International conference "Archiving digital data of victims of Nazism"
More than 50 experts from 28 institutions and 15 countries involved in databases of World War II victims, met on 10-12 October to discuss the possibilities of cooperation in creating digital tools to intensify research and scientific analyses on victims of genocide during the II World War.
Digital registers created will not only serve academic activities but above all commemorate all persons victimised, imprisoned and murdered.
– Three generations of archivists, documentalists, historians, researchers, conservators, genealogists and ordinary people tried to collect dispersed materials, documents, photographs and artefacts. They gathered testimonies of survivors, interviewed witnesses and secured the relics of buildings and fences. Mass graves were marked and commemorated – said Krzysztof Antończyk, head of the Digital Repository at the Auschwitz Museum.
– People searching for their family members wanted to know, whether their loved ones had survived, or at least, what is or what was their fate? When we ask ourselves why we do it, we realise that it is not just for the sake of research, but above all the desire to commemorate. For the memory of those who passed away, for us living today and for subsequent generations – Antończyk added.
Every year, at conferences which have been organised for nearly two decades, experts meet to exchange experiences at memorials sites established at former German Nazi concentration and extermination camps, transit camps and ghettos (among others Auschwitz, Gross-Rosen, Stutthof, Dachau, Flossenbürg, Sachsenhausen, Jasenovac, Ravensbrück, Osthofen, Westerbork, Terezin, or Mechelen); archives (including Bundesarchiv, Historical Archives of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki in Saloniki, Dokumentationsarchiv des österreichischen Widerstandes in Vienna, Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives in Budapest); institutes, universities and museums (Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Holocaust Museum in Washington, Institute of National Remembrance, Studienkreis Deutscher Widerstand 1933-1945 in Frankfurt am Main, Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, Gedenksätte Deutscher Widerstand in Berlin, Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris, NIOD Instituut voor Oorlogs-, Holocaust- en Genocidestudies, Stiftung Topographie des Terrors in Berlin); as well as the search services (Netherlands Red Cross in the Hague, Polish Red Cross in Warsaw, ITS - International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen).
The Auschwitz Memorial has hosted the conference participants for the third time. In addition to participation in sessions in which activities of particular institutions are presented, the participants may explore the work of various departments of the Auschwitz Museum (the Digital Repository, Collections and Conservation). The guests also visited block 2 and 3 of the former Auschwitz I camp and the preserved prisoners’ barracks at the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp. During a four-hour study visit around the so-called Interessengebiet des KL Auschwitz, Dr Jacek Lachendro from the Museum Research Centre showed the visitors relics preserved in the camp zone and talked about the sub-camps.
The Auschwitz Memorial was established in 1947 and has been using digital methods in its work for 27 years. Archival materials and information contained in them on the fate of prisoners and deportees are compiled in databases. Digital copies of documents are created in the form of scans, and the identities of prisoners and those murdered are published on the Museum’s website.
– The database was created based on original documents from the period of the camp’s operation and reflects about 60% of the 400,000 registered prisoners. However, more than 900,000 men, women and children from the Jewish transports deported to Auschwitz from all over Europe were selected upon arrival and murdered in the gas chambers without registration. Thanks to international cooperation within the framework of annual workshops and exchange of data between institutions, we will be able to establish the identity of many more victims – Krzysztof Antończyk, emphasised
Currently, the Auschwitz Memorial Digital Repository contains 1.2 million personal records; although, it is worth noting that the names of many people are repeated in several different sets of archival documents.