The myth of thorough documentation of the Holocaust
An AOL article titled Still a Struggle to ID Holocaust Victims says,
Harry Stein sits nose-to-screen, squinting at the fuzzy digits in column after column on faded microfilm, searching for clues to a mystery: Who was Auschwitz inmate 185403?
The number was tattooed on the left forearm of one of the thousands who were processed through Auschwitz, shipped off to Buchenwald concentration camp, and never seen again.
Male? Female? Old? Young? Jewish? Christian? Reason for arrest? The list Stein is scrutinizing says nothing. There's only that number.
More than six decades after the Nazi Holocaust ended, historians such as Stein are still struggling with a gargantuan task - to make a semblance of order among hundreds of thousands of dead by finding, at least, their names.
There is no central catalog -- just miles and miles of files, scattered across Europe, the United States, Israel and elsewhere. Of 56,000 people who perished behind the barbed wire at Buchenwald alone, or on the way there, 23,000 on the camp's records remain unidentified.
The total number of deaths is not the only issue -- another issue is the total number of Jews. How can we know how many of the victims were Jews when we don't even know the identities of so many of the victims? And how can it be verified that victims identified by the Nazis as Jews actually were Jews? And there are no objective criteria for determining who is a Jew and who is not.
The article also says,
. . . . . the International Tracing Service, or ITS, holds some 1.5 million original Nazi documents from Buchenwald. If Stein and his team of six researchers could plumb this collection, the job would be much easier.
But this largest archive of original Nazi records in existence is off-limits to historians. Administered by the International Committee of the Red Cross and governed by an international panel, the ITS' sole mandate for six decades has been to trace the fate of victims or reunite families torn apart by World War II.
"They have these documents that could clarify the fate of so many people, and they are just sitting on them," said Sabine Stein, Buchenwald's chief archivist, who is married to Harry . . .
. . . . .Jean-Luc Blondel, an assistant to the president of the ICRC who served as interim director at the ITS, says he is aware of historians' frustrations, but insists the primary task of the archive is to reunite families.
"Our priority is to catch up with the humanitarian personal requests, and it takes up a lot of our energies," said Blondel.
Last May, the 11-nation commission overseeing the ITS agreed to open the files to researchers. But ratification by the individual countries is required before that can happen. Some have promised to speed the process, but it could be years before all 11 are on board.
Meanwhile, the Steins have learned to follow a circuitous paper trail from archives held at Auschwitz to others maintained by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem gathering copies of recopies, mostly of the original lists held by the ITS.
What does the ITS's purpose of reuniting families have to do with allowing Holocaust historians access to the ITS database? Another phony excuse for denying historians access to the database is to protect people's privacy. Ridiculous.
As for the Yad Vashem database, a fairly recent news article -- dated 9-19-06 -- about the reuniting of two siblings after 65 years said that there were at that time only two known cases of living siblings being reunited through this database:
Yad Vashem spokeswoman Estee Yaari said this was only the second known case of living siblings discovering each other through the database. Last June, two sisters who had survived the Holocaust and moved separately to Israel were reunited after 61 years.
The reuniting of those two sisters after 61 years is described here. How is it possible that only two pairs of living siblings were reunited through the Yad Vashem database? How many other people mistakenly thought that particular relatives had died in the Holocaust? One would think that the Yad Vashem database would be one of the first references consulted by Holocaust survivors looking for information about lost relatives.
I am also wondering why the Nazis recorded and saved documentation of their crimes.
Another flagrant example of the poor documentation of the Holocaust has been the wild variation in the official numbers of deaths at Auschwitz, from 1 to 4 million.
The International Tracing Service (ITS) is also discussed here.
Labels: Holocaust revisionism (1 of 2)