Archive reveals full horror of Hitler's executioners

In the quiet town of Bad Arolsen, in a former Nazi SS barracks, lies probably the most exhaustive record of human misery ever kept. The details, which can be found in more than 47 million files covering 16 miles of shelves, are contained in ordinary hardback writing books that might be found in any school classroom.

Punctiliously noted in the Totenbuch or Death Book kept at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria is the camp commandant's "present" to Hitler on the occasion of the Führer's birthday on 20 April 1942. Three hundred Russian prisoners were specially selected for execution to mark the event.

The death list covers how each prisoner was subjected to a so-called Genickschuss or neck shot - a single bullet fired from a pistol pressed against the base of the skull. The names, inmate numbers, dates and places of birth are meticulously recorded on each line. The slaughter started at 11.20 am, when the wordGenickschuss first appears, and is repeated 299 times every two minutes thereafter.

This week files containing details of some 17 million victims of the Nazi death camp and slave labour system have been made public for the first time.

During the past six decades they have been used exclusively by the Red Cross International Tracing Service to establish the fate of the millions who went missing under Nazi rule. The files were kept off limits to the public largely because of German objections about the need to protect victims' privacy. But last Tuesday the 11-nation commission which controls the archive finally agreed to open the files to historians for the first time. The data will provide fresh insights into the workings of the Nazi death and slave labour machine.

Ulrich Herbert, a historian at Freiburg University, said: "These are terrible stories from a terrible time. It is frustrating, even appalling, that these records have been kept off limits to researchers for so long."

The archives spell out the barbarity of Nazi rule inflicted on millions in terse but telling detail. One file records the plight of Katrina, a French woman arrested by the Gestapo for "complaining that she was involuntarily sterilised by the authorities after giving birth to a coloured bastard".

Another records the fate of a German banker sent to Buchenwald concentration camp in 1937 after an informant overheard him criticising the Nazi regime. He was given "25 strokes for laziness" in 1944 and a mouthful of "missing teeth" after interrogation.

There is also the story of a 31-year-old nurse who was forced to wear a black and yellow "Star of David" branding her as a Jewish "race defile". Her file notes: "The woman is a half-Jew who lives with her Aryan boyfriend. She acknowledges they have had sexual relations." The woman disappeared after being dispatched to Ravensbrück concentration camp.

Since 1945, the Red Cross has relied on the Bad Arolsen files to respond to more than 11 million requests from 62 countries for information about relatives who went missing under Nazi rule. Last year alone the number of queries was more than 150,000. The records have recently been used to help slave labour victims claim compensation. Some have been able to claim simply because camp de-lousing records enabled them to be identified.

Apart from providing galling historical detail about Nazi rule, Jewish groups say that the files will provide a powerful antidote to Holocaust denial.

Israel Singer, of the World Jewish Council, said: "The millions of written documents proving Nazi mass murder against Jews will be open for researchers. It is a strike against all Holocaust deniers."

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam