Depressing Reading

This blog entry was originally posted on 12/16/2016.  It was accidentally deleted while working on an upgrade to my website.

Today, I was researching a passage for a manuscript. In the book, the good guys are hunting a former SS officer who is wanted for war crimes. Earlier in the story, the man changed his name before he was captured by the Americans and was ultimately released because he was thought to be just a senior enlisted man in the Wehrmacht.

Later this character escaped from Germany with the help of an organization called Odessa.  Many Germans and others said  that Odessa didn’t exist and was the figment of the great novelist Frederick Forsyth. However, the evidence says otherwise. Odessa was real and was funded by wealthy German industrialists who wanted to help members of the Hitler regime escape prosecution.

This research led me to create a fictional character by the name of Brauner and forced me to create a personal history that would justify an arrest warrant. In the story, Brauner worked for Adolph Eichmann and is the creator of the record keeping system used in the concentration camps.

This led me to look at some of the concentration camp records. I’d always heard that the Nazis kept detailed records of who came and went in the camps but had never spent any time looking at them.

Thanks to the Internet, they were easy to find. The system used by the Nazis was relatively simple.

As each person entered the camp, the Nazi’s had “volunteers” who were camp inmates record the data in five columns:

Column 1 – first and last names. Titles such as doctor, it was noted here.

Column 2 – place and date of birth

Column 3 – home address. If there were too many prisoners to process, the street address was allowed to be left out.

Column 4 – prisoner’s number and category and nationality

Column 5 – date of arrival and from where.

The most common entry in Column 4 was “J” for Jew followed by second letter such as “P” for Polish or “H” for Dutch. When the prisoner was transferred to or came from another camp, the data recorders noted on a second line where the prisoner came from or where he or she was being sent.

To document the event, the recorders would abbreviations such “Zug M” to note the prisoner came from the Mauthausen concentration camp. The entry “Ü Au” translated to “Überstellt Auschwitz” for transferred to Auschwitz. No second line in the record under the date of arrival, the assumption was that the prisoner stayed at the camp. Most either died of disease, starvation or were murdered either in a gas chamber or a bullet to the head.

I read a couple of pages and they made me mad. I had a knot in my stomach. These were innocent people, most of whom committed no crime. What the Nazis planned to do with the information is unclear. Other than gloat about all the Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, political opponents and others deemed undesirable, the only logical reasons is that with Germanic efficiency and precision, the Nazis under Himmler wanted to document how many “undesirables” they killed.

To Nazis, they were doing the world a favor. To the rest of us, they were nothing but cold-blooded murderers. Unfortunately, not all of the perpetrators were tried and despite their crimes, lived to ripe old age.

That’s sad when you think about.

Marc Liebman

December 2016