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Around 10,000 Names Still Unclarified

Johannes Ibel, a research associate from the Flossenbürg concentration camp memorial site, had two goals for his one-week visit to the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen in late September: to research material from the post-war period and compile a copy of digital data pertaining to the Flossenbürg concentration camp. “When it comes to this amount of data, digital research is incredibly beneficial in terms of the time factor,” said Ibel.  “If we merge the know-how from the memorial sites with that of ITS, we can profit from our mutual accomplishments and deepen our knowledge.”

For eight years, the historian worked on building a database of prisoners at the Flossenbürg memorial site. Today it comprises 90,000 names of victims. Around 10,000 names are still unclarified, most of which date back to the last few weeks of the war. “The office at the concentration camp stopped working at that time, and thousands of people died on the death marches,” explained Ibel.

Most of the people detained at the Flossenbürg camp and its external camps between 1938 and 1945 were political prisoners from Eastern Europe. With the advance of the Red Army, around 20,000 Polish and Hungarian Jews were transferred from Eastern European camps after mid-1944. Approximately 30,000 people died through the catastrophic living conditions or direct killings.

Ibel has travelled throughout the world to conduct research for his database of prisoners. He sifted through the original books with prisoners’ numbers in Washington D.C.- an invaluable source - and also discovered other material in Moscow and at many other archives throughout Europe. “Yet most of the documents on Flossenbürg are archived here in Bad Arolsen,” he noted. “I’m happy that we now have unlimited access to these files for research purposes. And the staff of ITS does everything it can to provide the best possible support.”

Among the documents are personal property cards, which are almost completely intact and were used by the American liberators to compile a four-volume book of names right after the war in 1945. “The personal property cards also reveal the victims’ birthplaces and places of residences - information we had not yet been able to procure,” said the historian. Ibel is taking a copy of the data on Flossenbürg, which has already been digitalised and indexed at ITS, back to the memorial site. In addition, at the town’s special civil registry office, his colleague Daniela Bernhard has scanned the “secondary death books” and “death notices” from the camp’s former civil registry office, which provide information on the names of the deceased. With the help of exhumation and reburial protocols archived at ITS, the historian also wants to find data on the roughly 5,500 graves that exist in Flossenbürg. Up until now, victims’ names have only been traced to 20 percent of the graves at the memorial site.

Ibel has another project in the pipeline, too: research for an exhibition on the concentration camp’s post-war history, with a special focus on the Flossenbürg DP camp. From 1946 to 1947, around 2,000 Polish Catholics were accommodated here. With the help of the repatriation lists and CM1 files (care and maintenance) at ITS, Ibel is researching their fate. The exhibit is scheduled to open in 2010 in the concentration camp’s former prisoners’ kitchen.