hitler. Reverse: pink 'Gepruft 4 K.L. Auschwitz' stamp on bottom.
Postcard from an SS Man to his Sister
Front: Tan postcard with an illustration of jumping antelope and handwritten message in German.Back: Continuation of handwritten message in blue ink. Addressed to Marianne Schaale.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Feldpost from Sankt Georg an Der Gusen, site of the Mauthausen/Gusen Concentration Camp in Austria. From SS man to his sister. With KL Mauthausen handstamp.
Postcard from Targu Jiu Concentration Camp to Bucharest
Front: Address written in purple ink; three hand stamps; circular purple with 'B' at center, maroon letters, circular black with date; Printed green stamp with image of man in profile. Back: Handwritten note in pencil.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Rare Censored Romanian Postcard from Transit/Concentration Camp Targu Jiu forwarded to family member in Bucharest. During this period of time, Romania, under fascist dictator Ion Antonescu, was an ally of Nazi Germany. In 100,000 to 120,000 Jews of Bessarabia and Bukovnia were murdered by the Romanian army. As well massacres occurred in Odessa and Iasi along with programs in other cities. Survivors were deported to death camps in Transnistria (between Dniester and Bug Rivers) and ghettos in Western Ukraine. 120,000 of these deportees were murdered or perished due to starvation and disease along with the indigenous Jews of Transnistria. Targu Jiu was a transit camp where many Jews and political prisoners were interned prior to being sent to Transnistria. The postcard was sent by Jancu Lazarovici, interned at Targu Jiu. He was in all likelihood murdered during the Holocaust as he is listed in the Yad Vashem Database of Victims.
Letter from KZ Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
Front: Tan paper with red type on the top, 'Ronzentrationslager Sachsenhausen, Dranienburg bei Berlin'. Back: Split into two halves by a fold. One half has the adressee written on red dotted lines in large cursive in black ink. Has a censor mark (D) in a black stamp on bottom left corner. Top right corner has red stamp of Hitler's profile facing right, with a black circular stamp covering part of it. Other half has the prisoner's name, number and block written in.
Sachsenhausen-Orienburg Concentration Camp Letter , Ornamented by Prisoner
Front: Red printed message on top in German, titled: "Konzentrationslager Sachsenhausen." On the side and above the handwritten message are colorful flowers in yellow, pink, blue, green and black. They run up the left side and to the top of the message. There is a fold in the middle. Back: On one side of the fold is the address. Simply written addressee on red dotted line. On the righthand corner is a pink stamp of Hitler's profile facing left with a black, circular Oranienburg stamp. Bottom lefthand corner has a blue stamp with the letter E inside it, with a pencil scribble over it (censor mark). The other side of the fold has the name of the prisoner written in on a red dotted line with his cell number and block.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Censored Concentration Camp Sachsenhausen-Orienburg lettersheet with rare prisoner drawing.
Gross-Rosen Concentration Camp Death Notice Signed by Wilhelm Jobst
Certificate with taped edges, stamp of Nazi emblem in blue ink in lower left side, line of dots and dashes printed under "Todesbescheinigung" in black print.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Death notice for prisoner Siegmund Pamula, from Krakow, who perished at Gross-Rosen, from phlegmon and sepsis,” signed by the camp doctor Waffen-SS Physician Wilhelm Jobst. Whether this prisoner’s death is the result of brutal conditions in the camp, harsh treatment, or execution is not known. However, the records were often falsified to conceal the treatment prisoners received. Jobst himself was a camp doctor at Gross-Rosen from 1939-1942, after which he was sent to other camps, a satellite camp of Mauthausen and Sachsenhausen. After the war, he was found guilty by a U.S. Military court and sentenced to death.
