MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

News

A unique cover. Historical proof of the crime.

ps
21-01-2020

A unique historical object has enriched the Collections of the Auschwitz Museum. It is a photo album framed in a cover made of human skin. Research by Museum experts indicates that it could have been created at the German concentration camp in Buchenwald.

 

Fot. Marek Lach
Fot. Marek Lach
Fot. Marek Lach
Fot. Marek Lach
Fot. Marek Lach
Fot. Marek Lach

The Museum Collections already contain another, very similar object, due to the execution technique. Thanks to it, comparative research could be performed using FT-IR technology. Using a spectrophotometer available to the Museum's conservation laboratories, the composition of both covers could be established.

'The comparative analysis revealed the content of human skin and very similar amounts of polyamide 6 and polyamide 6.6. The content of polymers used for the production of synthetic fibres is all the more important because they were invented no later than in 1935. The information allows us to determine when the cover was created. During the Second World War, polyamides were a technical novelty, and access to them was limited. In the territory of the Reich, artificial fibres were used to produce parachutes,' said Elżbieta Cajzer, head of the Auschwitz Museum Collections.

According to accounts by prisoners of the German concentration camp in Buchenwald, human skin was treated at the camp as material for the production of objects of everyday use: book bindings, wallets
Karol Konieczny, a former prisoner of the Buchenwald camp, related in his account: "I bound the whole thing in covers received from my colleagues from the camp bookbinding workshop. Of course, as one can easily guess, the covers were made of human skins, which came from the "resources" of the SS. The idea was to secure documents of Nazi bestiality and genocide."

'The research suggests that it is very likely that both dust jackets, owing to their technology and composition, came from the same bookbinding workshop. The use of human skin as a production material is directly associated with the figure of Ilse Koch, who, along with her husband, has disgracefully inscribed her name in history as the murderer from the camp in Buchenwald,' added Cajzer.

As evidenced by the folds on the cardboard, cut to fit on the paper cover, there were more than 100 photographs and postcards in the album, which were placed again in the dust jacket. The photographs depict mainly views and panoramas.

According to information gathered by the Museum staff, the album and the cover belonged to a Bavarian family that ran a guest-house in a health resort town during the Second World War. The cover was likely given to the owners as a gift by a crew member of the Buchenwald camp.

The object, which is undoubtedly a proof of the crime against humanity, is now in the possession of the museum thanks to the courtesy of the donor, Mr Paweł Krzaczkowski. We got in touch with him thanks to the Sosenko Family Collections Foundation.