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Learning From The Past

Perhaps a year ago, maybe a bit more, I posted an item or two on the prospective opening of "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 by the war-time Allies.

According to Assaf Uni
in this morning's Ha'aretz:

The archive contains four collections. The 'imprisonment list' is the most interesting in terms of the information that it provides. It includes documents from concentration camps, ghettos and prison camps dating from 1933 to 1945. It was copied in its entirety in the 1950s by the Yad Vashem Holcaust Memorial and transfered to Jerusalem, but at Bad Arolsen it's more accessible. It has also been copied digitally in recent years and transfered to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and to Yad Vashem, and may soon be accessible on the Internet.

The second collection contains 'documents from the period of the war,' with information about forced laborers in Germany beginning in 1939, including places of work and illness reports. The third collection, which is the largest, contains 'documents after the war,' with lists of all refugees and displaced persons who passed through Germany and all of Europe after the war. The fourth collection is information concerning lost children.

These collections are now open, subsequent to the long-delayed agreement by Greece, the last of the eleven-country council that administers the archive, to give its consent.  What fears did Greece have of the secrets held in the archives?  In fact, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch had tried to help Greek Jewry during the catastrophe.  But, regardless, Greece had the largest death ratio in occupied Europe. In Thessaloniki and Rhodes, maybe two percent (or less) of their Jews survived.

In any case, what particularly interested me in the Ha'aretz article was the focus on the "twenty days of systematic murder of prisoners in the Majdanek concentration camp...detailed in a thick office binder.."

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.

Lublin was the big town near the small village (shtetl) from which my parents hailed.  My mother had five siblings of which one (and his daughter) survived.  My father had eight siblings, each I suppose with four or five progeny.  Only one of these survived, having escaped Levertov in August 1939, just before the war started, and landed with a group of young pioneers in Palestine where they founded a kibbutz called Sha'ar Hagolan.  The rest were murdered,  Yes, all of them.  Forty?  Fifty?  Maybe more?  Perhaps they are detailed in the pages of the binder.  Or in another one.

Here's the whole article.

Do not expect miracles. The weight of the evidence will not persuade Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or others whose dementia is mixed with their religious convictions.