Mauthausen Death Notice
Yellowed paper form with typewritten black text, blanks filled in with handwriting . A signature in blue ink at bottom right.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Notice sent to Frau Hedwig Krzenski-Kriscski informing her that her husband Viktor had died a few days earlier of lung disease and had just been cremated in the early 1940's. "Lung disease" is doubtless a euphemism—Lager- speak—for being worked to death under inhumane, insufferable conditions. Most of what Nazi's regarded as Polish intelligentsia were sent to Mauthausen where the great majority perished. For .72RM she could be in receipt of the death certificate.
Censored Auschwitz Letter Sheet from Polish Prisoner Feliks Suligowski
Message written in pencil on Auschwitz stationery.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash:
Letter written to his wife Irene. In part…”I received your letter and thank you very much. Whenever I receive good reports from you, I feel very much encouraged. It gives me hope and strength to carry on. When I see the address and number of your house, I feel relieved. I read your letter at once to find out if everyone at home is well. I was again very happy to receive a good report. I was deeply touched when you told me that you had knitted winter articles for me. We are provided with warm clothing. I do not need anything. Please let the children make use of the things. Anyway, we are not permitted to receive packages. I am happy that I enjoy good health. In my last letter I requested news regarding the entire family. Here is hoping that I will hear from you again soon. I would also like to ask to have the children write to me again. Greetings to all of my relatives and my dear friends. Greetings and kisses. Feliks
Sachsenhausen-Orienburg Concentration Camp Letter
Front: Handwritten note in black ink, 'konzentrationslager sachsenhausen' printed in red at top left. Attached is a pink note titled "Lebensmittelpakete." Back: Handwritten address, red 'Deutsches Reich' Hitler at top right; 'L' ciruclar handstamp at bottom left.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Censored lettersheet from a prisoner named Horst Grimicke in the Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg Concentration camp near Berlin which was part of the larger Sachsenhausen concentration camp complex and slave labor camp complex. Postmarked December 6, 1942. Mailed to Rene Grimicke in Dresden. Pink insert about food packages sent to prisoners.
Geheim (Secret) Estonian Police Document
Half-page typewritten document with "Geheim" and "R" stamps and "Böhl" signature in green.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: A 1942 document, stamped "secret" ("geiheim") from the files of the Estonian police. It ordered that they give "special treatment" (euphemism for liquidate) to three Jewish Partisans.
The Mass Extermination of Jews in German Occupied Poland
Cream-colored pamphlet titled, "The Mass Extermination of Jews in German Occupied Poland" with red text. Interior includes information written in English.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: A document addressed by the exiled Polish government to the governments of the United Nations in 1942. The pamphlet is concerned with the mass extermination of Jews in German-occupied Poland, and the Nazi's 'fresh horrifying methods' of extermination. The Polish government in exile was first to reveal in November 1942, through its currier Jan Karski, the atrocities committed by Nazis and existence of concentration camps.
Copy of Proposal Submitted to Ethnological Foundation from Dr. August Hirt (copy from USHMM)
Front: Inverse colored reproduction of a typewritten document in German. This proposal submitted to the ethnological foundation (Ahnenerbe-Stiftung) was introduced as evidence at Nuremberg Doctor's Trial.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash:
Dr. August Hurt (1898-1945): Proposal submitted to ethnological foundation (Ahnenerbe-Stiftung), introduced as evidence at Nuremberg Doctors' Trial. 1943. Hirt was a captain in the SS and chairman at Reich University in Strasbourg. Working with the Ahnenerbe division he, Wolfram Sievers and Bruno Beger collected corpses from inmates in order to create an anatomical specimen collection primarily of Jews selected from concentration camps in a pseudoscientific effort to identify physiological differences between the "races." 109 Jews were selected to be gassed, their bodies returned to Hirt at his laboratory for preparation as a display. In this proposal he is attempting to get the Ahnenerbe Foundation to support his ethnological "research." In the Nuremberg Doctors' Trial of 1946, 23SS physicians, scientists, and officials were indicted for crimes against humanity, and accused of committing "murders... tortures, and atrocities and other inhuman acts" through medical experimentation as well as through euthanasia and forced sterilization. Hirt committed suicide before he could be brought to trial.